A few years ago, I would roll my eyes every time I saw an influencer using the term “hygge” or when my Pinterest feed was full of “hygge living” and “hygge decor”. I thought it was just another unattainable lifestyle trend, like “Cottagecore” or the “vsco girl”.
But as all trends, hygge faded away eventually, and I forgot all about it until I found The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. I’d seen the book before, but once I started reading it, I fell in love with the writing, the insight into Danish culture and the analysis of hygge, which, turns out, I had been following all along.
When I was younger, I didn’t have a word for “staying at home on a Friday night reading a book in bed with a mug of hot chocolate”. When I moved to England, the word people used was “cosy”, so I added it to my vocabulary. Still, it never really represented the feeling of safety and hominess that you get from looking out the window while there’s a huge storm outside and you’re sitting at home with your cat. You’re both covered with a blanket, it’s warm and nice, and the rain becomes the perfect background noise. No, to describe that feeling, you need the word hygge.
What is Hygge?
Hygge, pronounced hoo-ga, is the Danish word to describe a feeling or a moment. It can be used as a verb and an adjective (hyggeligt). It’s a unique word that can’t be fully translated into any other languages. The word comes from Norwegian, and it first appeared in written Danish in the early 1800s.
Instagram influencers will have you believe it’s a decor trend, everything in your house must be made of wood, and you need expensive Danish lamps, but in reality, hygge is a lifestyle. It’s choosing to spend your free time doing something that brings you comfort, and it usually involves candles, blankets, books, a warm drink, and anything that can create this feeling of safeness and relaxation.
As a Spanish person who’s never been to Denmark, I’m sure I haven’t described hygge perfectly, but that’s the message I got from reading the book, and I’m planning my trip to Copenhagen as I write this. Here’s Meik Wiking’s description:
Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience, rather than about things. It is about the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.
Hygge for introverts
The book has a tiny section to explore hygge as a good option for introverts as it usually involves spending time alone, with pets or with a small group of close friends.
While reading the book, I realised that my habit of planning my recovery phase after a day outside socialising with people is part of what hygge is. When being with people all day gets too much, I plan what I’m going to do when I get home to my sofa, with my books, shows, and popcorn. I make a cup of hot chocolate, put on a good show, and slowly regain the energy I had lost during the day. I thought that was just an introvert thing, but it’s also a part of hygge. The part that looks for comfort and familiarity to recover from a hard day.
My Hygge bucket list
Meik Wiking has a long list of activities and objects that can bring hygge. While some are a bit unachievable at the moment (my tiny one-bedroom apartment doesn’t have a fireplace), I’ve created a bucket list of hygge things I want to do this year.
Hygge is humble and slow. It is choosing rustic over new, simple over posh and ambience over excitement.
Create a proper hyggekrog – a place in my living room to have a hyggelig time.
The only thing that every home needs is a hyggekrog, which roughly translates as “a nook”. It is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea.
Spend some time in a cabin in the woods – I’m doing this in August! I’m staying in a small cabin in the countryside. This is my first time escaping the city since lockdown. I can’t wait!
Bake more cakes and try some Danish recipes – Meik says cake is hyggeligt and therefore we should eat more of it, he’s the expert so I won’t disagree on that. The book includes some Danish recipes that I want to try.
Buy a kalenderlys – a Danish tradition is buying advent calendars in December, they are marked with 24 lines, and you have to burn a bit every day until Christmas.
Learn how to knit – I always struggle to find the perfect scarf, and knitting it myself seems like a fun way to spend the days during this never-ending pandemic.
Find that sweater that feels like hygge – I already have a reliable jumper I put on the second I get home, but I think there’s room for two.
Have a summer picnic in the park – I’d love to do this, I just need to find a park that doesn’t get full the second there’s a tiny ray of sunshine, but I live in England, so that’s almost impossible.
Roast chestnuts – an activity reserved for autumn and which I’m really excited to try.
Spend more time outdoors – after a year of three lockdowns, I can’t wait to spend some more time outdoors. I have a few locations in the countryside that I’d like to explore soon.
I enjoyed reading this book way more than I thought. I loved the personal stories that the writer shared and learning about Denmark, a country that I knew nothing about before reading this book. Now I can’t wait to visit it once travelling abroad is allowed again.