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Hygge: Exploring the Danish Concept of Comfort


Derived from Danish culture, hygge (pronounced as hoo-gah) has become one of the many influential concepts society has today in creating spaces and building community. Looking back to its origins when Denmark and Norway were bounded as a kingdom, hygge actually comes from the Norwegian language that could be translated into “well-being”. In the early 1800s, the Danes adopted it as a concept to refer to “happiness” and it has been embodied in the heart of Danish culture ever since.

What does hygge look like in the present day? Currently, hygge is showing a strong, promising continuity in the 21st century among the Danes and has expanded its reach around the world through popular literature, such as “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking. There is no strict implementation as the concept itself is embedded in both tangible and intangible aspects of Danish culture. 

On the tangible part, hygge is often associated with the coziness of a place. Its concept of simplicity and its nature as an appreciation for the simple joys in life has become a popular trend in interior and exterior design. It promotes a kind of aesthetic that gives spaces a rustic and homey feeling. Additionally, a 2018 research showed hygge as a principle that can be applied to build a sustainable, smart home due to its low-energy approach.

Meanwhile, the intangible value of hygge lies within social relationships. The Danes are known for their close-knitted relationships with friends and families which encourages equality and strong social circles. In this manner, hygge is not only manifested as a certain decor for social events but also as the sense of belonging resulting from being connected with loved ones.

Developing hygge through social connections

According to The World Happiness Report 2020, Nordic countries are among the happiest countries in the world, including Denmark. One of the reasons for this is their great respect for friendships and relationships with their loved ones. Specifically, the Danes tend to form small social circles with whom they bond and spend their hygge time. The significant level of social and institutional trust contributes to the increase in happiness and reduction of social inequality.

In the context of daily life, hygge is manifested through thoughtfulness in social interactions. This implies that no one competes to get into the center of attention so that everybody receives a fair chance to participate and feel welcomed. Equality and togetherness are the fundamental elements of hygge, and thus, the very heart of Danish culture.

Hygge is embedded in the way people make each other feel comfortable and relaxed. A lot of activities can be done to share the warmth of hygge with your loved ones, even as simple as hanging out after work or having a movie night on the weekend. The idea is to have quality time and make meaningful memories through small things.

Your home can be a good start to build a hygge kind of living. Someone once said that the “home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.” Organizing your home in a way that makes others feel comfortable and welcomed is the next aspect of hygge.

Creating a hygge home

The main focus of a hygge home is how to create a hygge-like atmosphere, or a hyggelig as the Danes like to call it. Take a look around your own home and check the space and materials; can you find any sign of hygge? Below are some key aspects worth considering.

  1. Hyggekrog

    Roughly translated as a nook, hyggekrog is an important part of a Danish home. This is basically a reading spot where you can cozy up with a warm blanket, read your favorite book, or relax with a cup of warm beverage. Several seating options are available, with the simplest one being an armchair. If you want to go all-in, you can opt for a sofa bed, corner sofa, or add a nice ottoman to your armchair arrangement.

    There is no fixed location to build a hyggekrog; some might have it in the living room, kitchen, or study room. It would be a plus point if the hyggekrog is placed by the window so you may get a natural ambiance to add to the coziness. You can also spruce the space up with some thick knitted blankets and cushions. Placing a big wooden bookshelf nearby would be a great idea as well to complete the hyggekrog setup.

  2. Lighting

    Lighting is another core aspect of hygge as it centers around aesthetic and sustainable values in being visually pleasing and environmentally friendly. Due to the western origin of hygge, having a fireplace is a crucial component as it not only helps set the mood but is also a necessity for people to survive the cold winter. It is also manifested through the use of natural light, candles, and low-energy electric lighting.

    A fireplace might not be applicable for those living in other parts of the world that don’t have four seasons. An alternative element you can utilize is a candle which is a must-have item to create the perfect hyggelig ambiance. In Denmark, organic candles tend to be preferred over scented ones to preserve the natural simplicity of hygge, but of course, this is subject to personal preference.

  1. Furniture and decoration

    The highlight of hygge decor is the use of natural things such as items made of wood, leaves, and roots. Wooden chairs, plants by the windowsill, and an acorn wreath on the wall are just some examples of how you can make use of such rustic items. They make a perfect pair with candles or a fireplace to amplify the jolly and warm atmosphere, especially for a hyggelig evening with family and friends.

    Vintage items such as ceramics are also often seen in a hygge home. Aside from their aesthetic aspects, vintage items usually hold a sentimental, nostalgic value that elicits happiness by remembering the good old times. You can reuse some old items from your childhood and breathe new life into them as decor, or find something interesting in a nearby vintage shop. On that note, be mindful of your purchase so that it will not end up as clutter.

To conclude, the concept of hygge emphasizes generating happiness through the connection between people and the environment. Appreciating the simple joys of life is the main value that inspires the way the Danes configure their surroundings. Christmas may be a perfect season to apply hygge in your home as you gather with loved ones to celebrate and have a good time. Even if you do not celebrate it, practicing hygge will bring warmth into your house during seasons of warmth and cold, sun and rain, and all year round.

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