“Listen to that, it’s sick! I’m gonna have one before I’m 30 to prove I did something with my life”

Said one teenager to another.

I was walking in London, from Whitechapel to Shoreditch.

Two teenagers were in front of me while a red Ferrari braked for the traffic lights. It then sat there revving its engine so everyone could notice and appreciate how awesome the driver was.

There’s no point showing off when there’s no-one to impress

It was a stark reminder of cultural differences between the UK and Denmark.

Differences such as confidence. Where in one culture your confidence comes from how others perceive you, and the other from how you perceive you.

I’ve been back in the UK this week, staying in Shoreditch for a work event.

Wow, I’d never really noticed how much we Brits seek validation from others (even those we don’t know or care about).

The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence

As a teenager, I wore second-hand clothing, read Batman comics and wrote BASIC on my Commodore Vic20.

None of those were accepted as cool choices in society back then.

And my confidence and self-esteem lowered continually over time.

It’s different for Danish kids. They’re happy with themselves.

When I first arrived in Denmark I mistakenly thought they weren’t an ambitious nation.

Yet I’ve discovered that Danes are ambitious, they just don’t like to show their ambition.

Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose

Danes like to succeed, though not in public.

There are virtually no taboo lifestyles, meaning there’s no right or wrong life.

They can choose the life that fits them, the one they want for themselves.

Not the one society says they should have.

When I see a person, I see a person – not a rank, not a job, not a class

My son is in Kindergarten, and even at his young age it’s clear to see that Danes are taught no matter what their skills are, they are important to society.

As they mature into students, they learn and accept that those who are great at science are not considered more valuable than those who are great at knitting or cooking.

Isn’t that awesome?

(the correct answer is yes!)

“The main purpose of Danish education is to help students develop individual personalities…” – Malene Rydahl

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it

I feel just as successful in Denmark as I did in the UK.

But I have no car, I don’t own a house, and my clothes don’t have expensive labels.

The measure of success is different.

Also, the world accepts geeks as cool now, that might be helping.

I hope you’re living the life you want to live. Not the life society or others want you to live.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been” – George Eliot
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I hope you enjoyed episode 6 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 week for Episode 7.

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 marcuspurvis.com

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