Bestselling author Maike van den Boom explores happiness. She is certain that happiness is linked to cultural conditions and finds more fertile ground in some countries than in others. In her new adopted country, Sweden, she observes that Scandinavian countries are way ahead of us when it comes to equality, equal rights and work-life balance. Maike: "I haven't done any field research and can't offer any statistically relevant figures. But I have talked to people."
In Scandinavia you can come to work with all your weaknesses.Maike van den Boom
What she found out during her interviews? "Scandinavian countries have always been among the happiest ten countries in the world for years. In Scandinavia, life and work flow into each other. You can't separate it there. We can't separate it either, and yet we keep trying. In Scandinavia you can come to work with all your weaknesses, with everything that burdens you. You're open to wanting the other person as a whole person - not just certain parts."
Maike knows that you draw energy from your work for home - and the other way around, you tank up energy for work at home. So why should you separate work and private life? They belong together. That's the idea in Scandinavian countries. So why is it that in Germany there are so many Separations - between oneself and others, between work and the private sphere? Why is there so much comparison and distinction?
Maike van den Boom: "The Scandinavians are the so-called high trust countries. That means that trust among people is incredibly high - and you need trust for everything. You give something to the other person and trust that you will get something back at some point. It doesn't have to be today, but someday. You trust that everyone only has the best in mind - and then you don't look too closely. That's a completely different mindset."
According to the happiness researcher, Scandinavians are independent, self-confident people - and there's an understandable reason for that. Maike van den Boom: "If you have the feeling that you are good the way you are and can do your own thing, then you don't feel the need to torpedo others with the spearheads of your ego. When you have people who are free and individual, then they can form a community. Because someone doesn't need to make their mark all the time. Because they don't need to because they've learned that they're okay the way they are and therefore don't need to use elbows. Everyone is allowed to open their mouths and then it also works out with the Cohesion."
So the social aspect is strongly related to making people feel good. How can we adopt this in Germany? How can we stop the envy, jealousy and elbow mentality? Maike: "Create awareness. You think about: How can I say something in a positive way so that someone can accept it? In Germany it's always bang, bang - no time for discussion. Everything dances to my tune and then it works. Then someone always gets in the way and doesn't give everything. In Sweden, everyone has to agree. It takes time, but they consult all those who might be affected by the decision."
That takes a long time, but afterwards everyone pulls together and develops a tremendous dynamic. Maike: "Then you have people who take responsibility, are motivated and come up with ideas. They don't elbow each other in the sides, but all have the same goal. That's logical. Why don't we do the same? I hope to create a yearning with my books. They're not meant to be instruction manuals or how-to guides, but thought-provoking."
We note: Scandinavians try much harder to do things in a good way. So let's try that too! Maike: "You're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't indulge others. Stop talking behind other people's backs!" In addition, the bestselling author describes Scandinavians as very inclusive people: "They always want to have everyone on board - Vikings, that is. They want to bring everyone together."
According to the expert, Scandinavians aren't convinced that it's incredibly desirable or admirable to work so much. Maike: "They think it's stupid to work your butt off. They say: if you work ten hours or more, you lose your visionary grip. Moreover, they are very personal countries: it is important to them to know how the other person is really doing and what moves him. Because only then can you be considerate of others. That's the idea of it all."