“Hygge” is a concept that has confused and confounded foreigners in Denmark for many years now. A word native only to Danish and Norwegian and untranslatable to all others, “hygge” has been called both essential to Danish culture and one of the defining reasons why Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world. But what is it? And does it *really* make life magically better?
The Oxford Dictionary defines “hygge” as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”, which, “Gudfaderbevares”!, is a very long explanation for something that really shouldn’t need one.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that most people, even you, know and have experienced what hygge is, even though you might not have known before now that there was a word for it.
“Hygge” is the feeling you get when you are sitting along in your bed in your pyjamas, wrapped in multiple blankets and cradling a hot beverage of your choice, it’s sitting and talking to an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, it’s Christmas morning with your family unwrapping presents and the 4th of July when the fireworks are blazing in the sky and you’re eating a smore – in short, it’s that warm, fuzzy feeling that equals complete and utter contentment with everything in the world. It’s finding that feeling of safety and shelter in a world that sometimes feels too big and dangerous. It’s a coping mechanism for the long and dark winters up north in Scandinavia, and a sort of self-care ritual that’s deeply ingrained in the culture here. It’s about taking a step back from all the hecticness that comes from living in the world today and appreciating the magic of the everyday.
It's this easygoing approach to a slower, more “hyggelig” way of life that attracts many of our students here to Denmark, so we here at CIEE Copenhagen try to engage our students in something we have decided to call Wednesday Hygge at the Study Center.
We usually do something different every week – one week we might do board games, or a movie night with a Danish movie (the Oscar-winning “Another Round” is always a hit), and if the weather is nice, we might go to the street food hangout Reffen and get drinks, or perhaps the King’s Garden for some yard games and beer. It doesn’t have to be too fancy – hygge often isn’t – but for many of our students this becomes part of their weekly routine while they are here with us in Copenhagen.
As for whether hygge makes life magically better – well, I don’t know, if you are one of those sentimental people like me that believes in the magic of the everyday, then certainly so. For me hygge shifts my attention to something I can control, and that definitely makes me happier, comfier and cosier.
What about you? What makes you happy?