PEA has offices in Denmark and Sweden where the culture is open, friendly, efficient, hard-working, collaborative, conscientious, ethical and community-focused – so couldn’t we all learn a thing or two from Scandinavia?
Happiest country in the World
PEA has offices in both Sweden and Denmark and is very pleased to say that in 2016 Denmark was officially announced by the United Nations as the happiest country in the world and Scandinavian nations regularly appear in the Top 10. Why? That’s the six million-krone question and many have attempted to answer it. In all probability the answer is a wonderful smorgasbord of environmental conscience, socialism, capitalism, Hygge, The Laws of Jante and a small community mentality that has turned the Jutland peninsula into heaven on earth.
Where the future happened first
The Nordics have been described as ‘ the place where the future happened first’.
After all they always seem to be thought leaders whenever it comes to new socio-economic ideas. One reason could be that following the financial crisis of the 90s they reinvented their systems of government to allow for the development of a new 21st century style of capitalism that was more responsible, more ethical and more efficient. These new government models invested in their citizens, added more tax-funded services and created new systems to encourage new business. They were helping businesses prosper but not at the expense of their people. In 2016, free university, free healthcare, free childcare and an average working week of 37 hours must have gone some way to putting smiles on Danish faces.
Most Scandinavian countries are a curious mixture of socialism and capitalism. They have very high taxes and generous social welfare schemes provided by the state but they also have low levels of interference in markets by the government, little regulation, nationalisation of industry and almost no protectionism. Crime is low and people feel safe.
New world record
If being green increases your levels of happiness then Denmark should be delirious. In 2015 Nordic ministers signed a common declaration at the annual Nordic Councils session in Reykjavik committing their countries to “ambitious climate action and to transforming their societies towards highly energy efficient, low carbon and climate resilient economies”. Denmark produced an unheard-of 42 percent of its electricity from wind turbines in 2015, according to official figures, setting a new world record for wind energy generation. The Danish government also plans to double the area that is farmed organically so by 2020 approximately 12% of Denmark’s farmland will be organic.
So what is hygge and the Law of Jante and why do we need to know about it? In Denmark employees benefit from 5 weeks holiday a year and leisure time is a huge part of Danish culture. The term hygge describes cosy social gatherings and intimate get-togethers with family and friends. Maybe together in front of a fireplace after a day at the Christmas market on a cold snowy day, or on the beach, or at a pavement café in summer. Hygge is about togetherness and sharing, something Danes strive for because it makes them happy.
The Law of Jante
The Law of Jante actually has ten rules but it can be summed up in one sentence: ‘You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than anyone else’. It is common in Scandinavia to claim it to be something quintessentially Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. It is a criticism of individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. It shuns individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers as their actions could go against a community’s desire to preserve harmony, social stability and uniformity.
To many of us brought up in an age of film stars, pop stars and footballers being paid £100,000 each week it is a difficult concept to understand. Some believe that this focus on ‘the collective good’ is one of the reasons why social-democratic policies have been more successful and widely accepted in Scandinavia than in other parts of the world. Taxes might be high but the state looks after its citizens.
PEA was founded in 2003 and has an office in Stockholm, the beautiful Swedish capital made up of 14 islands, and another in the Danish town of Allerød located 40 km north from Copenhagen. Our teams, like most Scandinavians, speak excellent English, they are great listeners and collaborators and have built great long-term relationships with clients, based on the Scandinavian values of friendliness, trust, ethics and hard work. It has stood us in very good stead since PEA was founded in 2003 and continues to be a vital part of who we are and what we do.
American Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders held Denmark up as the model community from whom America could learn a thing or two. In this time of uncertainty in Europe and division in the United States maybe there are some powerful lessons in Scandinavia for a great many of us to learn. Look north as the future has already happened up there.
By Amanda Ekman
Amanda is PEA’s Managing Director based in Sweden. She has spent the last 16 years in the private equity sector, specialising in the CFO and financial management functions first at BrainHeart Capital, then at Skandia’s Asset Management Private Equity team, RP Ventures and Permian.