“If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not working hard enough” (Or You’re In Denmark)

Copenhagen movie screencapDenmark is a semi-socialist paradise full of cozy cities, castles, Cinematheques, remnants of Vikings, and parks where the sheep graze at night. It’s more diverse than you might expect; you could get pretty impressive falafel and Turkish food in Copenhagen even ten years ago, when I studied abroad there. Yes, it’s pricey, but when the state picks up the tab for big-ticket items like education and health care, that makes a difference.

Everyone bikes. The drinking age is 15. More people die from falling down stairs than from violent crime, because the Danes have sane gun laws and even knives beyond a certain length are regulated. (So they told me in my Criminal Justice class, anyway.) Can you imagine if America’s biggest problem was stairs?

Instead America’s biggest problems include the fact that we work too hard over too many hours for too little return, in part because we can’t rely on our nation’s wobbly, threadbare safety net, and — not coincidentally — we spend insane amounts of money on Seamless. Because we don’t have time to cook!

Jason Saltzman, 36, the founder of Midtown co-working space AlleyNYC, recently tallied up all the delivery food he’s ordered into his office in the past few weeks.

He averaged $20 per meal, sometimes three meals a day — including baked clams from Pizza Italia, egg whites from Guy & Gallard, and his “cheat day” splurges of a bagel with cream cheese from Murray’s Bagels and chicken lo mein from Chef Yu — his absolute favorite meal. The total? $1,800 a month.

“That’s rent!” he exclaims.

But he’s not about to change his habits and start brown-bagging it.

“I’m always in the office,” says Saltzman, who lives in Chelsea. “Where am I going to cook stuff?”

Then there are the people for whom Seamless is too lowbrow.

“Seamless is . . . great for your average Joe who isn’t into artisanal food at all,” says Chawla, founder of Fueled, an app and mobile design company based in Soho. Caviar lets you “order from restaurants that are too cool to deliver. Those are typically the restaurants you want to eat from.”

He estimates that he forks over $1,200 each month on lunch and juices alone, typically starting his day with a coconut water from Juice Generation, summoning a lunch of lobster rolls, duck confit salads or Thai sausages, and finishing the work day with a smoothie.

Ugh, I can’t even with that. Let’s talk about Denmark some more and how great it is, not merely as a place to live but to work.

In the U.S., if your boss gives you an order, you pretty much do what you’re told. In aDanish workplace, extremely few direct orders are ever given and employees are more likely to view them as suggestions.

Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede has quantified the business culture in more than 100 countries on several parameters, one of which is “power distance.” A high power distance means that bosses are undisputed kings whose every word is law. U.S. workplaces have a power distance of 40 while Danish workplaces—with a score of 18—have the lowest power distance in the world.

This means that Danish employees experience more autonomy and are more empowered at work. Here’s just one example: By law, any Danish workplace with more than 35 employees must open up seats on the board for employees, who are elected to the board by their peers and serve on an equal footing and with same voting powers as all other board members.

I hereby volunteer as tribute!

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