For those of you whom have followed my journey through Scandinavia earlier this year, you may already have an inkling of my long-held fascination for the people of the north and their enviable way of life. What started out as a childhood adulation for all things Lego (i.e. Denmark’s gift to the world) has grown to so much more since then.
Despite my personal curiosities, very little seems to be known about Scandinavia compared with the rest of Europe, or the world for that matter. (Ask a Scandinavian and they would probably prefer to keep it that way, as a nod to their deep-rooted stoicism and utter inability to flaunt their unique heritage.) Search France or Italy and you will be spoilt for choice with a staggeringly long list of travelogues, cookbooks and biographies fuelling the collective fantasy. Search Scandinavia and you will be scratching your head in dismay at the relatively slim pickings. For a self-indulgent contrarian like me, however, having the opportunity to discover the collective blind spot for myself proved to be too tantalising a calling to ignore.
From Denmark’s cosmopolitan dynamism, to Norway’s scenic wonders and Sweden’s architectural charms, it hits me almost instantaneously why various polls over the years – from the spurious (Oprah Winfrey hype index) to the serious (UN’s World Happiness Report) – have consistently ranked the region as one of the happiest, least corrupt and most egalitarian societies in the world. So, armed with little more than my own experiences and Michael Booth’s hilariously insightful “The Almost Nearly Perfect People”, I will endeavour today to unmask one factor which I believe single-handedly underpins all forms of Scandinavian happiness and prosperity: Trust.