Person Who Moved From U.S. to Denmark Lists Work Differences in Viral Post

The cultural and socioeconomic differences between the United States and Denmark is apparent to at least one person and their family.

A Reddit post published in the "antiwork" subreddit by someone who lived in the U.S. and moved to Denmark has been upvoted over 55,000 times. The individual described the difference between both countries in one word: "Wow."

Denmark
A scenic summer view of Nyhavn pier in Copenhagen, Denmark. One American expat recently went viral on Reddit for pointing out the differences between working in the U.S. and abroad. iStock/Getty Images

The individual, who Newsweek reached out to for further comment, said it "legitimately feels" like every job they apply to is a union position. They also claim that average salaries "are far higher" compared to American salaries.

In exchange for about 40 percent of income being taken out of federal taxes, the user said that their entire family receives free health care; their kids get paid to attend college or higher education; they are guaranteed 52 weeks of parental leave, 32 of which are fully paid; and they receive five weeks of paid vacation annually.

"The new American Dream is to leave America," the poster said.

A commenter, one of over 5,000 others who have responded to the post, said they were neither American nor Dane but live in Copenhagen and that even a cashier "would still have a decent place to live and money to spend on leisure."

Another user implied that a single full-time cashier position is part of a union and receives many of the benefits mentioned by the original poster. "I've heard Americans boast about 'great benefits' that are literally worse than the legal minimum of what you'd offer a full time cashier in Denmark," they said.

A Harvard Business Review piece from 2018 examined Denmark's maternity leave and child care policies, noting that the country has "some of the best parental leave policies in the world." However, even though parental leave is guaranteed to both males and females, not everyone takes it.

However, even though Danish women are more educated than men, the country ranked 80th worldwide in terms of a gender leadership gap—trailing countries like Ghana, Venezuela and Guatemala.

Denmark also spends less nationally on health care when compared to the U.S. The country only spent about 10 percent of its GDP on health care, Science Nordic reported in 2016, compared to ther U.S. spending about 17 percent. Additionally, Denmark's life expectancy was higher based on the previous year's data.

However, The Borgen Project—a nonprofit organization that aims to address extreme poverty—notes that Denmark has "unsolved problems" in its child health care system separated into primary, secondary and tertiary systems.

The primary level is free for all Danish citizens, though there are issues of "increasing costs of children's medical services, limited professional human resources and insufficient coverage of child immunization" the nonprofit says need to be addressed.

As noted by the undergraduate publication The Public Health Advocate through the University of California-Berkeley, "the United States remains the only industrialized country in the world that fails to provide universal healthcare for all citizens."

Denmark also pales in comparison to the U.S. in terms of population and cultural hegemony, and its welfare system plays a big role.

"The system is built on trust, both in each other and the government — 90% of Danes vote, and participation in politics is considered crucial in the maintenance of democracy," the Advocate report continued. "Conversely, only roughly 50% of Americans participated in the recent controversial presidential election, a statistic reflecting the apathetic state of the U.S. populace."

A Redditor described as an American who has lived in the U.K. and European Union since leaving home at age 18 had a seizure recently that required an ambulance, EMS, a hospital stay and various tests before being discharged.

"In USA this would have cost me with insurance probably $5-$10k out of pocket total," they said. "I am happy to pay 45% taxes not only for me and my family to have good social programs but MORE importantly for those who CANNOT afford these necessities in life. I am HAPPY to pay for those who are less fortunate have the SAME access to healthcare and social services I do."

Kay Mellish, originally from Wisconsin and a New York University graduate who moved to Denmark over 10 years ago, wrote that "Denmark is a much less competitive society" with an "emphasis on cooperation, teamwork and solidarity." That includes a 37.5 hour work week in Denmark that allows employees to pick up their children from school or have earlier dinners.

"Your U.S. customers will not be happy to find out that their trusted contact has taken off on what seems to them like an infinite holiday," she wrote in her book, Working With Americans: Tips for Danes. "The idea that some customer need should remain unfulfilled for a week or two because an employee is on vacation is totally foreign to the American marketplace. In the U.S., the customer comes first."