According to USN News one of Denmark’s Magic Words is how to deal with the pandemic.
“Samfundssind” – considering the needs of society over oneself – reflects Danish societal values useful in combating a pandemic.
Marie Helweg-Larsen says that “In recent years, the English-speaking world has found two Danish concepts, “pyt” and “hygge,” useful for dealing with anxiety and stress. Now another Danish word – “samfundssind” – might help countries grapple with the pandemic.
In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen urged all Danes to show “samfundssind,” which means to consider the needs of society above your own. In English, it roughly translates to community spirit, civic engagement or civic-mindedness.”
Marie goes on to explain that before the pandemic, samfundssind was a relatively obscure word that was rarely, if ever, used. It first appeared in a Danish dictionary in 1936, and former Danish Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning included it in several speeches in the late 1930s imploring Danes to show community spirit as World War II was approaching. However, since Frederiksen used the word in her March speech, its usage in Denmark has spiked.
The concept of samfundssind seems to be related to what researchers call social capital. Members of societies that have high levels of social capital tend to be more trusting and reciprocal while feeling more connected to their fellow citizens – all attitudes that lend themselves to considering the needs of a community over your own.
Denmark is an individualistic society, and Danes rank as the most trusting in the world. They score highly in interpersonal trust as well as trust in institutions, such as the police and government. Denmark also has the world’s lowest levels of corruption.
With winter approaching and the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, the impulse may be to retreat from the public health emergency and think only about ourselves and our own needs.
Samfundssind, however, can remind us to look outward, rather than inward.