The Danes have a word we do not have in English – Hygge.
How do you even say it? I hear you cry (if you’re British, or American, that is). Check out this YouTube lesson by Broendsted –
Hygge is not just a word meaning comfort, cosiness, togetherness and more, it is a mindset; a way of living. Is it an accident that five of the worlds Nordic countries consistently come in the Top 10 of Happiest Countries?
Britain is a strange place. Over the centuries we have had an influx of invaders that have added to our culture. Our southernmost coast is not far from France; geographically warm in summer, whilst our northernmost tip of mainland is neighbour to Norway; not necessarily warm in summer! English is a Germanic language, however, we have absorbed the Romance languages as well. We are a fantastically glorious mash-up from across the globe. We generally don’t show our emotions too often; we rarely cry in front of others, but we do like a good barny (fight) now and then, and some still believe in keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’. An ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’ and snuggling with his pals in fluffy socks with a cocoa is probably the last thing on his mind!
So with our Viking/Nordic inheritance, why don’t we do Hygge; or something akin to it?
The closest I can come is Christmastime. Sure, some people are not overly excited by it, but for most, there is a sense of hygge. Lights, candles, fluffy throws and wraps, being with family, baking together, friends, long walks in the park through crispy ice-coated leaves. Everyone says ‘Hello’; even to strangers. We are enveloped in a feeling of well-being. But as soon as the season is over, it is tossed aside like an unwanted sock received from a great Aunt one rarely sees.
Images of hygge environments show carefully selected knick-knacks arranged artfully – church candles, pine cones, wooden boxes, or – clean minimalism with pockets of lovely things like hand-knitted socks, cream coloured sweaters, open fires and old books. It seems like hygge is for those who can afford it.
But you’re missing the point! Read the first paragraph of this article again – Hygge is not just a word meaning comfort, cosiness, togetherness and more, it is a mindset; a way of living. And it doesn’t just happen in wintertime.
We Brits need to learn to ‘live in the moment’. To see comfort in the simple things. We need; in other words, to alter our mindset if we are to get ourselves happy, healthy and in that Top 10 of Happiest Countries.
To that end, I bought myself a copy of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ in which Meik Wiking (is that surname pronounced as Viking I wonder!?) offers us suggestions on how we can make our lives more satisfying through hygge. He works in the Happiness Research Institute (yes, it actually exists!), Copenhagen, so I imagine he knows what he is talking about. I’ve long been a fan of candles – now they’re everywhere in our house!
So come on Britain, join me in a huge effort to be more hygge!