Denmark — the land of Lego, pastries and Carlsberg — perhaps doesn’t stand out as the most exciting and innovative of countries. But there’s a new export from the colourful streets of Copenhagen, a Viking invader which has conquered our design stores and filled our boutiques, and its name is ‘hygge’.
IT’S BEST UNDERSTOOD
AS A WAY OF LIFE
That’s “hoo-guh”, to you and me, and in Britain it’s come to represent the Scandinavian concept of cosiness. It became quite the trend in 2016, taking over the bookshelves of middle-class mums, and finishing as runner-up in a handful of ‘word of the year’ contests (the dying breaths of the dictionary industry).
So, curious about this foreign concept (apparently I need to be afraid of migrants), I took to the internet to find out what it actually means.
Due to its abstract nature, it’s pretty hard to put a finger on what hygge actually is, but a quick scroll through Pinterest reveals the basic essentials — the starter pack of Scandi serenity, if you will: candles, oversized jumpers and a comfy pair of socks are all essential. The closest we Brits have is the idea of “a nice cup of tea” — which can represent anything from a simple brew to a chance to take a break from the stresses and strains of modern life.
A ‘wintery’ feeling is clearly the key, and no wonder, considering that hygge has its roots in the dark, dark north. With an average temperature of precisely 0 degrees celsius in Copenhagen this month, there’s no wonder they take the time to relax and look after each other. After all, a Danish person would tell you that it’s actually best understood as a ‘way of life’: a psychological state of peace which stresses the importance of enjoying life’s simple pleasures: friends, family and comfort.
It’s at the heart of Scandi interior design, too: think natural woollen rugs, cushioned window seats, and minimalist wooden furniture. Apparently warm, dimly-lit lamps should also be dotted about the room too, for a comforting candle-like glow. The goal is to create the idea of a ‘home, sweet home’.
It’s easy to get involved, too. Next time there’s a storm outside and your coursework is getting you down, just turn your phone off, find a roaring fire (or just imagine one) and unwind. It doesn’t have to be indoors either: try a walk in the woods, surrounded by birdsong — like a modern-day Peter Rabbit. I promise you there’s nothing better than a weekend away in a cottage in Cornwall to take a break from the treadmill of university life, surrounded by friends and the comforting warmth of a log fire. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this is the hygge dream.
In short, there’s a reason our northern neighbours consistently rank as some of the happiest people in the world. Admittedly, Hamlet thought that “something is rotten in this state of Denmark”, but perhaps he just needed a little hygge in his life.