I went out with some friends for dinner Wednesday and had a wonderful evening full of good food and great conversation. As the experience is fresh in my mind, I thought I would write a brief post on the quintessentially Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced something like hūgga). It is part of the national psyche, something that defines Danes and makes them unique from the rest of their European brethren.
Although often translated as “cozy”, hygge is completely untranslatable for the simple reason that it is not a word, but a state of being. Hygge is family and friends around a candle-lit table laden with food and drink. Or it is curling up in an easy chair on a cold winter’s night with a great book and “varm chokolade”. Or it is gathering with friends at a cozy restaurant on a dreary evening until the rest of the patrons have left and you are all alone. Luckily for us, a member of our party was friends with one of the waitresses. After ensuring that we were well supplied with food and drink, she came over to join us until finally, after midnight, the restaurant was clean and the staff gave us a gentle hint that they were ready to go home.
Danes practice hygge on a regular basis. Candles flickering in the window are a hallmark of hygge and it is at its zenith around Christmas and New Years, when the days are shortest and the weather coldest. However, it can just as easily be experienced at a picnic in the park or around a bonfire on the beach. It is the hours spent in the company of family and friends, savouring every last minute that you spend together. The ultimate compliment you can pay a friend or host is that you had a “hyggelig” time. The ultimate goal? To recreate the experience as frequently and as soon as possible.
As I don’t profess to be an expert in the concept, I have taken the initiative to look up a good article written by a native Dane should you want to know more about the concept; they can do the topic much more justice than I.