low angle shot photography of danish flag
Photo by Rene Asmussen on

Denmark is one of only a handful of countries in the world not to have an official National Day, but Denmark’s Constitution Day is sometimes considered the equivalent of such a day and is widely considered to be a day for celebrating Danish Democracy.

Constitution Day (In Danish this day is pronounced as Grundlovsdag) and it is observed in Denmark on 5 June each year. So today Danes honour the Constitution of Denmark, as both the country’s first constitution of 1849 and the current constitution of 1953 were signed on this date of their respective years.

The modern inhabitants of Denmark are indeed descended largely from the people we call ‘Vikings’, but then so are the modern inhabitants of Norway, Sweden, Iceland and the Faroes, as well as substantial numbers of people in England, Scotland, Ireland, western Russia, Normandy and Finland, not to mention all the members of the Scandinavian diaspora in the USA, Canada, Australia and the rest of the World.

The current population of Denmark is similar to Scotland at 5,851,481 as of Friday, June 2, 2023, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.

Scotland also bears a close resemblance to Denmark in its geography yet Denmark does not appear to have the same types of resemblance to the inequalities that Scots face across our geography. Why is that the case we should all ask? 

Denmark often comes out near the top of global surveys on lifestyles and happiness. One interesting question that arises therefore is “How can a country like Denmark, with difficult weather and geography like ours, be such a wonderful place to live?

Trust, community, and the Danish welfare state

Like any answer to any question it is complex but it is interesting to note that Denmark has extremely high levels of social trust. People trust each other and trust institutions like the government, the monarchy, the hospitals, and the police. Trust is an important part of the business environment too. Danish people are assumed to be honest unless proven otherwise. 

The high levels of social trust also help persuade Danes to pay some of the world’s highest taxes to finance an extensive set of welfare programmes. The Danish health system is tax-funded and free for the patient. Danish schools and universities are also funded by taxes and free for students. The idea is that everyone must contribute to the community and in return, the community will help care for all. 

These values of trust and community are deeply embedded in Danish culture and society and have their roots in Danish history. In Denmark, trust is the basis of most social interactions as well as interactions in business and government. Indeed, in at least one survey Danes are considered to be some of the most trusting people in the world.

One theme I found regularly when looking at Denmark was the quote

“In each other we trust” 

Trust comes in different forms. Most people trust their friends and family, but Denmark also benefits from what anthropologists call a general societal trust, which is the ability to trust people you have never met before. In Denmark, all people are assumed to be honest and reliable unless they somehow show that they are not. 

This societal trust extends to a trust in Danish institutions like the government, police, judiciary, and health services. People who hold power in these organizations/positions are trusted to act in the best interests of society, and there is very little corruption. Trust is also an important part of doing business in Denmark: a Danish company can be expected to deliver a high-quality product on schedule, or for that company/organisation to be honest about the reason it cannot deliver to these high standards. 

several assorted color bikes parked in front of bering flowers facade
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on

The question that arises in my mind is, why are the Danes so trusting?

Some experts believe that trust is a culturally-determined phenomenon built over time. Trust is learned during childhood from parents, teachers, and coaches, lasts for a lifetime, and is passed on from generation to generation.

Other anthropologists point to the historical aspect of trust. The Nordic region has been a relatively peaceful nook of Europe, with fewer devastating wars and bloody revolutions than other parts of the continent. This has offered the stability needed to develop a political system in which people trust and support each other.

Trust, an invisible Danish resource

Trust is an invisible resource in the Danish society. It means fewer social conflicts and crime because it creates a sense of harmony that increases happiness and security. Trust helps avoid many bureaucratic complications and the expenses that arise from increased security and double-checking.  

Denmark is also among the countries with the lowest level of perceived corruption in the public sector. Indeed in Transparency International’s annual ranking “Perceived Corruption Index”, Denmark and New Zealand compete for the title of “least corrupt” year after year. 

As a result Danes hand over a larger proportion of their personal income in taxes, trusting that those resources will be spent for the benefit of all.

Trust is also conducive to a better business environment. Business relationships rely on honesty, reliability and openness, while the lack of government corruption makes dealing with the Danish state clear and predictable for companies so their economy works well for all. 

It is also worth noting that despite very limited natural resources, Denmark is among the world’s most prosperous nations. Well-developed production capacity, solid infrastructure, widespread tax-financed education and innovation are some of the reasons for this. But there is more to it according to political science professor Gert Tinggaard Svendsen who maintains that up a quarter of Denmark’s wealth can be attributed to the high level of trust in Danish Society.

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2 replies »

  1. That’s a good question Rosie and one which I was concerned about when looking at this development. It seems this has been pushed by right to hard right forces in the country, but it is not a universally popular policy.
    Nonetheless it has happened and I am concern about the fact that a country with Denmark’s background and history seems to be influenced at the moment, like so many other countries, by right wing policies that undermine their more liberal and humanitarian history
    It’s something we all need to be concerned about, not just in Denmark, but in countries across The Globe.
    Thank you for highlighting this matter for us all to ponder

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