Hygge mythbusting

In the last few weeks, amid the deluge of posts about hygge, I’ve seen a few creeping through talking about how it’s smug, it’s ‘ruining London’ and it’s Denmark’s ‘least welcome import’. I think it goes without saying that I think this is all pure nonsense, and I can’t help but wonder how many of these are being commissioned by editors trying to be subversive in the face of autumn 2016’s biggest trend. Unfortunately, a lot of these pieces just don’t get it right – it’s understandable, seeing as we’ve gone from 0-100mph in the space of about two months… but while the word itself may be new to most people, the concept is probably quite familiar. I’m never one to shy away from offering my opinion, so let’s take a look at some of these criticisms and have a little talk about why I’m right.

“Hygge is smug”

NO. NO NO NO. If you think hygge is smug, go back to hygge school and have a long hard think about what you’re saying. Hygge is integral to the lives of Danes – ALL Danes. Yes, there are plenty of companies cashing in on the hygge trend, but you don’t NEED all those expensive things for hygge. It’s not just for the middle classes who are able and willing to go out and blow £80 on a candle (sidenote: don’t ever blow £80 on a candle). In Denmark, hygge is something enjoyed by everyone, whether they’re rolling in kroner or not. As I’ve said many times before, it’s intangible. You can buy things to help you cultivate a more hyggeligt atmosphere, sure, but you can’t buy hygge. I like the (French) ‘hygge is/hygge is not’ list in this piece – hygge is a cup of steaming tea, playing with Lego and a photo album. Hygge is not champagne, molecular cuisine or caviar. Hardly elitist, is it? Good, I’m glad that’s settled. Next!

“Hygge keeps people indoors”

Kyoto Garden in autumn, Holland Park, London

Hahaha. Hahahahahaha. OK, sure, but also no. Maybe if you didn’t get any further than page 1 of the hygge guidebook (which, surprisingly, I don’t think exists yet), then you think hygge is about sitting in front of a fire in woolly socks clutching a hot chocolate. But hygge is so much more than this! I’m constantly banging on about the fact that you can hygge anywhere, and it’s true! This evening on my way home from work I noticed the sky was ablaze with crimson and mandarin and I had my own little burst of hygge on the bus. It reminded me of the skies last winter, and the times that went with them, and it was glorious. Get outside and enjoy autumn! Go for a woodland walk! Take a seaside stroll! Go for a ramble which just happens to take you past 12 country pubs! Go stargazing! Carry on building that conker collection! There’s no need to languish inside waiting for hygge to happen. Get out in the world. Do it. It’s everywhere.

“Hygge is antisocial”

This aspect of hygge is hugely misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong – I love not going clubbing and binging on films as much as the next Brit. But it’s absolutely not antisocial. It’s a different type of socialising. You can hygge alone, but as with many things, it’s best enjoyed with others. As Meik Wiking said when I spoke to him, it’s about finding the right people. If spending time with your best friends and family is antisocial, then sure, call it that. But I totally disagree. There is nothing wrong with spending time with the people who make you happy. Danes don’t spend all winter sitting alone surrounded with candles (though I would totally be up for that). They spend it in cafés, throwing dinner parties, with intimate, casual drinks, meeting up for a wander and a chat. Especially in winter, there are already so many social occasions going on. For introverts like me, it’s exhausting – fun, but exhausting. I love knowing I can recharge in situations where I don’t have to be ‘on’ for hours on end, and hygge is perfect for that.

“Hygge is unromantic”

sunset

Some people believe hygge is all about letting yourself go, not making an effort and slobbing out on the sofa all the time. However, that’s obviously not true. Danes are known for their effortless style (note: style, not fashion), so hygge leading to ‘letting yourself go’ is clearly rubbish. Besides, hygge gives you a great opportunity to spend quality time with your loved one. That could be cooking dinner together, going for a bike ride, spending a night in watching films under blankets (yes, it is allowed – ignore the haters), going for late-night cocktails… whatever you want. What the hell is unromantic about that? Candlelight, great food, being 100% comfortable… sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

“Hygge is for the Danes”

Ah, this old chestnut. True, there are some Danes who believe that this is the case. But while the word may be Danish and Danish alone, the concept certainly isn’t. Maybe one day we’ll have an English word for it, maybe not, but it doesn’t really matter – we can all do it everywhere. I’ve hygged in Lisbon, in New York, in London, in Iceland, in Finland, in Toronto, in Marrakech – and yes, in Denmark. It’s all been great. I fully intend to hygge all over the world. Hygge may start at home, but it would be silly to let it end there.

Got any more hygge myths for me to bust? Let me know – it’s up to us hygge enthusiasts to set the record straight!

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41 Comments Add yours

  1. Jo-Anne Cartwright says:

    I hygge in Essex – and if you can do it there you truly can do it anywhere 😉

    1. Hahaha! That’s the spirit 😉

    2. hyggejem says:

      Jo-Anne… don’t put Essex down! It can’t be that unhyggely??

    3. This really made me laugh! But reassuring to know that hygge is made, rather than found.

  2. hyggejem says:

    I’d like to bust another myth… that you have to be young, or blond or Danish to hygge! So many of the blog pieces I’ve found are beauty bloggers and all about the faux fur, diptyche and Danish Style…. don’t get me wrong, I love all of those, but I love that hygge is for the young, the old, the fat the thin, the single, the married. Hygge is a state of mind you carry with you. I’ve met so many different ages and sorts of people so far on my hygge journey, and some of the best hyggers I know are the older people. They know what’s important in life, and they go for it.

    1. I completely agree! I love that it’s totally inclusive and anyone can hygge. No rules for joining hygge club!

      1. hyggejem says:

        And the first rule of hygge club is….

  3. I hygge in the southern United States. When I explain to my friends what hygge is, I tell them it’s the art of being cozy!
    Kiersten @Autumn Country Girl

    1. I love this! Also just took a look at your blog – nice to see some cosy blues in your last post!

      1. Thank you! I love all things cozy so I guess that’s my hygge. 🙂

  4. I hygge in Sydney, Australia where the weather is always sunny and there’s no such thing as snow… so hygge can indeed be enjoyed in the great outdoors, no candles or warm socks required! For me personally, hygge is about enjoying the company I keep and really taking the time to appreciate the simple things in life. While I’m happy that it’s taking over the world because it is such an amazing concept, I’m glad that people like you are busting certain myths that are circulating all over the place! Happy hyggeing x S

    1. Hahaha, I can imagine trying to hygge in warm socks and Sydney heat would be quite unpleasant! You’re right, the company and the attitude are more important than the classic ‘hygge starter pack’ so many people seem to think exists. I’m happy to be one of the hygge enthusiasts busting myths wherever I go 🙂

  5. I think the hygge myth I see most often is that hygge is only for the autumn and winter months, rather than all year round. X

    1. Yes, good one! One of my most recent hyggeligt memories is going fruit picking in the height of summer last year – I made some jam with my stash of berries. Very Danish too – the perfect way to hygge in July!

  6. Dana says:

    I think a lot of people tend to miss the fact that hygge is not just “cozy” – inherent in hygge is a feeling of being “at home,” of being family, of being comfortable and being with “your people”. In a country that values equality and belonging, it’s the highest compliment you can give your host 🙂

    1. Yes! You can have all the stereotypical hygge kit but still not feel it, because it’s more than that. The ‘being comfortable’ element is so important on so many levels 🙂

  7. Yes! I love this – great piece!

  8. Emma Jane says:

    I’m actually finding hygge is helping me appreciate Autumn, when usually I find I get low mood and fed up, now I’m appreciating the crazy clouds, the dark nights and the wind in my hair, whereas this time last year, I was automatically thinking how much I hate the early dark nights and the cold windy weather.

    1. Yes! The clouds are absolutely stunning at the moment, especially at sunset 🙂 I love having an excuse to scuttle home and stay cosy, and I’m glad it’s changed your outlook on autumn!

  9. Karen Helm says:

    Pretty much everything that might be considered hygge, already exists. The Danes simply put a name to it and are more conscious of it. In Britain we’ve had candles for hundreds of years, Scotland equally suffers from the elements and remoteness that keeps them indoors, and you really don’t need to tell the UK about the warm glow of a hot cuppa after returning home through bad weather. I think putting a name to it and giving it value is nice.

    1. Yes, I absolutely agree! I think most people know what hygge is even if they didn’t know it had a name – a lot of the backlash seems to stem from the fact that such a ubiquitous concept has a name which is now everywhere. I see no harm in that though – when I first discovered the word a few years ago it allowed me to do my own research, and I’ve never looked back 😉

  10. I think that hygge is also the CONFIDENCE to hygge. My SO on our first date brought a blanket, tea in a flask and some tea lights, to which I initially cringed, but as he carried on without the slightest hint of irony, I realised that it was for real, and rather than something to be laughed at, would be much better embraced. I’ve fallen for the Danish way of creating hygge since and will not look back 🙂

    1. Aww, that’s a really sweet story! I imagine I’d have the same reaction initially, but it’s great that you embraced it in the end!

  11. Soraya Tate says:

    Hygge doesn’t work if all you do is stay indoors..! Look here for even more proof https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/29/some-like-it-cold?
    – and as Alys Fowler says: “…The cold hands around a hot flask of tea, unwrapping your outdoor layers in a warm room, sitting next to a steaming bath in the damp, chilly bathroom: the joy in all of these is the counterpoint, the moving from the place of discomfort to that of comfort.”

    1. Yes, I agree! For me, the contrast between hygge and non-hygge is really important. You can have a cosy day indoors, but for me it feels so much more hyggeligt if I come in from the grey, gloomy outside into the warm, inviting glow of home. And of course there’s the joy of outdoor hygge – it’s what makes things like Christmas markets and beautiful sunsets so appealing 🙂

  12. Hygge doesn’t work if all you do is stay indoors! Its like the difference between light and dark: you can’t have hygge without experiencing the opposite of hygge. If you need more back up on hygge being an outdoors thing, read this: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/29/some-like-it-cold?
    and know, as Alys Fowler says, that: “…The cold hands around a hot flask of tea, unwrapping your outdoor layers in a warm room, sitting next to a steaming bath in the damp, chilly bathroom: the joy in all of these is the counterpoint, the moving from the place of discomfort to that of comfort.”

  13. Himmelganger says:

    Hyggelig å se så mye hygge blir spredt så hyggelig rund, så alle kan nyte hyggen av å ha det hyggelig 🙂

    1. Tusen takk! Jeg håper du nyter bloggen min 🙂

  14. Robin says:

    I read a couple of your articles, real good fun. You’ve understood what hygge is all about! Hygge, hyggelig,koselig og å kose seg is fundamental for all Norwegians (and Danes). Keep havin it hyggelig!

    Robin

    1. Aww thank you, that means a lot! I certainly will keep havin it hyggelig (totally stealing that phrase by the way!)

  15. Mari Eig says:

    And here’s me in Norway not realizing that what I do every day (all year round) is considered a concept or a “phenomenon” that people have opinions about! 😉 I suddenly feel very lucky to be able to live a life where “hygge” goes without saying! Another Norwegian word that does not translate into English is “koselig”, which does not mean “cozy”. In English this word has a distinct sarcastic ring to it, whereas in Norwegian it is basically a description of the state of “hygge”. I think people everywhere need more “koselig hygge” in their lives! Good blog, it left me with a desire to have my friends over for dinner! 🙂

    1. Thank you Mari! Yes, it’s only just starting to gain attention in the UK – I think a lot of us were trying to live more hyggelig (or koselig!) lives without even knowing there were names for it. Hopefully one day it will become just as normal here!

  16. Anna says:

    You are so right!

    Hygge is, as I’m sure you know, an old norse word and the concept is rather a Scandinavian thing than a Danish one. It is at least very much alive and well in Norwegian.

  17. I’ve hygged my entire life, and didn’t know there was even a name for it until recently.

    Re. hygging in warm environments, I used to do it all the time when I lived in Thailand! Turned the aircon on full, made hot chocolate and a blanket and pillow nest, lit candles (it’s always dark around 7.30pm no matter what time of year it is, plus, in Buddhist countries, candles are really cheap!), and read, listened to music, watched movies, binged on Netflix, or simply shnuggled up with my beloved to play games or talk. No special equipment or money needed, just living in, and enjoying, the moment.

    Daytime hygging was usually packing up a picnic (or grabbing some grub from the local noodle carts), and walking up to the waterfall to have lunch and to play in the pool. Sometimes with friends, sometimes just we two.

    Now I’m back in Europe, hygging is a way of life again!

    I’m currently working, hygge-style, in my apartment, wrapped up in a fleecy blanket nest as I edit food photos on my laptop! And before anyone says that it’s work, not relaxed contentment – for me, work *is* relaxing… and getting paid definitely makes me content! LOL!

    I’ve not seen all the anti-hygge stuff – some people are just killjoys, aren’t they?

    1. I felt exactly the same when I first discovered there was a name for it! I love the idea that you were still creating a cosy atmosphere in Thailand – I can imagine everyone else walking around in sunglasses and t-shirts and you swaddled in your nest under the air con!

      Working from home is definitely the best way to hygge while you work 🙂

  18. audrey says:

    I was visiting family in Toronto during November. It was just after Trump was elected, and we all needed hygge in huge amounts. Walking with my brother in temperatures hovering around freezing through the autumn leaves and bare trees of High Park was a great antidote. Hot chocolate in the cafe was the icing on the hygge cake that day. Hygge is for everyone.

    1. Aww, that sounds great – especially the hot chocolate! 🙂

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