What the hell does ‘hygge living’ mean? (And how do you pronounce it?)

Everyone’s going on about the new Danish lifestyle trend promising to transform your winter…

Before we explain what hygge is, let us first ask you this… think of the warmest, cosiest things you could possibly imagine, what comes to mind first? Log fires, sheepskin rugs, faux fur slippers and hot water bottles (complete with hand-knitted covers)? Melted cheese, dressing gowns, flickering candles and hot chocolate? Toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate with toasted marshmallows, and that oddly pleasurable burning feeling you get on your back from leaning up against the radiator too long? Maybe it’s Iceland, or Lapland, or an alpine wooden lodge on the slopes of Austria?

Or what about Denmark?

Yep, as autumn approaches (/hits us in the face with the spray of a car driving through a puddle) and we dig out our 100 derniers from the bottom of the laundry bin, the Danish reckon they’ve found a solution to our winter blues. And it’s called ‘hygge’.

How do you pronounce hygge?

Pronounced ‘hoo-guh’ (not ‘hig’, unfortunately), ‘hygge’ is the Danish word for cosiness – meaning all things pre-loved and gently worn in. What does hygge mean? Well, it means warmth and friendship; curling up under a duvet with your friends and watching back-to-back episodes of The Gilmore Girls; feeling the weight of a purring kitten in your lap, or eating dinner with your family with fairylights flickering in the background.

But now, as five books about hygge hit the high street this autumn (The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Art of Hygge, How to Hygge and Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way), experts believe there’s a lot more to the word than just baby animals and soft winter woollens – and it applies all year round. We knew there was a reason why we had to move to Scandinavia!

‘The rest of the world seems to be slowly waking up to what Danes have been wise to for generations – that having a relaxed, cosy time with friends and family, often with coffee, cake or beer, can be good for the soul,’ Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country told the BBC. ‘Hygge seems to me to be about being kind to yourself – indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything.’

‘There isn’t so much enforced deprivation in Denmark,’ she adds. ‘Instead you’re kinder to yourselves and so each other. No wonder they’re happier than we are in the UK.’

How to create hygge…

It’s convincing stuff – after all, who doesn’t like the sound of indulging and ‘having a nice time’. So, grab your cashmere socks and follow these definitely-Denmark approved tips for Hygge living…

TIP ONE: SPEND ALL OF YOUR MONEY ON CANDLES
On the upside, your electricity bills will fall dramatically, so you won’t even have to notice the Diptyque-shaped hold in your bank balance. You can even invest in this one from Marie Claire – the proceeds of which will help send women to school all over world.
On the downside, your house is now a fire hazard, so you probably need to invest in some better insurance.
To be fair, it probably balances out. Either way, it’s hygge.

TIP TWO: PUT YOUR iPHONE IN A BOX (/UPCYCLED WOODEN CRATE)
Danish living experts (presumably people who live in Denmark who have managed to avoid any near fatalities over the course of their lives) reckon that one key element of making your house more hygge is a conscious lack of technology. Of course, this could be partly because huge areas of Denmark are incredibly rural, and are still subject to frequent power cuts during bad weather. Or it could be because Snapchat ruins everything. Whatever your motive, grab your nearest pre-loved wooden crate and incarcerate your iPhone immediately.

TIP THREE: BURN YOUR OLD SOCKS AND KNIT NEW ONES, INSTANTLY
At the same time, throw away your bed-frame and your sofa. From now on, you’ll be eating and sleeping from within a pile of duvets that you’ve piled up in the corner and refer to publicly as your ‘nest’. Sure, after a couple of months, crumbs will begin to collect in the creases, but think of them as a natural form of exfoliation and any irritation will soon pass.

TIP FOUR: MELT ALL OF YOUR FOOD
If you’re one of those people who made a John Lewis wedding gift list, realised that you actually own everything you need already, panicked and added a fondue kit for the hell of it, then this is where it will probably come in handy for the first time. If you’re not one of those people, no worries. Just leave the oven door open and squat in front of it, brandishing a block of cheddar on the end of a fork. Don’t worry about oven gloves if things get extra toasty – just wear mittens.

TIP FIVE: INVITE YOUR FRIENDS (AND FRIENDS OF FRIENDS) ROUND TO SPOON IN YOUR DUVET NEST.
If anyone questions it, just say ‘it’s hygge’, and offer absolutely no further explanations.

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