Is hygge the key to happiness?
One reason I really like to travel, is to expand my vocabulary with expressions that don’t have a translate properly and that put my feelings and sensations into words in a way that no other word can.
I have noticed that a lot of idioms are correlated with the culture and the traditions of the place. For instance in Italy, we have a word that can’t be translated and is peculiar to our lifestyle: “abbiocco”; that is the drowsiness from eating a big meal. Another example could be “dépaysement”; which describes the feeling of disorientation and bewilderment one might feel upon being in a totally foreign environment, typical of French nationalism.
The first thing that caught my eye when arriving in Denmark was a big Carlsberg advertisement which read “Welcome to the world’s happiest nation!” It made me wonder, why is Denmark the world’s happiest nation?
With the cold and dark days upon us, I think I have come to realize that one of these idioms – “hygge” – could be the secret to Denmark being the world’s happiest nation!
The word hygge is hard to explain and even harder to pronounce (hooga). It is a concept similar to the Norwegian word ”utepils”, meaning to sit outside on a sunny day and enjoy a beer, or the Swedish word “fika” to take a break from everyday routines either at a cafe or at home, often for hours on end. But Hygge is something more, it is a state of mind, a part of the danish psyche, originating from the Norwegian word meaning “well-being”. A definition is provided by the Danish board of tourism which describes the word like this:
“In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too.”
Hygge is the art of creating comradeship. It is something related to the quality time you devote to what makes life worth to be lived.
To explore this even further, I decided to embark on an hygge-filled day!
First step: To do it in the most Danish way possible, you’ll need to get yourself a bike
Step two: To begin your day having a “hyggelig” time with a friend, you can head over to GRØD for a delicious oatmeal porridge, in one of the coziest locations in Copenhagen. Here you’ll find a wide variety of ingredients to put together a porridge that fits your specific taste.
Afterwards, you can bike to Nørreport and stop at Torvehallerne and grab a few “smørrebrød” at Hallernes, that then you can eat on your way to our next stop – Ørstedsparken.
This is one of the most beautiful parks in Copenhagen! Perfect for taking a walk with your “hyggelig fyr”, aka a guy who is just all-around fun to be with, talking about the small and big things happening in your lives.
At around 4p.m., after having biked through most of the city, it’s high time for a tea/coffee/hot chocolate break. For me, the hyggelig-est place to do this is at Paludan Bogcafe!
Here you will be surrounded books and delicious cakes. The candles and soft lighting in that cafe really help to encourage that genuine feeling of hygge.
As we all know, during winter, Copenhagen gets dark very early on in the day, so dinner time comes around relatively soon (especially when compared to the more southern European countries like Italy).
After dinner, and especially during Christmas time, a nice alternative to beer can be ‘Gløgg’, the Danish variant of mulled wine. It’s served steaming hot and heavily spiced with dry fruit, cinnamon and cloves steeped in pure aquavit. Again, from my experience I can tell you that the best place for gløgg in Copenhagen is Hviids Vinstue, located in central Copenhagen.
Hopefully, my idea of a perfect “hygge” day has given you some insight as to why I feel Denmark may be crowned the world’s happiest nation, and given you inspiration for your next hygge-filled day. Just remember to say “Thank you for today, it was so hyggeligt” to the people you spent your day with, and to bring the hygge glow with you, wherever you go