As the clocks go back this weekend I thought it was the perfect time to talk about the Danish concept of hygge. I’ll explain more about it in a second, but first an apology! Dear reader, you might have come back for more stories about me walking in on a pooing-Parisian dude and now you’re sorely disappointed aren’t you? Fear not, I’ll always have time to over-share with you lot and there’s plenty of posts to bestow my inappropriate musings upon you yet. It’s just that sometimes, I have to ya know, grow up and talk about how we can look after ourselves. More to the point, I’m sat on the train with my laptop perched on my lap with a beyond nosy commuter sharing my screen (yes you in the grey coat, terrible breath, hair like Curly Watts, you).
Hygge is the Danish art of happiness. That’s right, being happy is so darn hard to do these days, it’s considered an art reserved only for those who are willing to step off the merry-go-round to make time for it. Which is a sad, sad irony really but stay with me, because Denmark wasn’t voted one of the happiest places on earth for nothing. It’s probably better left to the experts to explain it:
For many Danes, hygge is something you strive for. It’s like a compass, steering us towards small moments that money cannot buy you, finding the magic in the ordinary.
~ Marie Tourell Søderberg
Pronounced ‘hoogir’, like cougar but with an ‘h’ and less emphasis on the ‘r’, it basically means snuggling up, cosying on down and finding that headspace that makes you feel rested, safe and balanced. Not necessarily with your honey boo boo, but at the same time it could so be with them. Let’s face it, eating your body-weight in food doesn’t feel so bad when you’ve got a wingman to swallow some of the guilt. And anyway, who else is gonna wipe your dribble away for you while you slip off into a carb-induced coma?
For me ‘hygg-ing’ is the simple recipe of candles, comforting food and good people. Ok, any food. It’s hearing my nephew giggle uncontrollably the way only kids can. It’s hearing the rain fall on the window when I’m tucked up in bed and it’s bloody Saturday! YES. It’s sitting on the sofa next to my boyfriend and listening to him patiently explain how a ton of feathers weighs the same as a ton of bricks for the third time. It’s that feeling of having nowhere to be; of being free to just mooch around with no sense of time – just being you.
Still not convinced you’re the hygge type? How about when you’re wrapped round a hot chocolate with a throw over your knees; cake to your left, remote to your right – the thought of not moving for at least the next half an hour makes you have a tiny brain orgasm doesn’t it? Well the Danes have dubbed that tiny brain orgasm ‘hygge’.
A bowl of warm apple crumble and custard (I prefer to call it yellow pudding) on your lap, your dad’s asleep on the sofa snoring his head off, the Great British Bake Off theme tune comes on and you have a little smile to yourself – that’s also hygge. When you spot the best neighbourhood dog out on his morning walk and it makes your day – happy f*cking hygge. Fyi, he’s a deerhound and we call him the wiry dog because his coat is wiry looking (glad I cleared that up for you). And the only reason I know what breed he is, is because I spent an entire Sunday afternoon Googling ‘wiry haired dog-breeds’ to find out. I know, give me a bus pass already.
Söderberg claims it’s ‘the secret reminder of what really matters in life’. So if you’re reading this and thinking you live one hygge-less life, then it sounds to me like you need to narrow the search. It’s much closer to you than you think. In fact, it’s probably right in front of you, if only you’re willing to see it. And the more we make time to absorb those everyday moments, the more we’ll all see that just because we don’t have a name for it like the Danes, doesn’t mean we don’t experience it.
I’ve just booked flights to visit Copenhagen over the Christmas period and if my fixation for coffee, stark climates, pastries, candles and comical dogs is anything to go by, something tells me we’re going to get along just fine. Who knows, I might even make friends with a Great Dane out there… that was a dad joke wasn’t it? Hey, whatever makes you happy!