What An Eventful Trip To Copenhagen Taught Me About Hygge & How To Embrace It
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a way of life. And to me, it sounds blissful. Shared moments of laughter around a table. Snuggling up on the sofa under a wool blanket. Eating warm pastries and sipping hot chocolate at a bustling food market. A walk in the woods with loved ones, kicking through the autumn leaves. Knitted slippers, candle light, you get the idea. So it was with some surprise that I learnt Hyyge is the Danish way of life...practiced daily throughout the country and no doubt in Copenhagen. I've been to Copenhagen...I didn't feel Hygged.
Imagine the scene, "pack a bag darling, we're off to Copenhagen. Put in a jumper...it's a bit cold". At the airport we buy chocolates, take the airport bus to Tivoli square and run to our hotel...the "a bit cold" turns out to be minus seven and the snow very very quickly works its way through my boots.
Our hotel had interesting decor, to say the least, a misspent youth in the late seventies would sum it up. We book a table for dinner, and order wine...four times...it never arrives...we retreat to our room to seek solace in the chocolates, only to find they had melted into one congealed mass courtesy of the heater they had been left beside.
The next day dawns full of promise, snow and a lovely mile and half walk in the aforesaid minus seven. An hour later, my toes on the verge of frostbite, excitement mounts as we approach the harbour for our first glimpse of the iconic mermaid...Someone had sawn her head off! Lovely.
The day was rounded off nicely by four American basketball teams practising in the corridor at our hotel until 2.00 am. I suspect it would have gone on longer if a normally quiet, mild-mannered English lady hadn't gone into the corridor and told them all to "get to bed!".
Eager at this point to get home, we arrived early at the airport to find severe delays due to 'inclement' weather. We eventually managed to take off some four hours late but only after our plane was de-iced. Back on green English pastures the only thing left to do was drop a just purchased full bottle of vodka on the concourse at Gatwick and argue over which one of us had lost the car park ticket.
Now, when I look back, I realise that from the moment we landed at Copenhagen people everywhere were smiling. No one turned their face away, everyone we passed said "hello" (or rather, "hej") There was warmth and laughter falling out of doorways when opened. Staff in shops and restaurants were helpful and friendly, and the attitude and tolerance to children was unbelievable. As was the delightful, exemplary, behaviour of the children themselves. And it was all genuine. So have I embraced the Hygge way of life? You bet. Am I going back to Copenhagen? Absolutely....in the summer!
Here's My Ultimate Ways To Creat Hygge
Hygge #1 - Accept that everything doesn't have to be perfect. It's not in nature. Achieving perfection is hard and stressful. So relax - one of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard is "mostly good enough is good enough". We look at the Scandinavians and the Mediterranean countries and say "that looks a lovely way to live" and then continue to generate stress in our lives. Stop, you'll be much happier.
Hygge #2 - Embrace cosying up. Being cosy is the antidote to the Winter blues. Make use of candlelight. Candlelight abounds in Danish homes and so do cosy blankets on comfortable sofas. Even in cafes, you'll see the Danes enjoying a candle on the table and a lap blanket on their lap.
Hygge #3 - Make your home's interior part of the way you live. Furnish and decorate with intent and style. You don't need to achieve that magazine photo shoot look. Not all Danish homes are like the pages of a magazine. But Danes are aware of good and bad design and they don't buy something just because it is on sale. They buy because it fits in with an overall scheme and the way they live. The way their home looks is a source of pride to the Danes, and it is simple to emulate.
Hygge #4 - Engender respect for your home and the things in it with your children. In fact, go beyond that. Engender respect for everything and everyone in your children. The Danes do, and it is brilliant. In Danish homes, kids don't run the place. Kids are still allowed to be kids, but they respect what is around them. Something they take into adult life.
Hygge #5 - Be a perfect host. Offer guests food and drink and enjoy their company. Take time in their company, you never know, you might find yourself enjoying life. And break out that bottle of wine. Afterall, it is possible just to have a glass while you have a chat. No one says you have to drink it all. And take your time - no need to clear the plates from the table the instant that you and your guests finish eating. Stop and chat.
Hygge #6 - Enjoy what you have. Stop focussing on what you don't have. Chances are you have a lot. So stop and appreciate it. Be thankful for your health, family and friends. A bigger house, a new car, a big holiday, might make you feel euphoric for a time but it's unlikely that you'll be happier. Who was ever happier having a bigger mortgage and bigger bills to pay?
Hygge #7 - The ultimate hygge rule. Relax. In truth, not much is that important - so be content.
The Quick Guide to Hygge
- Hygge (pronounced hue-gah), invented by Norwegians, embraced by Danes. Hygge is the happy way of life
- Sharing - that's hygge
- Soft candlelight - that's hygge
- Knitted slippers - that's definitely hygge
- Savouring coffee - that's hygge too
Create Your Hygge Home
- Serve comfort food in beautiful Danish dinnerware
- Sip hot chocolate from hand warming mugs
- Cosy up under velvet throws
- Sip warm reds from nestled wine glasses