Hygge is so popular, in fact, that Collins Dictionary named it among the top ten words of the year in 2016. Since then, the Danish-born phenomenon has only gotten more massive as folks far and wide eagerly take advantage of this cosy concept to enhance their homes.
So, what exactly is hygge? Let’s break it down into chapters with our complete guide to Hygge.
What is Hygge? (This article, continue reading…)
Chapter One: What is Hygge?
How to Pronounce Hygge
Before we go any further, let’s get straight to the pronunciation so that your brain knows what to do when it stumbles upon this word going forward.
Hygge’s pronunciation isn’t the easiest to nail down if Danish isn’t your native language and it looks very different than it sounds. The correct pronunciation can be thought of as the sort of middle point between hoo-gah and hue-gah.
What Is the Definition of Hygge?
A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
In other words, hygge is all about cultivating an environment or state of being that’s cosy, inviting, and comfortable above all else.
The 5 Senses of Hygge
We like to see hygge as the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. For that reason, a true hygge definition that’s a little more human can be thought of in the form of our senses:
The taste of hygge is sweet, comforting, and filling.
The most hygge sound is no sound at all; instead, it’s peace and quiet.
Hygge smells like your mother’s home cooking or the nostalgic scent of hot cocoa on a cold winter night.
Soft, warm, and fluffy textures are all conducive to a cosy hyggelige touch.
Creating a hygge vision is all about slow movements, dim lighting, and a warm and welcoming ambiance.
How to Use Hygge in Context
Noun = Hygge
Hygge is a noun that can be used in a sentence such as, “Do you want to come over for a cocktail and hygge?” In other words, the person is asking whether they want to come over for a cosy chat and comforting cocktail.
Adjective = hyggelige
Hyggelige is the adjective form of hygge and can be used in a sentence like, “We’re going to curl up tonight with wine, a movie, and a blanket; we’re having a hyggelig evening.”
Our Top 6 Hygge Quotes
1. In The New Yorker, writer Robert Shaplen reported that the hygge vibe is “ubiquitous” in Norway:
The sidewalks are filled with smiling, hyggelige people, who keep lifting their hats to each other and who look at a stranger with an expression that indicates they wish they knew him well enough to lift their hats to him, too.
2. In his book, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, Meik Wiking has said of the phenomenon:
The closest you will ever come to seeing vampires burnt by daylight is by inviting a group of Danes for a hygge dinner and then placing them under a 5,000K fluorescent light tube. At first, they will squint, trying to examine the torture device you have placed in the ceiling. Then, as dinner begins, observe how they will move uncomfortably around in their chairs, compulsively scratching and trying to suppress twitches.
3. In Louisa Thomsen Brits’ The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well, she stated:
Hygge draws meaning from the fabric of ordinary living. It is a way of acknowledging the sacred in the secular, of giving something ordinary a special context, spirit and warmth, and taking time to make it extraordinary. Hygge happens when we commit to the pleasure of the present moment in its simplicity.
4. And just like any other cultural trend, of course the Twitterverse has plenty to say about the value of hygge:
— Jana Frei (@Jana_Frai) November 12, 2017
— Yorkshire Hygge Mama (@YorksHyggeMama) November 19, 2017
It’s Monday, it’s raining, and it’s still dark at 7:30 a.m. This is the season when gratitude is hardest to muster but most necessary for survival. Thankful for soft light, hot tea, warm blanket, and the eggs my husband cooked me for breakfast. #hygge#PNW
— Deborah Beddoe (@deborahbeddoe) November 20, 2017
Can Hygge Be Translated?
Due to hygge’s rather abstract nature, it’s not the easiest word to translate into other languages, but a few regions do have comparable words.
Gezelligheid is similar to hygge in that both words pertain to a sense of comfort and cosiness, but while hygge can be applied to any number of scenarios, gezelligheld is more focused on the warm feeling that arises when spending time with good friends and family.
Gemütlichkeit is a German word that indicates a state of warmth, friendliness, and belonging. It can also be applied to a feeling of being comfortable in your community and having a sense of social acceptance.
Koselig is a Norwegian adjective that’s used to describe a state of intimacy and togetherness in an agreeable environment. Like the others, there’s a lot of emphasis on the “warm” feeling it evokes.
Mysig is another comparable adjective from Sweden. It essentially describes a pleasant and warm atmosphere the creates a feeling of belonging and togetherness in a comfortable setting.
5 Lifestyle Philosophies Like Hygge From Across the World
To understand the hygge concept even better, it helps to think about it in the context of comparable lifestyle philosophies that are applied in similar ways.
Lagom is a lifestyle philosophy that originated in Sweden which essentially means to have enough; or to be just right. In a nutshell, this phenomenon is all about achieving the right balance. For instance, rather than adding decor to your space in excess, a lagom approach would be to find peace and satisfaction with your current surroundings as they are.
This Japanese lifestyle philosophy is all about realising your dreams. It places an emphasis on finding your reason for living and following that path. It’s about taking a close look at your own desires, passions, and values, and figuring out the best ways to spend your time so that you’re on a path that’s conducive to achieving your biggest dreams.
You know that cosy feeling you get when you have the house to yourself, a big glass of wine, and no plans to go out? That’s essentially what the Finnish practice of Kalsarikannit is all about. It emphasizes finding value in simply being in the comfort of your own home and with your own company.
Friluftsliv is the Norwegian philosophy of outdoor life. It quite literally means “free air life” and has strong cultural roots, dwelling on our dynamic relationship with nature. Friluftsliv first appeared in 1859 within a poem by the renowned Henrik Ibsen. It follows a protagonist who looks for solitude in nature in order to clarify his thoughts about the future.
A Note on Hygge’s Etymology
Hygge’s roots have a long history in a constantly evolving language. While the true origin is unknown, it’s thought that it’s roots could stem back as early as 7th century, through the Old English (very different from modern English, much closer to German) word hycgan meaning “to think, consider”.
In a more contemporary sense, its use emerges in nineteenth-century Danish literature as part of a more integrated sense of community and belonging, especially following the Prussian-Danish wars in 1848 and 1864. Read more here.
Where Does the Art of Hygge Originate From?
The environment we live in has a lot to do with the words we use, and the hygge philosophy is no exception.
Denmark’s cold, dark winters were highly influential in the development of the hygge philosophy. According to Justin Parkinson of BBC News:
“With up to 17 hours of darkness per day in the depths of winter, and average temperatures hovering around 0C, people spend more time indoors as a result.”
All of that time hibernating indoors led people to give quite a bit of thought to their home environment. An emphasis was put on cultivating a warm, cosy atmosphere and partaking in activities that promote that, like drinking hot tea and warming your toes by the fire. Thus, the cultural phenomenon of hygge was born.
The Intersection of Hygge and Danish Culture
In Denmark, hygge is much more than a word; it’s a way of living. And if the results of World Happiness Report are any indication, then it’s a way of living we could all benefit from. Ranking of Happiness (2015-2017):
Denmark is consistently ranked among the happiest places in the world, and it’s a safe bet that their cultural preferences and values have a lot to do with it. Things that stimulate the senses are given priority, with a thriving arts scene that’s largely funded by the Denmark government and gets a great deal of support from the community as a whole. And unlike many other cultures, rather than focus on work, work, and more work, the Danish tend to prioritise cultivating connections and meaningful experiences with one another over all else.
Given those cultural values, it’s easy to see why the cosy and comfortable concept of Hygge would be such a prevalent phenomenon. Hopefully that’s covered the first few questions you had on what hygge is – but keeping reading to get into some of the actionable steps on how to hygge in your own way.