Notes from a Small Country

If your doctor’s last name is Google, It’s time to get a second opinion

“Wake Up Mr Purvis, Wake up”

It was the second week of February and I’d fallen asleep in my doctor’s waiting room.

I don’t remember being quite as ill before that moment. For most of January and February, I’d been in and out of fever with a horrible cough, culminating in me calling the doctor.

It wasn’t long after the first Coronavirus reports coming from China. Yet there was no reason to suspect I had the virus due to no obvious connection at the time (and no reported cases in Denmark), so the doctor was happy to see me.

I was glad, I was beginning to worry it was more than flu.

If you don’t know what you want, you’ll probably never get it

I’d heard plenty of disappointing stories about the Danish health care system.

Denmark has social healthcare very similar to the UK.

Read online and you’ll quickly find disappointing Danish experiences between patient and doctor.

A Danish friend once recommended a doctors appointment is most effective if approached assertively, with almost zero expectation on the doctor driving the conversation and consultation.

So that was my plan.

On my arrival, I was asked to swipe my ID card. It logged me in and the receptionist took me straight to a private room to perform some blood tests.

“Given our conversation on the phone, we’ll test for infections right away,” she said.

After that, I was shown the waiting room. A small room next to the reception. It was a bright area consisting of 6 chairs, a table of wooden toys and a magazine rack. I was the only one there.

Not very big I thought, how could a doctors waiting room only have 6 chairs?

I then fell asleep.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all

Where I live in Denmark, there are many small doctor surgeries rather than one or two larger ones.

This not only seems more efficient, but it also seems to enable a closer relationship between doctor and patient.

I spent 30 minutes with the doctor that morning. I had swabs of my mouth, more blood taken, a full question and answer session, chest examination, nasal and ear examination and advice on how to properly rest and let go of work stress.

It was a very different experience compared to seeing my doctor back in the UK.

I’d taken my Danish friends advice. I’d been respectfully assertive and very clear on my expectations (I’d been in and out of fever, unable to work for 2 weeks and felt extremely ill.) The doctor even had to wake me up in the waiting room, there was certainly no mistaking I needed help.

You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things

When I think about my experience, it reminds me of flow efficiency*, which is usually at odds with resource efficiency.

It’s something that’s evident in many doctor surgeries across the world.

And it’s not restricted to patient/doctor situations, you’ll have experienced poor flow efficiency in all areas of life.

From your place of work, the roadworks or train ‘improvements’ you encounter, to the postal service or online grocery shopping service you use.

We all need more flow efficiency.

I believe our circumstances can change based on what words we read, hear, and speak

It begins with a mindset, one the Danes have embedded into their culture, consciously or unconsciously (I’m not sure which).

If we take a look at the UK’s National Health Service, where the patient flow is invariably optimised for the people working there (the employees and private businesses that provide services), it’s very easy to see the difference.

In the UK, reception tend to deal only with administration, nurses do separate appointments for blood work, and doctors focus mainly on consultation and prescription writing.

To have the tests and advice I received at my Danish doctor’s would have resulted in me taking several hours off work over the course of separate visits.

There’s also little room for assertiveness, as doctors in the UK rarely respond positively to a collaborative patient/doctor discussion (don’t mention Google!)

To ask, ‘What’s best for me’ is finite thinking. To ask, ‘What’s best for us’ is infinite thinking.

Have you thought about flow efficiency in your life?

Red tape or bureaucracy have resulted in decades of efficiencies optimised for governments, shareholders or business owners. Incredibly, not those a service or business exists for in the first place (e.g. the customer).

In Denmark, it’s refreshingly different. It’s not perfect and I know I may have been lucky with my doctor’s experience compared to others.

Yet it reminds me of what it was like as a kid in the 1980’s. When many services and businesses still existed for the customer.

They had an infinite** mindset instead of a finite one.

Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes

Common sense is missing in our lives more than ever.

And thinking ‘us’ instead of ‘me’ is common sense.

Denmark appears to have a deeper infinite mindset among its people than most countries I’ve been to.

You may be turned on or turned off by its socialism? Yet Socialism in the rest of the world tends to focus on disliking the rich.

In Denmark, Socialism is more about true respect for all, lifting everyone together.

It’s still a capitalist country, just one with true regard for everyone (not just the rich).

To heal illness, begin by restoring balance

So what was my illness?

The tests came back positive for aggressive seasonal flu. One that would not have been long-lasting had I taken the flu shot (lesson learned).

It also hit me hard as I’d lost balance in my life. Since the summer I’d begun to work non stop from the moment I got on the train in the morning, to when I stepped onto the platform in the evening.

Trying to be hyper-productive had ironically led to higher stress and a weakened immune response to seasonal viruses.

So now I’m back to meditating on my commute using the Headspace app on my phone. I write less content for LinkedIn as spend that time reading, and I organise my work more effectively by being in tune with how I feel, rather than ignoring it.

My flow efficiency is much greater than it’s ever been.

Here’s wishing you yours too.


*Flow Efficiency is a term used in the book This is Lean by Niklas Modig

**Finite and Infinite games are the basis of the book The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

Notes from a Small Country

Be who you needed when you were young

“Are you ok daddy?”

It was my 6-year-old son. I looked up from my pillow, I was just able to make out his worried face through my tears.

He hugged me for what seemed like ages.

“I’m ok pal, I just have a lot of pain in my neck and it got a bit much.”

I hadn’t slept that night and my wife and kids had left me upstairs in the hope I could rest. My neck pain had got so bad, at that moment I was crying into my pillow.

My son had crept upstairs to his room looking for a book and heard me through the wall.

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow

I think a lot. Since having a second child, moving jobs & moving countries, life has become very different from what it once was.

I’ve let the worry and stress build up over time, and during Christmas, I fell ill. Last week the tension building in my neck got so bad the pain was unbearable.

And that hug from my son somehow made it all disappear for a few moments.

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself

At the age of 14, I got home from school one day to find my mum on the living room floor crying uncontrollably.

I froze, not knowing what to do. After a few seconds, I went to the kitchen and made her a cup of tea.

That day, she’d learned the love of her life had died unexpectedly. She and my father had divorced many years before and a while later she’d met someone she’d fallen deeply in love with.

And when she lost him, the best I could do was make her a cup of tea.

I think we all have empathy. We just may not have enough courage to display it

There aren’t many moments in my life I’d like to go back and change. But if I could, that would be one of them.

I’d open the door, go over and hug my mum.

At the time I wasn’t equipped. I’d never really hugged anyone, we weren’t a hugging family.

I don’t think I’d even thought about empathy that much.

So when I realised my son’s instinct was to ask if I was ok, and then hug me when he saw me crying, I felt proud of him.

We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful

In Denmark, males and females are seen as equals. There’s room for improvement, though for the most part society has moved gender equality nicely.

It’s somewhat noticeable in Danish movies that they don’t ask a shorter man to stand on a box or the women in a hole so the male is taller (in an attempt to look more powerful).

I’ve also learned that men here don’t feel the need to hide their vulnerability like in the UK, and I’ve yet to see a Danish parent tell their boy to ‘man up’ (a common request of a father to son where I used to live).

Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything in life

Both my sons feel comfortable displaying kindness. It’s wonderful to see, and my wife and I can’t take all the credit.

The Danish kindergarten my son attends has males and females. The males are kind and strong, and so are the females.

He gets great role models in Denmark.

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength

Strangely, on that day I felt like my son shouldn’t have seen me cry. I talked to my wife about it, I felt I should be displaying strength, not weakness.

She reminded me it’s healthy for children to see real-life emotions. She also reminded me crying is not a show of weakness.

What’s key is I wasn’t putting my emotion on him, I was simply expressing an emotion, and that’s good for him to see.

It’s healthy to be vulnerable, and healthy for children to see their parents are not invulnerable.

Danish society doesn’t appear to include many of the hang-ups around male vulnerability, and that’s pretty cool for everyone here, especially my children.

Also, it’s one less thing for me to worry about 🙂


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to this article, that way you’ll get a notification each week when the latest one appears.

See you next time for Episode 15.

If you like musings about life and work you can also follow me on LinkedIn

Notes from a Small Country

Twas the night before Christmas…

“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.” – Bill Murray

We’re in Denmark for the holidays, where the day before Christmas is a lot more than just the day before the main event.

It’s sort of the main event itself.

In the land of bicycles and hygge, Christmas is traditionally celebrated on the evening of December 24th. Families get together for a meal of roast goose or pork, accompanied by red cabbage and boiled potatoes with gravy. After dinner, everyone goes to see the tree. A Christmas tree covered with real candles, yes real candles lit and burning!

It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it

It’s then that Danes join hands to dance and sing around the tree (yes, the one with burning candles). They dance clockwise for one song and then counter-clockwise for the next one.

It’s only after this the presents are handed out.

So all day kids are waiting for the presents, which for some, where families are eating and drinking till late (a common occurrence), presents can be opened as late as 10 pm.

It sounds almost cruel to those brought up in a society where kids rush downstairs on Christmas day to rip open presents as soon as they’re awake.

All in good time

Imagine being a kid, knowing you can have your presents, but only when you’ve waited all day, are stuffed full of pork and have danced around the tree?

Imagine being so tired you won’t remember if it was Uncle Adrian or Uncle Ian who gave you that skateboard? Or so tired you won’t be able to play with the toys you might get as you can’t keep your eyes open…

But wait, there’s more…

After you’ve opened the presents you then eat a dessert of rice pudding, mmmm.

Sound like torture? It certainly would for many kids around the world.

Though there’s a certain charm to it all. A charm that includes patience, a focus on family time, and traditions not lost in a world of commercialism.

Yet many around the world would love the opportunity for such as wonderfully inclusive Christmas with no presents until the end of the day.

When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence

It’s estimated 14.3 million people live in poverty in the UK. That’s almost 3 times the population of Denmark.

The UK government estimate one million children aged 10 and under are set to miss out on basics such as warm clothing and fresh food over the month of December.

It’s 2019 and hard for me to comprehend this at times. Especially from the place I live with my family now.

Denmark looks after it’s people, it’s not perfect, yet the need for charities and volunteers is very light compared to a place like the UK.

In part, it’s down to culture, and as a family we’re rapidly going off the British culture of money being the currency of choice, not happiness. It’s a culture with a best before date, and sadly one many other western countries favour.

Thankfully, not so much in Denmark.

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together

So we’re doing a partly Danish Christmas this year, one where Christmas eve is about spending time with family (we have my wife’s parents staying with us) and a glorious meal.

We’ll do presents on Christmas day (we’re not quite ready to tell our kiddo’s they can have there presents, but not until the evening…)

We’re also not brave enough to have real candles burning on our real Christmas tree…

But walk past our house around 7 pm on the 24th December, and you might just see us hand in hand dancing around a tree under the dim glow of LED lights.

Christmas is, of course, the time to be home, in heart as well as body

Whatever your celebration this time of year, I hope you have a fantastic one. One with friends and family.

Ada Hendricks says it best:

“May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope; The spirit of Christmas which is peace; The heart of Christmas which is love.” – Ada V. Hendricks


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

See you next time for Episode 14.

I write on LinkedIn

Notes from a Small Country

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives

“Look at those twinkly lights daddy!”

That was 2 weeks ago when I was cycling home with the rest of the Purvis gang, whizzing past cosy Danish homes in our neighbourhood.

It gets dark from 3:30 pm at this time of year. That might not sound so bad, yet consider it doesn’t really get light until after 8 am.

So we don’t see as much natural light nowadays, and when we do it’s a dim grey light from a low sun. A sun trying its best to push its rays through thick winter cloud.

We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love

Hygge is an important part of Danish life.

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh or hoo-gah depending on whom you ask or what website you visit) is a Danish word. A word used to acknowledge a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or away, ordinary or extraordinary.

It’s cosy and most of all charming.

For much of the western world, Hygge has become a familiar term, with popular books and articles being written on the subject (Danish & Scandi living has a huge following in the UK & US recently).

‘Let’s put our twinkly lights up now’ said my son as we pulled into our driveway.

So in we all went and out came our twinkly fairy lights. We put them in lantern jars, on bushes in the garden and hanging on the bunk bed in our children’s bedroom.

It’s all very cosy.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity

When I think of people sitting at home with blankets over their knees I picture elderly people watching TV or reading the paper.

That’s never going to be me I used to think.

Yet here I am in our home, with a grey IKEA fleece blanket across my legs. My wife and kiddos are the same and yet it’s not cold in our house…

Our fairy lights are on and candles lit and we’re playing Old Maid (the card game) around the dining table.

It turns out cosiness isn’t just for the elderly.

Yet real Hygge is more than twinkly lights, candles and those grey fleece blankets from IKEA.

It’s about togetherness, connectedness and quality time with yourself or others.

I recently learned that a startup created a box for people to put their phones in when together. It’s a box that blocks signals so phone disturbance isn’t possible.

It’s called Breadblox and looks pretty stylish. Yet being stylish is all it really is.

It costs a lot more than everyone simply putting their phone onto aeroplane mode.

Hygge was never meant to be translated, it was meant to be felt

Hygge doesn’t require a purchase of anything. You don’t even need twinkly lights or candles. It’s a state of mind, it’s a philosophy for better living, better living we can all benefit from.

I’m learning Hygge means being in the moment. It means connecting and staying connected to yourself, your surroundings or those you enjoy spending time with.

So no phones, no devices, just people, nature or conversation, and most of all cosiness.

You don’t need an expensive box to block your phone. You just need discipline, curiosity and the mindfulness to enjoy simple moments every day.

Hygge is like a good hug, but without the physical contact

In our home, our kids love to light the candles, turn on the fairy lights and get to work on their Lego. If that isn’t a demonstration of Hygge I don’t know what is.

Do you have small moments that make a big difference in how you live, feel and interact?

If you don’t, chances are you’d benefit from embracing Hygge into your life.

It’s making all the difference in mine.

Now, where did I put that fleece blanket?

“You cannot buy the right atmosphere or a sense of togetherness. You cannot hygge if you are in a hurry or stressed out, and the art of creating intimacy cannot be bought by anything but time, interest and engagement in the people around you.” ― Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well


I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to this article, that way you’ll get a notification each week when the latest one appears.

See you next time for Episode 13.

Who am I? I lead software engineering teams at Unity Technologies, the realtime development platform of choice for video games, movies and more.

I write on LinkedIn