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!

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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

Notes from a Small Country

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

“Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?” – Marty McFly

It was the summer of 1985 and I was in the USA staying with my dad. We watched Back to the Future in the movie theatre and it became a film that stayed with me forever.

In the UK, it was a time when people met up more, a time when consumerism of goods hadn’t become so throw away, and a time when shops closed every Wednesday afternoon.

“If my calculations are correct when this baby hits 88MPH, you’re gonna see some serious s***”

Living in Denmark in 2019 can be like living back in 1985.

A life with one car families. People spending a lot more time outside. Social skills are highly valued, and TV watching well balanced. Oh, and high street shopping is very much alive and kicking too.

Honestly, Ferrero Rocher and Lion Bar are hugely popular as well.

It’s not all white t-shirts and Levi’s however, Denmark is a mix of old and new. It’s a country whose population is made up of tech-savvy people who love early adoption of devices and technology.

The key difference between 2019 in the UK & USA and 2019 in Denmark is mostly a mindset.

Technology compliments Danish life, it doesn’t drive it.

Take me back to the future

Going back in time isn’t all good.

I love the calm, I love simplicity. I don’t love Sunday with not much is open and very little going on outside of the city.

During the week, local shops and post offices close for lunch. They really do! The busiest time in a UK post office (if you’re lucky enough to have a post office) is lunchtime. I honestly don’t know how Danes can do personal chores outside of working hours. It’s increasingly obvious they do it in their workday and employers are sympathetic to it.

Our doctor’s surgery doesn’t even have a website. It’s so old school there’s a piece of paper sellotaped to the front door with the phone number and opening hours (which are 9-5, Mon – Frid btw).

Back to mindset

The 1980s felt like the last decade of calm. Busy lives were left to the bankers, CEO’s and fast-paced white-collar workers. It all started to change towards the end of the decade when Thatcherism pivoted society towards less community and more ‘what’s in it for me’?

Thankfully not so in Denmark, where it’s poor taste to think you’re better than the next person just because you have more money. The villains in Danish movies will often be rich people and it feels like being successful is more about living a happy life than the car you drive and money you make.

White poo all over again…

So I’ll take going back in time, as it comes with calm, simple and unselfish living.

I’m not sure about the white dog poo though? Remember that? It was everywhere in 1985, and it’s all over the place in my local neighbourhood right now in 2019.

Where’s my DeLorean?…


I hope you enjoyed episode 4 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 week for Episode 5.

Don’t miss a thing and subscribe using your email below, that way you’ll get a notification each week when I publish my latest adventure.

Marcus Purvis leads software engineering teams at Unity Technologies, the realtime development platform of choice for video games, movies and more. He’s also learning to write inspiring content on LinkedInMedium and here at

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters