Guide to get more hygge into your life

So what exactly is ‘hygge’, then? Why are Danes always saying something was ‘hyggelig’ when they enjoyed it? Questions like this aren’t easy to answer. This is partly because everyone has their own definition of the word. It’s also difficult to find the right words for such an emotive subject as well as to clearly explain the concept of hygge. You won’t find an accepted universal definition here – but the following will give you a useful insight into this very Danish concept.

The omnipresence of hygge makes it almost impossible to provide a suitable definition in a mere few sentences. For some Danes there’s nothing that leads to more hygge than a relaxing afternoon spent in your living room, listening to your favourite music, putting the fire on and watching the wet and windy autumnal weather out of the window - whereas for others, a day at the office spent with nice colleagues would be treated as an equally pleasant experience. Everyone experiences hygge differently and to different degrees. I have even heard from Danes that called an oral exam hyggelig - no word of a lie! In this context, it didn’t mean that the exam was a piece of cake, but rather that the exam wasn’t ‘unhyggelig’ (the opposite of hygge) and the examinee went into the exam feeling relaxed. Relaxation is definitely something that occurs as a result of hygge and is quite important for many Danes. But relaxation isn’t the only thing that hygge creates.


Shared joy is essentially double the amount of joy


Hygge offers every person the chance for retreat and allows them a rest day or some time off, and without having to feel guilty about it. And this is regardless of whether your day-to-day is especially stressful or if you are craving holiday. The feeling of comfort or comfortableness is the important thing here - the pleasant feeling you get when you watch your favourite TV series or go for a coffee with your best friend, for example. The social aspect is just as important, whether it’s with family or friends. Shared joy is essentially double the amount of joy. Hygge is an emotional concept and Danes enjoy sharing it this experience.


By the way, the Danes also have a verb for the practice of hygge, which is, surprisingly enough, the same word. Danes get a particularly large amount of hygge from their own homes. This could be because, for one, Danes place a lot of emphasis on their interiors and the ways things are arranged. Where better to truly relax than in the living room, replete with a cosy seating area such as a sofa, candle-light and warm drinks to help you leave all your cares behind. But it’s also certainly linked to the weather, as Denmark isn’t exactly notorious as a place for sun and warm temperatures. A comfortable home and a pleasant get-together with your loved ones is perfect compensation and is very effective at preventing the widespread autumnal blues. It’s no coincidence that Danes are amongst the happiest people in the world, as they have learnt to make the most out of bad weather and to make their homes as comfortable as possible.

cosy socks

A pair of comfy socks are a hygge necessity


As well as the setting and the social aspects of hygge, indulgence also plays an important role – a conscious consumption of tasty treats. Hot drinks are very popular, especially coffee, tea and hot chocolate for children, combined with homemade cakes or oven fresh cinnamon buns, which can be enjoyed and shared round a group on a Sunday. You shouldn’t have a guilty conscience here because of the calories either, but consciously savour an afternoon that’ll do you a world of good and help you appreciate the good things in life.


Presumably the desire for hygge is the reason why Denmark is such a popular tourist destination. In turbulent, crisis-stricken times everywhere in the world, there’s nothing better than leaving behind your daily woes. A nice holiday home on an idyllic beachside, indulging in tasty treats at a get together with close friends guarantees a maximum boost to your well-being. That is hygge.

About the author

Will

Will is a British intern at bab.la, hailing from the exotic south-eastern county of Essex, England. Having already lived in Biarritz, Paris, Berlin and now Hamburg during his studies, he hopes to be able to continue this trend and sample the finest delicacies from across the rest of Europe (and the world) before he runs out of money and stamina. He is obsessed with football and cooking, and enjoys the Great British Bake Off a little too much.

Dansk phrases to make your life more hyggelig

Warm, cosy socks
Hyggesokker
Last time was very hyggelig
Det var rigtig hyggeligt sidste gang
Do you fancy some hygge with coffee and cake?
Har du lyst til lidt hygge med kaffe og kage?
Increased hygge, the highest level of comfort
Råhygge, en
We’ll make it really hyggelig at home
Vi hygger os derhjemme
The most sacred part of the bedroom - where you feel most comfortable, so think comfortable chair or sofa and a reading light
Hyggehjørne, et