Hygge – The Danish art of living cosily

HyggeWhat is Hygge?

As Visit Denmark says, when describing Hygge on their website; “Hard to explain and even harder to pronounce, the Danish word hygge (sounds a bit like “hooga”) roughly translates to coziness, but that definition doesn’t quite cover it.”

So, what is Hygge?

It isn’t so much a ‘thing’ or a concept. It’s a way of life. It’s about the attitude to life and is surely why Denmark is consistently rated as one of the happiest countries in the World (and that’s despite all the dark Scandi-Noir television you might have seen).

“What is Danish in Denmark is so obvious to the foreigner there. Hygge (cosiness), tryghed (security) and trivsel (well-being) are the three graces of Danish culture and socialisation.”
Jonathan M. Scwartz

The warmth of a crackling fire, with a woolly jumper, thick socks and a glass of fine wine, that’s Hygge. The glow of candlelight on a darkening evening, again, Hygge.

The word, surprisingly, doesn’t originate in the Danish Language but in Norwegian where it meant something similar to ‘well-being’. It came into Danish use in the 18th Century and the Danes have well and truly ridden the hygge train ever since. So much a part of the Danish way of life, hygge can be found in almost every aspect of the Danish lifestyle.

CarlsbergAs Danish exports go, their most famous is undoubtedly their beer – Carlsberg – The lager can be found in many bars and supermarkets across the UK and many other countries besides (although I must admit, I prefer Tuborg – the lesser known Danish beer). After that, it’s their pastries – who doesn’t love a Danish? Hygge, however, is certainly the fastest growing Danish export. The rise of scandinavian styled restaurants and coffee shops in London, for example, shows the hunger for the Danish lifestyle that is spreading. You can also type hygge into Amazon and you’ll get many choices in books designed to tell you how to live the hygge lifestyle.

Little Book of HyggeHygge and Danish Christmas

It’s easy to imagine hygge being a winter-only event, and let’s be honest, there’s more winter in Denmark than summer. However hygge is a year-round way of life. A quiet picnic with friends in a Danish park, yep – hygge again.

Christmas, however, is when the Danes really let the hygge out. The Danes love Christmas. As a reasonably secular society, it is interesting to note that the Danes really do enjoy going all out for a religious holiday.

Visiting Denmark in the winter, particularly around Christmas, you will see Hygge everywhere you go – from the locals in their oversize scarves or sitting outside a cafe wrapped in a branded blanket, to the candles and lighting in the restaurants, bars and shops all designed to give you that warm glow, the feeling of cosy.

Helen Russell, a British journalist, author and speaker who lives and works in Denmark, told the BBC in a recent article that “Hygge seems to me to be about being kind to yourself – indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything. All very useful come January when in the UK everyone’s on diets or manically exercising or abstaining from alcohol.

“There isn’t so much enforced deprivation in Denmark. Instead you’re kinder to yourselves and so each other. Danes don’t binge then purge – there’s not much yo-yo dieting in Denmark. No wonder they’re happier than we are in the UK.”

hygge-tea-cookiesHygge and me

Hygge isn’t about huge statements, or major changes in lifestyle, it’s just a way of living. Something simple such as lighting a candle when you sit in your living space in the evening and enjoying the flickering light is Hygge.

When I first met my wife, she talked a lot about the ‘cosy plate’, something she enjoyed at the weekend with her family growing up. Essentially the cosy plate was all about sharing a bowl of sweet treats with her family whilst enjoying each other’s company. This is something we have tried to adopt in our lifestyle, finding that time for a small indulgence, together.


Why not try to introduce some Hygge into your life? Join the Hygge Revolution! You won’t regret it!


2 thoughts on “Hygge – The Danish art of living cosily

  1. What a great explanation. I’m in Stockholm and in Sweden we have fredagsmys which is ‘Friday cozy’. Usually Tex mex and a family film. That’s when you eat chips and enjoy each others company.

    1. Hi Resa,
      I didn’t realise that the Swedes have their version of Hygge too! Having been reading some books on the subject recently, it seems that a lot of cultures have a similar idea to Hygge, all slightly different but all aiming for the same thing – contentedness and cosiness.
      It’s fascinating to my Danish wife that the UK has gone nuts for Hygge as a tangible concept when for her, it’s a way of life rather than a ‘thing’ to do.

      p.s. I love Tex Mex!

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