- -  Day # 352  + +

EU > Denmark > Arhus


Arhus, DK (View on map)

When I was asking Danes about happiness a few days ago, some responded that Denmark offers a lot of safety to its inhabitants. Opportunities would be plentiful but what effect does all that on people`s ambitions? They just might get lazy if there is nothing to win or loose. Today`s question: How ambitious are young Danes?

Nikolaj (30):

`I combine my medicine studies with writing and playing music`
Christoffer (22) seems to be inspired by the Czech way of thinking about the future. `My short-term ambition is to get drunk at the music festival Skejby which I am heading to now. Apart from that, I would like to become rich while doing as little as possible. I am studying economics now and I would like to spend some time abroad. I am thinking of Australia, China or Japan. Europe does not really attract me, except for Barcelona which could be alright.` Christoffer`s friend Tarik (23) has similar ideas. `I just started studying law, so I bet I will become a lawyer at some point.`

Pros and cons
Thomas (30) first of all thinks of having a good life, an enjoyable career and a supporting family. `Denmark has a very open society with great equality`, Thomas says. `On one hand, our way of thinking allows us to make all our dreams come true, because there are plenty of opportunities for everybody. On the other hand, this mentality is also responsible for people being modest about their dreams. Nobody can get really rich in Denmark. Taxes are so high that it doesn`t even make sense to have the wish of becoming rich. You`d have to move to Monaco or Luxembourg for that.`

Lin (22) currently works as a waiter on a ferry. `It`s just a job that allows me to pay for my bills. Next year, I will start studying contemporary dancing and I also like travelling a lot. It would be great if I could combine the two, just like I did on my last trip to Canada. Going there to dance made me meet a lot of people that I otherwise wouldn`t have met.`

Lin thinks that Denmark is a good country for ambitious people. `We have the tools and opportunities to reach our objectives. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to suppress their ambitions. There is a lot of pressure on students to finish their studies as early as possible. But that`s not strange if you imagine that the government actually pays us for going to university.`

Stating ambitions
Thomas (31) thinks that Danes are not sufficiently communicative about their ambitions. `I think few people speak out loud when it comes to their wishes for the future. `That potentially turns them into underachievers, feeling satisfied with less than needed. Not doing something is usually easier and often also a lot safer.`

Thomas and his girlfriend Ditte (27) take care of discussing their ambitions together. One of their common ambitions is to travel to India. Ditte says: `I have been their twice and I find Indian society fascinating. It`s very different from Denmark, almost opposite actually. I love the chaos, the colours, the sounds, the smells of it.`

Apart from his taste for travelling, Thomas is also seriously considering to give up his job as an economic researcher. `I now work on researching how power affects wealthy people. Doing that has made me more philosophical about life and I could see myself get more involved with philosophy. A more practical plan is to start studying literature. I would have to quit my job and take another one to be able to pay the rent. It could be teaching, because I am already qualified to do that. I don`t see my past experience as a reason not to take new steps. Instead, I feel confident having experience and knowledge to fall back on if anything might go wrong.`

Thomas thinks that many Danes organise their life according to existing models, or through inspiration by somebody they admire. `I am a big fan of Ghandi and of John Lennon. Not just because they had the same type of glasses. I like their peaceful approach to solving problems ? their ability to face the odds and surpass conventions.`

Ditte thinks of her parents as examples of how to lead her life. `I am very much impressed by how they managed to raise two children, have a decent career, a lot of friends and a lot of involvement in their surroundings.`

Regardless of the Danish strive for gender equality, Ditte thinks that many women in Denmark have ambitions that are not the same as those of the men. `Girls tend to be more conservative. They want to get children, a house and a car. Gender equality is relatively new. Between 1950 and 1970s, many women considered staying at home a luxury. Only 5% of today`s top executives in Denmark are women. Part of that is explained by women`s `delayed` entry to the labour market. Another part may have to do with their ambitions to create a family, rather than reaching the top of the business world.`

Daniel (26) once counted on becoming a professional tennis player, but was forced to give up that dream quite some years ago. `I wasn`t good enough unfortunately. Now, I still play tennis but just for enjoying. I spend most of my time working on my masters, specializing in global strategies of multinational companies. I hope to find a job with one such companies already before I graduate.

Daniel formulates an ambition that I expect many Danes to share with him: `I would like to have a comfortable life. It would be nice if I managed to become rich, but I wouldn`t do that with the purpose of just collecting a lot of money. The purpose would be to allow me to do the things I want to do. Travelling would be one of those ? at least for the upcoming years. I just spent three months in South America, and that gave me the taste for more. It`s not so much the money I`m after, but I don`t want it to be a limitation in achieving what I want to achieve. I care more about the freedom and about whether I can stay true to myself. Like Steve Jobs from Apple said, I want to wake up in the morning, look at the mirror and think: what I will do today will make me happy.`

Daniel`s friend Lasse (24) has the ambition of making a difference for people around him or, if possible, for the world around him. `I also political science, but I am more interested in working for an NGO, helping third world countries develop. I may also want to do the same thing on a much smaller scale. Just being a teacher also makes a nice ambition. I already have some experience in that.`

Lasse also explains that ambitions in Denmark may rank well before family values. `In other countries, people first consider their family before thinking about jobs. In Denmark, it`s personal ambition first. In the uneventful case that your family does not think high of the career you intend, that alone is definitely not enough a reason to quit the project.`

Combining projects
Nikolaj (30, photo) is studying medicine. `I want to become a psychiatrist. I estimate the chance that I will end up becoming one close to 100%. Denmark has a great lack of psychiatrist, so I don`t count on having any trouble finding a job.` Despite the pressure of exams and practical assignments, Nikolaj spends a lot of time producing music: `I sing, and also play base and double base. I write my own songs: both the music and the lyrics. I have made about 50 songs that I consider worth putting on an album, so I guess I will end up doing that one day.`

Kaare (26) works as a graphical designer in a fashion company. `I like what I do, but there are also downsides to it. I don`t like the mass production of clothes in factories, I don`t like the pollution caused by colouring the clothes. Fashion is not something I intended to do from the start. Just like my parents, I was planning to work in advertisement design.`

If Kaare decides to keep working in the same field, he would like to work for Diesel: `I used to like that brand a lot when I was younger. Unfortunately, they require their employees to speak Italian, which I do not. It is something I want to learn, but I haven`t started yet. I also have plans in other directions. I would like to start my own company selling accessories: smart convenience products, if possible with an art/design-kind of touch to it. My friends say I won`t be able to make a living out of that, but I am convinced that I will get somewhere with it.`

For as far as my personal objectives are concerned, I would want to travel to Scotland and Japan. I caught interest in Scotland when I visited it a few years ago. Ever since, I have been keeping track of everything related with the country. The same for Japan. I read a lot about the Samurai when I was younger and I am very interested in learning more about Japanese culture.`

Kaare`s final ambition is `to clear the table before dying`. `I don`t want to leave negative legacy behind. I hope I will have distributed all my possessions and ideas to my friends and family, because I won`t be able to take them with me in the grave anyway.`

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