The truth about #hygge

Observing the current obsession in the UK with the apparently Danish concept of “hygge” is both amusing and disturbing. Firstly, trying to package and sell such a concept is in itself a strange task, based as it is on an apparently untranslatable word that involves an increasingly wide selection of absolutely necessary food, drink, accessories and whatnots to achieve some higher state of Scandinavian happiness. If you’ve not grasped that “hygge” is a Huge Thing Right Now, here are some links to substantiate it: Time Magazine, BBC,  NPR and Google has an infinite number of others. Oh, if you want the absolutely most inventive and sugary version, try this one, and I quote:

“… instead letting the bleakness get the best of them, the Danes invented hygge—e.g. feel good rituals like fireside chats with friends and dinner parties—to combat the inevitable feelings of ickiness that come from getting less sunlight.”

When I google for "hygge" images this is the first that comes up. I will admit that at times when my feet were frozen, while wearing wool socks and there was a fireplace handy, I have thawed out in this manner. It's hardly an everyday occurrence though, and there were no offers of mulled wine or artisan baked goods.

When I google for “hygge” images this is the first that comes up. I will admit that at times when my feet were frozen, while wearing wool socks and there was a fireplace handy, I have thawed out in this manner. It’s hardly an everyday occurrence though, and there were no offers of mulled wine or artisan baked goods.

Secondly though, in reality it’s all a shameless marketing stunt. For starters the word “hygge” can be translated, it just means “cosy”. And it’s used in the context of “now, this is cosy” with no gastronomical, interior-design or otherwise requirements. Sure, you might be in a log cabin in the woods, all candled up, the smell of incense mixing with a crackling wood fire, copious quantities of cocoa or mulled wine, a soundtrack provided by some inoffensive, yet popular adult-orientated artist with incredibly sincere lyrics, thick wool blankets and an overarching fear of not quite having achieved a hashtaggable level of hygge.

There are no requirements for hygge, other than a sense of cosy well-being. Easily achieved really. A mug of tea and a biscuit? Hygge. A pint with a mate in the pub? Hygge. A quiet moment alone in a hectic day? Heck, hashtag away. How so many books have been written on this subject in the rush up to Xmas is a mystery, unless you understand the concept of jumping on the marketing bandwagon. Bundling a bunch of stuff together under a mysterious supposedly Scandinavian concept name is pretty genius. Especially if you also sell in that it’s not possibly to translate or even pronounce. Yet it means cosy and you’re pretty damn close if you just say “higga”, so there. And the word is the same in Norwegian, so it’s not even a solely Danish thing, although you might think so if you’re following the phenomena.

hygge-sofa

Reclined on the sofa with a good book, a fancy hipster craft beer and protected from the realities of life by a wool blanket of elemental thickness. I was between mugs of tea, which would have been my usual tipple when going for extreme hygge.

For my own part in the whole cosy think I have to say that while scented candles and mulled wine leave me cold, the log fire and a good wool blanket are much appreciated. And while the whole log fire thing has been amply covered by my friend Lars Mytting in recent times, when it comes to wool blankets there is only one that matters, and it’s even made in Norway. And it’s called tweed as well. My blanket of choice is by Røros Tweed, made in a small town near the middle of Norway, going by sheer land mass.  Or in the far North of Norway, if you are to believe the description by Swedish denim brand Indigofera, who have their blankets made by Røros Tweed. I guess in marketing terms “far North” is a more powerful trigger word than “middle”. They never replied to my pedantic email explaining Norwegian geography though. The truth of the matter though is that no other wool blanket is as soft, thick or lush,, and there is a great selection of designs.

viewing-roros-tweed

Checking out some Røros Tweed at our local Norwegian craft shop, Husfliden. They also do a fine line in traditional Norwegian folk costumes. For some these are, like wool, considered fetish items. Notice my new nissefriend as well. Awesome guy, kind of mixing Gandalf with Santa.

So, in summary, to me hygge is a mug of Yorkshire tea, a thick wool blanket, a good book, ample electric lighting, silence and a couple of sleeping Corgis on the floor. I don’t think any of the books or articles so far have covered this version. Maybe I can launch it next year as #level2hygge?

 

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6 Comments

  • William 12/12/2016 at 11:07

    As a Brit living in Denmark, I feel your frustration. Hygge can be a mug of tea under a blanket until it isn’t, standing in the rain doing something fun with friends whilst freezing your arse off can also be hyggelig.
    Have a hyggelig Christmas with your smelly fish!

    Reply
  • Darryl 15/12/2016 at 22:41

    I’ve found it all very puzzling, having been made familiar with the Dutch word Gezelligheid around 20 years ago and which seems to mean pretty much the same thing!

    Reply
    • nick 16/12/2016 at 07:48

      That’s the whole point really, it’s just another word for “cosy” (and similar), not an entire lifestyle concept that can be marketed and cashed in on. I was reading about how hard it was to find Danes to author books on the idea, as naturally even they didn’t understand what the heck it was all about!

      Reply
    • WDW 16/12/2016 at 15:01

      Yes, I would believe most languages have a word (or several) for this

      Reply
  • WDW 16/12/2016 at 15:00

    The stupidest I saw was a sign sold in he US saying merry christmas…in danish. Yeah, exponentially more merry and koselig (norwegian equivalent to hyggelig).

    Reply
  • William 19/12/2016 at 15:24

    glædelig jul og godt nytår 😉

    Reply

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