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Trust, A Danes Super-power

Trust, a Danes super-power

In Denmark, trust is the basis of most social interactions as well as business and government. In fact, Danes are considered some of the most trusting people in the world.

What makes trust a super-power, it is the one action that counter acts fear. Fear is prime base for manipulation and in ever story plot the villains driving power. Two greater opposite’s are unlikely. If you make decisions without the influence of fear your far more likely to succeed.

It is incredibly ingenious to use the word trust as the cornerstone of Danish culture, if the Danes foundation is trust would it not make them trustworthy, therefore more desirable to work with and create alliances with?

To trust is indeed a super-power to be trusted and known for it brilliant, the picture of this is a highly respected culture that is superior to most, especially with the discord in the world now


What does trust actually mean, and who created the word in the first place.


The word trust came into English about 1200 with the meaning “reliance on the veracityor other virtues of someone or something; religious faith.” Its origins are found in the Old Norse traust meaning “help, confidence, protection, support” and is from the Proto-Germanic abstract noun *traustam.

About a century after it emerged in English, trust had acquired the meaning of “reliability, fidelity, faithfulness” and in the late fourteenth century it acquired the meaning of “confident expectation” and “that on which one relies.” In the early fifteenth century, trust acquired the legal meaning of “confidence placed in one who holds or enjoys the use of property entrusted to him by its legal owner.”

In 1877, trust acquired the meaning of “a business organized to reduce competition” and in 1903, the term trust-buster was first recorded.

Why are the Danes so trusting?

Some experts believe that trust is a culturally-determined phenomenon built over time. Trust is learned during childhood from parents, teachers, and coaches, lasts for a lifetime, and is passed on from generation to generation.

Other anthropologists point to the historical aspect of trust. The Nordic region has been a relatively peaceful nook of Europe, with fewer devastating wars and bloody revolutions than other parts of the continent. This has offered the stability needed to develop a political system in which people trust and support each other.


Upon learning that the word “trust” originated from Old Norse, I became infatuated with all he word and could not learn enough about the word, this infatuation then transformed into a complete rebuild of self.


Every year I choose a word to research, implement into daily practice, actively study, LIVE.

A year ago the word of the year was chosen trust, without any more than a gut instinct, as all my words over the last 8 years. what was learned over the year is this:

that you cannot live a full healthy life without trust. Trust is the cornerstone of every choice we make, or its opponent “fear” is there is no other. If you become perfectly honest with your self you are either trusting as you choose or responding in fear.

It is incredibly interesting that the Danes use the word trust as their cornerstone, don't you think?

Trust builds self worth, respect and overall strong mental health. To trust you have to face the chance of failing, being let down, you understand that relying on yourself or a group, you will be able to recover no matter the outcome. It’s an acceptance of the risks of everyday life, to live is a risk, understanding and acknowledging this, helps calm the mind and builds mental strength, and increases self worth. It builds strong connections to others which then increases interaction, and typically value of all varieties.


What does this all have to do with Danes, I was shocked and grateful to find over 60 research papers on the connection of Danes happiness, to their practice and belief of trust. Even in the Danes who immigrated to the Canada and the USA, Danish people maintains this through the generations research shows they are still more trusting than other cultures.


Where did this cultural belief start and what makes it so strong that it continues through generation over 100's even 1000's of years? History shows that it could possibly be ingrained into them, Vikings led the way in the teaching the importance of trust.

Vikings were thought of as fearless, personally, I feel it was more they understood fear and that life was best lived everyday facing the villain “fear”. Having found over 227 Viking quotes and proverbs speaking of facing fear and trust, it seems they were more aware than so many today. Facing fear is courageous, and respected. Facing of fear, being honest and trusting others according to the quotes and stories is the only way to live well.

What if we look back on the influence of the Viking era on Danes today and trust:

There are many papers written to the factual connection of the practice and belief of trust in the Viking age. The reference to the lack of literary skills that there “word was their bond” because they were mostly non literate, and to conduct trades deals they had to be trusted.

Although some Vikings used the runic alphabet Futhark to write short messages, they were largely non-literate until the beginnings of the adoption of Christianity during the 10th century (Meulengracht-Sørensen, 2006).

A specific and rather overlooked feature of Nordic history is the extensive trade over long distances during the Viking age (Sindbæk, 2005). Trade norms associated with social trust and trustworthiness arguably play an important role in the economy when facilitating trade, not least in non-literate communities.

Due to these path dependencies, it may be necessary to apply a longue durée approach and go back in history to trace the roots of social trust in Scandinavia. As Putnam (1993, p. 184) states, we may assume that trust-generating institutions are accumulated through long historical processes: “Most institutional history moves slowly, [and] history probably moves even more slowly, when erecting norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement”.

One reason why Scandinavia today holds high social trust scores could be due to the region’s long-distance trade practices during the Viking age.

Trade between strangers in an oral world requires a strong informal institution of trust-based trade norms out of necessity to manage the risk of being cheated.

If a trader did not keep his word, social sanctioning by word of mouth was most likely the only method to discipline the cheater and prevent future free-rider behavior.

The early rise of trust-based trade norms in Scandinavia is an overlooked factor in the region’s long-term socio-economic development.


There are accepted practices in Denmark that are unheard of else where, a parent leaving the baby in the carriage outside while having coffee, a parent riding bike with a basket in the rain with children in the basket not strapped in. Danes embrace the near-freezing water of the ocean, just like their ancestors the Vikings. These few things and there are many more to us in the west sound very risky most would not do it here in Canada or else where. You'd be to afraid wouldn't you. In Denmark it is common practice without thought given to it. They trust it will all be fine.

The baby carriages outside coffee shops, the first time I heard of this I was very intrigued at the level of trust to do this and not worry that someone would steal the child!

In each other we trust

Trust comes in different forms. Most people trust their friends and family, but Denmark also benefits from what anthropologists call a general societal trust, which is the ability to trust people you have never met before. In Denmark, people are assumed to be honest and reliable unless they somehow show that they are not.

This societal trust extends to a trust in Danish institutions like the government, police, judiciary, and health services. People who hold power in these positions are trusted to act in the best interest of society, and there is very little corruption. Trust is also an important part of doing business in Denmark: a Danish company can be expected to deliver a high-quality product on schedule, or be honest about the reason it cannot.

Despite very limited natural resources, Denmark is among the world's most prosperous nations. Well-developed production capacity, solid infrastructure, widespread tax-financed education and innovation are some of the reasons. But there is more to it: according to political science professor Gert Tinggaard Svendsen up to a quarter of Denmark's wealth can be attributed to the high level of trust in Danish society.

Trust, an invisible Danish resource

Trust is an invisible resource in the Danish society. It means fewer social conflicts and crime because it creates a sense of harmony that increases happiness and security. Trust helps avoid many bureaucratic complications and the expenses that arise from increased security and double-checking.

Denmark is among the countries with the lowest level perceived corruption in the public sector. In Transparency International's annual ranking "Perceived Corruption Index", Denmark and New Zealand compete for the title of "least corrupt" year after year.

The Danes hand over a large proportion of their personal income in taxes, trusting that those resources will be spent for the benefit of all.

Trust is also is also conducive to a better business environment. Business relationships rely on honesty, reliability and openness, while the lack of government corruption makes dealing with the Danish state clear and predictable for companies.


Now this makes Danes look pretty much perfect, the intention is not to say that, the intention is to bring to awareness that "trusting" is a Danes super-power. The wonderful thing is trust can be every ones super-power too.

Just like Hygge the Danes are onto something that we can all share.


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