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Hygge: Danish cosiness, happiness and comfort

Emily Dawson

Thursday, 23 February 2023

The Danish word hygge has taken over the world, transforming into a lifestyle that people strive to incorporate in their lives. But what does it actually mean? What is this lifestyle all about?

The Danish noun hygge, pronounced hoo-guh, and adjective hyggelig, pronounced hoo-guh-lik, have spread across the world. But what do they actually mean?  And how have people outside of Denmark integrated this word into their lives?


A difficult word to define, hygge encapsulates the "quality of being warm and comfortable that gives a feeling of happiness". However, the word connotes so much more than that.


Imagine yourself in your favourite cosy pyjamas, hot chocolate in hand, sat in front of the fire in a room lit only with candles listening to the rain bouncing off the windowpanes. The feeling you get in this setting is the typical way to describe hygge.


Originally used to describe a specific setting or atmosphere, hygge is now used in common every-day language. The term is related to all things positive, creating a misunderstanding about when to use the word. Typical Danish uses of the word includes “it was so hyggelig to see you” “what a hyggelig home you have!”.


Explained to me by a Danish friend, the hygge lifestyle that has spread across the rest of the world, has not been reciprocated in Denmark. It remains just an extremely common word to describe positive aspects of life which are not sought out to be created in Denmark. It seems Danes simply often find themselves within hyggelig atmospheres.


Interestingly though, the word seems to have been adopted by different cultures, creating a lifestyle that has taken the world by storm. Beyond Denmark, hygge has taken on its original meaning to describe a certain setting or atmosphere, which people now strive to achieve within their homes and their everyday life.


Along with the spread of the lifestyle came books, games and even candles; all with the intention of informing you how to create that perfect hygge atmosphere. One of the most popular is The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well, written by Meik Wiking, the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. The book includes photographs, recipes and ideas to help you develop a more hygge lifestyle. Some of the top tips to create a hyggelig home include surrounding yourself with friends and family, using a neutral colour scheme, having a comfortable and warm fire-lit atmosphere and lighting up your house with candles and fairy lights.


Reports have shown that hygge reduces stress, improves emotional well-being and is beneficial for physical and emotional health. This explains why people are so drawn to the hygge way of life, the calming and relaxing nature of the atmospheres surrounding hygge mean that people can’t get enough. Perhaps this is the reason why the Danes are considered some of the happiest people in the world.


Imagine a cosy night in with your friends, cooking dinner and watching films under blankets. Having a dinner out with family and friends, the room full of laughter and positive vibes. Or spending the day with family at the park with a BBQ sizzling and kids playing on the grass. All these things are hyggelig and are so much more common than we realise. With the knowledge of what it is, you will start to notice when you’ve had that hyggelig experience. Maybe you will even start to adopt this Danish-inspired way of life yourself.


About the Author

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Barbara Dawson

average rating is 3 out of 5

Lovely tasty dish. Try it you won’t be disappointed.

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Aunty Liz

average rating is 3 out of 5

Very tasty and cheap. I often have this for tea!

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?

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average rating is 3 out of 5

Such an interesting article!

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