Hew-geh, Hoo-gah, Hygge?
Hygge is a warmth, a cosiness of sorts. It is a special atmosphere that transpires when you feel comfortable and at ease. It can be a solitary experience or one lived in the company of close friends. It can occur while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly winter’s night. Or maybe while drinking a cold Tuborg under the blue sky of a summer’s day.
Limits to hygge?
Sometimes it may seem like Danes just carelessly throw the word hygge around, especially when they turn it into the adjective, hygge-lig. “That cafe is hyggelig”, they say. “Your sweater looks super hyggelig”. “Let’s have a hyggelig weekend together”. One might be left thinking: are there any limits to hygge? Can anything be hyggelig? Doesn’t that diminish its value?
Who can hygge?
The beauty of hygge is that it’s open to everyone. It doesn’t require an expensive setup. It’s nothing bombastic or extravagant – that would ruin it. Hygge is simple. Electricians can hygge. The executive director of Maersk can hygge. Electricians and Maersk executives can even hygge together. The value of hygge is, perhaps, that it is so accessible. If you want hygge, you can get it.
One basic ingredient is candles. Lots of candles.
Every Danish household has a stock of candles (and if it doesn’t, there is something very suspicious going on). Once you light a candle, you are guaranteed instant hygge. Actually, according to a report carried out by Bolius, Danes are the people in Europe who burn the most candles per capita.
Homemade things also do the trick.
There is something very hyggelig about putting the time and thought into making something homemade. So next time you invite friends over for a hyggelig get together, don’t waste money on a readymade cake mix, for example. Instead, bake the cake from scratch. And then place the cake on a table mat you knitted yourself. Next to some candles, of course.
Before you get too excited and start stocking up on massive sums of candles while hashtagging all your pictures #hygge, it is important to remain critical of hygge. While the numbers are small, there are some Danes that are self-proclaimed hygge haters and there are a few aspects of hygge that may explain this stance.
There is an excluding quality to hygge. It’s that word that we just can’t translate and that we can never accurately describe to non-Danes. It’s that word that only Danes can pronounce. It’s the comfort zone we create in the company of our closest friends, where newcomers aren’t necessarily welcome. It’s what we call our secret to happiness.
The CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute once wrote: “hygge is in Danish cultural DNA”. This description highlights the excluding factor of hygge. Does it imply that other cultures will never be able to hygge like the Danes? That all newcomers are simply exempt from hygge?
Tip: Don’t try forcing hygge.
The statement also assumes that all Danes are naturally wired to hygge, which can come off as a bit forced. It is however not uncommon for Danes to exclaim things like “let’s hygge, now!”. Sometimes I find myself doing it. But should I really have to feel like hygge just because someone lit a candle? Can’t there at least be a bit more foreplay so that hygge might happen more naturally? Unfortunately, a lack of desire to hygge is often seen as strange.
So, to hygge or not to hygge, that is the question! As I see it, both sides of the hygge argument have their value and everyone should have the freedom to choose their attitude towards it. I’m personally pro-hygge. How about you?