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.”
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.
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.
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?