The most fundamentally unique and beautiful aspect of the Danish culture is “hygge”. Hygge cannot be translated into English, but it has been attempted, and most simply it translates to English as “cozy”, but hygge is much more than that. The concept of hygge has stuck with me long after my time in Denmark, and has influenced the way I live my life. I will attempt to describe the feeling of hygge in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.
Hygge is commonly describe in Denmark by the lighting and mood of a place. Hygge spaces are dimly lit with tons of candles. Spaces are designed for close seating with your friends and family. Copenhagen is known for its coffee shop scene and many of these coffee shops had a hygge feel to them. This feeling of the space makes it feel extremely cozy and homey which at the end of the day the Danes would describe as hygge. Also when in these spaces it is not common to see the Danes engrossed in their cell phones. Instead you will see groups of people having coffee for upwards of two hours and just taking the time to be present with each other. I had the opportunity to get coffee with a few individuals from Denmark and this was my experience with all of them.
The other part of hygge that is extremely important is the importance of friends and families in ones life. A lot of times Danes and people will describe hygge as spending time with friends and family. The Danish culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of close relationships. This is why at first the Danes can appear cold and not open. Danes would prefer to have a close knit group of friends as opposed to a large network as we commonly see here in the United States. At the end of the day a dinner party with lots of candles and ones family would be a perfect example of hygge.
Lastly hygge at the end of the day is a way of life. The emphasis on creating a cozy environment for one to live in with their close friends and family is a way of life for the Danish people. It is a life that is rooted in the simplicity and act of just being present in the environment with those around you. It is truly hard to explain the way of Danish culture and hygge in words.
For me personally I took all the aspects of hygge I learned and lived and internalized it. There is nothing quiet like this concept anywhere else in the world. Hygge has its core concepts but the part that makes it unique is that it isn’t “translatable” it is at the end of the day a feeling that you can interpret and live any way you want. Personally, I found hygge in placing a close emphasis on relationships but instead of being trapped inside with my candles I found the same feeling when I was in Denmark at one of the many parks in the city. Just taking the time to be in an environment with my close friends made me feel hygge.
Back in the United State it is hard to find this hygge. I have become a lot more self aware in my personal relationships with my friends and family and placed importance on all of these relationships. Also I do find myself lighting a lot more candles! To me hygge is all about taking time to realize what’s important and blocking out what is not. To you hygge might be something completely different but at the end of the day just remember that hygge should make you feel at home and cozy! Go find your hygge!