What we can learn from other countries is immense, as we are in serious danger under the present government of going backwards to some Trumpian era where we believe we are a big important country. We don’t need to be ‘world-beating’, just a peaceful friendly nation, which makes good tea! The fact that most people supported the Chancellor’s proposal to cut aid to the world’s poorest (the week after committing £16 billion on defence) means worrying times ahead.
Our politics is nowhere near as progressive as most of Europe. We still have one Green MP, while Greens are in government in many countries (the next German chancellor is tipped to the co-leader, who in his spare time writes poetry). The large Green vote means their forests are highly protected (unlike ours – only a petition at 38 Degrees stopped our government from recently trying to sell off all our forests to private companies). And while we destroy wildlife and chop down England’s 2nd-largest pear tree for the disastrous HS2 project, German’s state-owned railways are deemed the best in the world.
Europe also has less of a consumerist culture. Christmas for instance is not about everyone running to buy everything in Argos. It’s about singing carols in town squares around real Christmas trees, and eating roasted chestnuts, and attending Midnight Mass. There is no celebrity culture either (people prefer a walk in the forest, reading books, warming by the fire or watching Northern Lights, over reality TV).
A third of Danes and Dutch cycle everywhere (both lands are flat). The Netherlands has more bicycles than people!
Despite cold weather and dark nights, Nordic countries don’t grind to a halt, when it snows. They use snow chains, side-lights on cars, doors that open the right way in snow, and heated driveways (not pet-toxic rock salt). People on low incomes don’t live in dark damp bedsits: they have BOKLOK houses – light airy homes with bike parks and green spaces.
People are nice, and things are fair. Fines for shoplifting and other crimes are based on income. Finland is known as home to the ‘$103,000 speeding ticket’.
Estonia is one of the most forested countries on earth, with free public transport. There is also little state religion. It’s interesting that some orders visit to try to convert – from countries with problems, caused by organised religion!
Read The Serenity Passport. This world tour of peaceful living in 30 words, helps you to discover a calmer way of life, with secrets drawn from cultures around the world. Try Ayliak (the Bulgarian art of living slowly without worry), Hoppìpolla (Icelandic jumping in puddles), Flâneur (French leisure strolls) or Utepils (a beer outside with Norwegian friends).
I can think of many US states where it would be uncomfortable to declare yourself an atheist, gay, choose not to have children (or be unmarried and have children) or to raise children as Muslims. I don’t imagine it would be easy being vegetarian in Texas, or a wine buff in Salt Lake City. And don’t even think of coming out as a socialist! In Scandinavia you can be all of these things and no one will bat an eye (as long as you wait, and cross on green).
Now is probably a good time to make my confession about Finland. I think the Finns are fantastic. I can’t get enough of them. I would be perfectly happy for the Finns to rule the world. Michael Booth