The days are getting shorter and cold weather is creeping in. Fire is in the woodstove, slippers are on our feet, candles are lit, and wienerbrød is wafting from the oven. ‘Tis the season – of hygge.
Hygge: It’s another one of those tricky Danish words, but this one might be a good one to master. Central to Danish culture, hygge is a word that Danes often stumble for in translation. ‘Coziness’ has been used in the past to describe the all-encompassing feeling of hygge, but perhaps does not give it the credit it deserves.
Let’s skip the troubles of translating and get to the crux of this Danish phenomenon, with these eight ingredients. Hygge can be enjoyed anywhere in the world, but most importantly with your head and heart in Scandinavia!
1. Whether you’ve achieved the perfect feng shui in your living room in the winter time, or have a lush, nearby park to sit in during the summer time, comfortable surroundings frame that the occasion is inviting and informal. Interior design, furniture, and lighting can have a positive or negative impact on the human brain – so Scandinavians often prioritize great interior design in their own homes to maximize hygge.2. To say that hygge requires food and drink would be restrictive. But in the holiday months, hygge comes often with a mug of gløgg (Danish mulled wine) and æbleskiver (Danish donut-like delicacies) – treats that current students can enjoy in an upcoming Cultural Open Event at DIS!
3. A truly hyggelig time together has no agenda in mind. There’s nowhere to rush off to, no phone calls to make, and no dishes to clean. If you have lived in a homestay then you know this well: dinners can last well into the night, and if there’s a nice flow of conversation, messy plates will remain untouched on the table – unless, of course, dessert is on the way!
4. Generally, Danes appreciate a deep debate, but sometimes hygge is best enjoyed without discussion of the burning issues of our time. However, if everyone is interested in tackling the pros and cons of the Danish welfare system and conversation comes easily, you’re still on a good track.
5. To piggy back off of #4, Positive Psychologists might argue that this art of a hyggelig dynamic requires some flow. The social dynamic should not present challenges – but at the same time, it is also not banal. It’s somewhere in the middle, leaving you to flourish in the present moment.6. When in a group, one person does not rule or dominate. In fact, it is just the opposite – everyone has a chance to contribute and be included. This is because equality is highly valued in Danish society, so it isn’t surprising that this is incorporated into private settings.
7. Often a blanket or a good book will do the trick, but the idea of sharing in something creates an engaging and mutual interaction, characteristic of hygge. Similar to this, the Culinary Living & Learning Community has a weekly tradition that everyone gathers to share recipes and make dinner to be enjoyed together – it doesn’t get much better than that!8. While we are well aware that candles fall under interior design (#1), in Scandinavia, candles are such a big deal, that they deserve their own category. From November until March, the Danes celebrate (and cope) with the darkness by decorating their homes, offices, and stores with candles. This is unbelievably hyggelig – and even could pass as a Nordic art!