1. The Danish word hygge was rated one of the top 10 words of 2016.
In fact, hygge ranked right behind Brexit in Collins Dictionary’s words of the year. Hygge refers to a feeling of togetherness and intimacy related to relaxing with family and friends. The best English translation is “coziness.” During the long dark winters, the glow of candles, cozy blankets and warm drinks help to create hygge in Danish homes – and help to explain why Danes are such happy people.
2. Placed end to end, the total number of Denmark’s famous LEGO bricks sold in just one year would circle the Earth five times.
In 1934, Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen renamed his two-year-old toy company LEGO, which combines two Danish words – leg godt – meaning “play well.” Production of the famous LEGO bricks began in 1958. Today, the “toy of the century” has its own conventions, blogs, trivia pages, movies and more.
3. Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens amusement park was the inspiration for Disneyland.
Tivoli Gardens was established in the 1840s to give Danes a distraction from politics. In 1951, Walt Disney visited the park, taking notes about every detail. The beauty, cleanliness, order and family flavor so impressed him that it served as a model for Disneyland, which he opened in 1955.
4. There are no mountains in Denmark, and no place in Denmark is more than an hour’s drive from the sea.
Denmark is a flat, seaside country with an average elevation barely above sea level. Møllehøj is the highest spot in Denmark – with an elevation of just 171 meters (561 feet). And the coastline is never more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from any spot in the country.
5. Danish entrepreneur Janus Friis was one of the founders of Skype.
Friis founded Skype in 2003 with Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennström. They hired Estonian programmers to develop the teleconferencing software, which they sold to eBay in 2005. Microsoft, which subsequently acquired Skype in 2011, reports that Skype now has 300 million users worldwide.
6. Danish pastries are in fact Viennese.
The flaky delicacy known as “Danish pastry” came to Denmark in the 1850s. During a long bakers’ strike, bakery owners brought in chefs from Austria, who introduced puff pastry and other sweets that Danes call wienerbrød (Vienna bread). Danish bakers then modified these recipes to create the pastry we know and enjoy today.
7. Denmark is a world leader in wind technology.
Particularly in its coastal regions, Denmark experiences harsh storms and winds. The northernmost part of the Jutland peninsula averages 170 days of strong winds annually. Denmark turned this wind into a natural resource, becoming a pioneer in wind energy in the 1970s. In 1979, the first commercial wind turbine was installed. Today, over 40% of energy in Denmark comes from wind, with a target of 50% by 2020.
8. Denmark has twice as many bicycles as cars.
Bicycle culture is big in Denmark – it’s integrated into work and leisure activities. In fact, 9 of 10 citizens own a bicycle, while only 4 of 10 own a car. In Copenhagen, 56% of residents commute to work on bicycles. The city has made cycling safer by installing special elevated roads for bike use only.
9. The movie “Frozen” was based on the fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” a creation of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
Andersen published 156 fairy tales and stories, including “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Today, to honor his worldwide influence on children’s literature, International Children’s Book Day is celebrated on 2 April, Andersen’s birthday. The prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award recognizes other authors and illustrators who have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature worldwide.
10. Danes are the happiest people on the planet.
The U.N. World Happiness Report 2016 ranked Denmark as the happiest place on earth. The report ranks 156 countries by their happiness level according to six factors: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy-life expectancy, personal freedom, charitable giving and perceived corruption.