Danish “Hygge”

Dark, cold, blonde, architecture… Those are somethings that comes up in your mind when you think about Scandinavia, aren’t they? And I would say all of them live up to your expectation to a certain extent. They do exist quite commonly.

It is really dark and cold in winter (well, not as cold as Canada). If you are in school or at work from 9 AM to 4 PM, you ain’t seeing the sun. Even during the day, it’s usually grey. It’s just so depressing.

That is why whenever there is the bright shining sun, everyone just runs outside to worship. It doesn’t matter how cold it is. If there is sunshine, staying in is the most absurd thing you can do. Because you don’t get this opportunity often!

But this cold dark winter is not something you can avoid. You gotta face it. I was just so pessimistic about the weather all the time and I almost allowed it to let me down. However, Danes know how to find a light in darkness. My Danish friend once told me that she likes winter.

Hygge is a Danish word which cannot be well-translated into English; but closest it can get is probably “cozy” in English. But this word can also be used as a verb. When you say ‘hygger du dig?”, it means “are you enjoying yourself?” but in a cozy way. It is just a nice little word.

Danish homes are intended to provide hyggelig time. I tell you, you will never want to leave such places. It is just so nice being there. It is so comfortable, warm, and charming. Usually Danes leave their curtains open so you can easily look through the typical huge windows in their living rooms. I peeked in way too many homes while walking down the streets in Copenhagen. All the living rooms look so hyggeligt. No exceptions.

Here are the must haves in hyggelig setting:

Candles or not-too-bright-light


I saw no outrageously bright LED lights in any Danish household. There were only those warm relaxing lights. Danish people love candles.

Stylish furniture

Maybe it’s not necessarily stylish. But all the furniture in a house has some sort of theme and somehow unified. None of them are disagreeing with one another.

Baked goods

cinroles
Danish people love bringing cakes and cookies and this is deeply integrated in their culture. They have a thing called the “cake list”.

I joined an orchestra and a big band and both of them had that. The idea is simple. It is that you sign up for a date when you are going to bring cakes/cookies so that everyone can mingle over something sweet (sometimes salty) during a break. So every week, there is mouthwatering goodness if you go to rehearsals, which is very encouraging. And everything is about cinnamon. Danes don’t necessarily agree with it, but I felt so much Danish baking is involved with cinnamon.

Oh, the kanelsnegle (kanel = cinnamon, snegle = snail). It is a common Danish baked good. It’s just cinnamon rolls, but people eat them often. At least I did.

Hot beverages

A lot of Danes, or even all the Scandinavian people I met, complain about American coffee. It’s too thin apparently. I don’t drink coffee, but they seem like they take coffee quite seriously. There are in fact millions of cafes in Copenhagen and all of them smelled nice and looked cozy. Their interiors and the layout of the stores were just on point. I went to many cafes in the city and I never wanted to leave the store because it’s simply so hyggelig inside. Cafes have everything. Candles, nice lighting, interiors, sweets, and good coffee/tea. “Hygge” right there.

So, this is a quick overview of ‘hygge’. It really means so many things to Danish people. I still don’t get it right, I guess. But it’s never negative. It always means something sweet, nice, and cozy. Because of this spirit which is deeply ingrained in Danish culture, Danes can get over their severe winter. There is a little happiness under the roof, shared with people you love.

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