Thoughts on trust

It has been suggested over the last few weeks that the strong belief Danes have on a trust based society has helped the city through the recent terror attack, a trust in each other and the police to look after the community. Research shows that the high happiness levels in Denmark are related to a high level of trust in people you don’t know. In general there is a high trust in politicians, the police , public officials and strangers.

I wanted to share something from Kenneth Ngugen, a super talented freelance press photographer’s Instagram feed, that sums this up (and also really moved me).


“Ever tried to push a random door bell and asked if you could come in? On the 16th of February, two days after the Copenhagen shootings, people gathered to honor the two who got killed. The people of Denmark were united as one and we were all there to show that even in the darkest of times, we will stand together.

I was there covering the event for Vice magazine and I needed to get to higher ground to photograph the massive crowd. I spotted an apartment in the background and thought to hell with it, it can’t hurt to try, so I pushed the door bell. An old lady answered the phone and before I could ask, she invited us in. She lived on the top floor, so the view was perfect for the shot. When she opened the door she said ” If I knew I was getting visitors, I would have done a bit more out of myself. I got some coffee and light beer”.I took the beer.

Her personality became my symbol of that day. She trusted a stranger and invited him in. She didn’t care about the color of his skin, which religion he belonged to, she believed in the best and didn’t judge a book by the look of its cover. “

When we were in the process of moving here, our relocation consultant made quite a point of explaining the trust culture in Denmark. He told us that people will trust you until you give them cause not to – rather than being suspicious of you until you earn trust as is the norm in the UK and other countries. He was very serious about us not abusing this trust as it was the lynchpin of Danish positive culture and it seems the source of a happy nation.

I remember in the first few days of living in our first apartment and going to lock the door to the apartment whilst I went to the attic with our landlady and the look of surprise on her face that I considered this necessary.

Trusting those around you makes life a lot more pleasant than existing in a constant state of suspicion. In the time I lay on the pavement waiting for the ambulance after my accident at no point did I worry that someone would steal my bike or snatch my purse – I think I would’ve worried if I was in London or Berlin. Our trust that others will do the right thing is very important in such a small country.

I probably am far too trusting for other countries but, without taking silly risks, it feels the right way to be here – trust breeds trust, just as suspicion breeds more of the same.


  1. While I don’t quite get the impression I could invite myself over to any house on this street (hospitality is earned over a long time here it seems) I do agree on the trust. And not just in adults, I think there is a tremendous amount of trust placed in children here as well, which is why it seems so shocking sometimes when we see kids alone or with sharp things or whatnot. They have a lot of trust (faith?) that kids will be able to work things out themselves, which ultimately is a good thing.

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