Hygge. Even the word evokes comfort. Apparently the term came from our concept of hug, and really, what’s more comforting than a hug? (Pronounced hue-gah, by the way– and sounds a little like you are clearing your throat). While Italians have ‘la dolce far niente’; the French ‘je ne sais quoi’; and the Danish lifestyle of ‘hygge’, we in the UK are left with afternoon tea and Sunday Lunch, neither of which are exactly wellbeing lifestyle movements…
Though the term originated in Norway (where it was defined as something closer to well-being), hygge then became part of the Danish language in the 18th century. Hygge is described as defying translation but can be simply explained as taking pleasure from the lack of annoyance or irritation in a moment of calm. So it can be as simple as candlelight (to banish the darkness), sitting in a bakery for fika (more on that later) or enjoying a meal with good friends. The term entered the Urban Dictionary in 2008, as ‘a Danish word (pronounced HU-guh) meaning social coziness, i.e. the feeling of a good social atmosphere’.
If you’ve been paying attention over the last few months, you will have noticed that Denmark is on the up. Whether it’s fashion (see Laura Brown, the new editor-in-chief of US Instyle and Glossier founder Emily Weiss at the Ganni show earlier in the summer), interiors, food or travel, we can’t escape the Scandinavian lifestyle. Just look at the international catwalks and in any of the September issues and you’ll be sure to find the Pre-Raphaelite Rapunzel-like model, Frederikke Sofie, everyone is after a little bit of Denmark in our lives. But it’s hygge we must start with. Just think, how much nicer would winter seem if you could get on board with the darkness and rain?
Here’s a few ways to embrace the Scandinavian mentality
In a bid to increase happiness and productivity, in 2015 Sweden changed their work day from an eight hours, to a shorter six-hour day, to ensure that people had time to enjoy their private lives and families outside of work. This has, so far, lead to more productive working conditions and happier employees. The country’s focus on the well-being, happiness and the emotional health of their people makes for a pretty appealing destination. And they are the home of the cinnamon bun…say no more.
Although, in winter, the lack of daylight and the weather in Sweden is bound to affect everyone’s mood. The Swedes live by an ancient proverb ‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.’ This practical, ‘get on with it’ attitude is one us Brits were known for, but in recent years seem to have been neglected. After all, we are the home of the Barbour, the trench coat and wellington boots.
Fika is another icon of Swedish culture, and is defined as ‘to meet up for a cup of coffee and cake/bun,’ (according to the kitchn) a social coffee break essentially, not so different from our formal afternoon tea. It is a time to reflect and contemplate in a social situation, rather than rushing a lonely 4pm snack on the tube. It serves as a reminder to enjoy the simple things in life. The Nordic Bakery has annouced itself as a destination for fika and hygge using the #myquietmoment hashtag. In Sweden many workplaces even make fika compulsory, with a scheduled ‘fikapaus’ and in some cases, a dedicated Fika room. We say, bring it on.
Nature is at the forefront of Norwegian life. From the northern lights to the impressive Fjords and skiing, the outdoors are celebrated, even when it’s almost entirely dark. So this winter is the time to embrace nature and all the elements. After all, rain isn’t that bad really is it? Especially when you will be welcomed home with dry, warm clothes, cosy blankets and hot chocolate.
The Danes are officially the happiness country in the world this year (according to the World Happiness Report 2016); perhaps because they have one of the highest life expectancies at 80 years old, rather than the global average of 71. There’s also free/ tax funded healthcare, and a not too shabby GDP per capita of ($44,916, according to World Bank figures, placing 17th overall). Surely even the most sceptical of people will be swayed by these statistics and get ready to embrace hygge this winter. Meanwhile Copenhagen is the coolest city to visit, just look at Derek Blasberg’s Instagram. Enjoy the finer, simpler things in life by getting a little more Danish.
The wellness industry has been one of the most successful marketing rebrand exercises in retail history, transforming veganism from hippie status to cult following (even Vogue has a video series entitled ‘What on Earth is Wellness’). Mindfulness, meditation and yoga have all played a huge part in that transformation and hygge is welcomed as a younger sister to the preachier, yoga loving forerunner.
After of the recent obsession with the ‘clean-eating’ and fitness trends, hygge seems a far healthier and saner approach to life. And we aren’t the only ones that have noticed. Come autumn the bookshops will be chock and block full of books about hygge, and Denmark lifestyle. From ‘Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness’ by Marie Tourell Søderberg to ‘ScandiKitchen: Fika and Hygge’ by Bronte Aurell, among seven others, this is set to be the biggest trend in publishing until Christmas. After all, the Danes are the happiest nation in the world…