What the F**k Is ‘Hygge’ and why should you care?
Scandinavian culture has infiltrated these shores quite like nothing else in the past few years. Whilst things like Nordic Noir dramas and minimalist furniture from your favourite flat-pack warehouse are the obvious examples, even grand existential concepts have began to enter the British psyche (and Instagram) with the introduction of something you’ve probably heard of but never understood the meaning of, and that’s ‘Hygge’.
So what actually is ‘hygge’? With ‘Blue Monday’ landing this Monday – known as the most depressing day of the year thanks to gloomy weather, credit card statements and those post-Christmas blues – we headed down to Youngs Bar, Finch’s on Finsbury Square, for their House of Happiness pop-up to see what all the hygge fuss was about!
What Does ‘Hygge’ Actually Mean?
Sitting by the fire in thick socks while drinking mulled cider and stroking your cat. That’s hygge. Eating Finnish cinnamon buns with a cup of warm coffee while tucked up in bed. That’s hygge too. But why?
The word ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) comes from the great people of Denmark and doesn’t actually have a literal translation into English – hence why it’s so hard to explain! Usually you’ll find it translated as ‘cosiness’, but it’s probably more than that. It’s a feeling or mood that comes by taking pleasure in making normal, everyday actions and occasions more special. In short, it’s enjoying the little things in life. Making the menial, meaningful.
While the hygge we are becoming familiar with the UK is more about a physical state, the Danish and Norwegian words focus more on the psychological state – which is obviously more difficult to interpret across images and social media. Hygge is a concept where all psychological needs are in balance, with the antonym of hygge, uhyggelig, literally translating to ‘scary’ or ‘creepy’.
As well as cosiness and ultimately happiness, hygge is about charm, contentment, security, comfort, kinship, and simplicity. This hygge attitude to life is why many experts think Denmark is always toward the top of the list when it comes to the world’s happiest countries.
How Did ‘Hygge’ Originate?
Despite being popularised by the Danes, the term ‘hygge’ actually comes from a Norwegian word meaning ‘wellbeing’. It first appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has just stuck around ever since.
The reason for its popularity is thought to be because of the long amounts of darkness Danes experience during winter. With up to 17 hours of no daylight and average temperatures hovering around 0C, it’s only natural that Joes and Janes spend more time indoors. As a result, there’s an obvious need for a greater focus on home entertainment but well beyond the norm.
By creating simple rituals and enjoying menial pleasures, the Danes have managed to create an environment where those stressful chores just become a natural extension. A home cooked meal among friends can be stressful, but it can also make a big difference to general happiness when things are so bleak outdoors. This social aspect plays a huge role in hygge.
Can You Experience ‘Hygge’ All-Year Round?
Unsurprisingly, the high season of hygge is Christmas, when Danes pull out all the hygge stops. Again, this is mainly because of the long and dark evenings, but it’s also thanks to the vast amount of indoor socialising that takes place. Candles and gløgg (a Danish mulled wine) are their secret weapons in this hunt for yuletide hygge.
But that doesn’t mean hygge can’t take place all year round. In the summer months, picnics in the park, barbecues with friends, outdoor concerts, street festivals and bike rides are all very much part of the hygge lifestyle.
Hygge This Winter
Throughout winter 2017, Young’s pubs will be offering a true British hygge experience with comfortable surroundings and delicious sharing plates and drinks offers. Finch’s is located at 12a Finsbury Square, EC2A 1AN, around a 10 minute walk from Old Street, Moorgate or Liverpool Street.
Join the hygge conversation online throughout January and February with the hashtag #HouseofHappiness at @YoungsPubs on Twitter and Instagram.