California’s ‘Danish connection’


Californians are no strangers to buying their kids Legos, enjoying an icy pint of Carlsberg or rocking to the thunderous beats of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Of course, all those staples of North Bay life are Danish imports. (Ulrich is an on-again, off-again Marin resident.) So it should come as no surprise that, when it comes to the cost of living, the European country most comparable to California is none other than Denmark.

Time to stir a bit of hygge into your caramel iced hazelnut lattes, Golden Staters.

According to financial website SmartAsset, it costs $3,155 per month on average to reside in California—second in U.S. cost of living only to Hawaii by a mere $12—with Denmark as its closest European counterpart at $3,176.

The analysis was based on average expenses for a single adult with no children. Data for the 50 U.S states came from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator and includes housing, food, medical, transportation and miscellaneous costs. European data covers the same criteria from 38 countries collected from

Perhaps the most eye-opening finding in the study is that it’s more expensive to live in the cheapest U.S. state—Kentucky at $2,275—than most European countries, including France, Sweden, Italy and Spain. That said, the overall range in cost of living varied wider in Europe—most expensive Switzerland ($4,059) tops our Hawaii by nearly $900, while cheapest Bosnia ($900) is well below our Kentucky by nearly $1,400.

And not to let even the most basic of studies pass without taking a swipe at the Sunshine State, the SmartAsset team poses the perennial question: The Florida of Europe? That would be Liechtenstein ($2,685), the tiny mountainous country between Switzerland and Austria, renowned for not having its own airport, nor granting women the vote until 1984. Whether Europeans frequently read “Liechtenstein Man” headlines, the study did not reveal.

How does Europe view California?

Given America’s oversized international presence as a media and cultural force, it’s no surprise other western countries that heavily consume our films, television, news, books, art and music have some pretty firm thoughts about us.

In a popular online piece from last summer, the staff at Buzzfeed asked AI to generate images of what Europeans think a typical person from each of the 50 U.S. states looks like. While hardly a scientific study—check it out at—the results were either horrifying or amusing based on one’s perspective, with many of the states’ residents depicted as toothless bumpkins and beer-swilling rednecks. (Can’t really blame Europeans for holding such tropes—they no doubt developed from decades of our own Hollywood embracement of these very stereotypes.)

By comparison to the grinning yokels imagined in places like Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska and, our favorite, West Virginia (which depicts its Mountain State resident getting up close and personal with a colossal pig), California gets off pretty easy: A tanned beachside blond in shades toting a little dog under her arm and a couple of takeout drinks. Phew.—JW

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