Copenhagen – Modesty, equality, taxes, etc

Another thing I found very attractive about Danish culture, aside from its introvert-friendly values, is that it’s a very egalitarian society. The income gap between the richest and the poorest Danes is relatively small, Danes are notoriously modest and don’t lie to show off, and they genuinely care about the good of the collective. We had a visitor yesterday from the psychology department at DIS (who I met in Denmark, and now she is here for a week) who gave a lecture on why the Danes are consistently ranked the happiest country in the world. One of the things she said is that collective societies tend to have higher suicide rates but lower happiness, where as individualist societies tend to be the opposite – more happiness, but also more suicide. Denmark, she said, is what’s called a individualist collective society (or something like that), meaning that they pursue their own hopes and dreams, but feel that one shouldn’t pursue one’s personal happiness at the expense of the collective.

That’s probably why, in general, they don’t mind paying the high taxes that they do. The average tax rate in Denmark is 50%. That’s right, half of your income goes to taxes. The highest earners pay up to 75% – I talked to one woman who said she pays 70%, and she was complaining a little bit, but really not too bitterly. Even those who make minimum wage pay around 30% income taxes. But the minimum wage, AFTER TAXES, is still the equivalent of about $18-20/hour– more than I currently earn at my job. Of course the cost of living is higher than in Minnesota, but in general I think Danes earning minimum wage probably live a lot more comfortably than Minnesotans earning minimum wage, which is $6.15/hour here (BEFORE taxes).

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