are free to become


Senior Member

Like many of the best things from Scandinavia, hygge might seem, to some Americans, to come with a whiff of smugness. The term is often mentioned in the same paragraph that reminds us that Danes (or, depending on the year, Norwegians and Swedes) are the happiest people in the world. Perhaps Scandinavians are better able to appreciate the small, hygge things in life because they already have all the big ones nailed down: free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. With those necessities secured, according to Wiking, Danes are free to become “aware of the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing.”

(This comes from The Year of Hygge, the Danish Obsession with Getting Cozy by Anna Altman on December 18, 2016.)

1. Does "free to" here mean "free from (not containing or affected by something harmful or unpleasant)"?
2. Does the blue part mean "some people are happy but not rich while some are rich but not happy; but Danes don't have such feelings because they are both rich and happy"?

Thanks in advance!
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Free to do something = At liberty to do it = Having nothing stopping you from doing it

    The next statement in the text explains what is meant: After our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness. This is the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing. There comes a point at which the two things are no longer interdependent.
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