Hygge originally came from the Norwegian and it roughly translates as “wellness”. The term migrated to Danish, and first appeared in written documents around the end of the 18th century. From these modest beginnings, it rapidly become a core concept embraced by Danes of all ages. There is no single, literal translation for hygge: it can be defined as an amalgamation of a cozy, convivial atmosphere where you enjoy the good things in life together with nice people.
Zukunftsinstitut (the Institute for Future Research) describes it in its Future Report 2017 as follows: “The busier and more stressful everyday life becomes, the greater our desire for tranquility and retreat. The hygge lifestyle is the expression of a new, social form of coziness.” Hygge is the antithesis of the transient, urban lifestyle, and it offers a new type of simplicity and security.
Meik Wiking, a happiness researcher from Copenhagen, wrote the first successful book about hygge and it stayed on the bestseller list of The Times for weeks. His core message was: togetherness! According to Wiking, hygge is primarily a lifestyle, a simple feeling that makes you happy and content. The Danes appear to be masters of the art of contentment, as they are – according to a study – the happiest people in the world.
Hygge can be applied to all areas of our lives: it is the warm flicker of a candle. Food and drink. Time spent together with family and friends. A picnic in the park. A cycle through the countryside with loved ones. A beautifully decorated home. Walking on crisp, new snow.
Christmas is when the Danes hit peak hygge: Danish winters are long and cold, and the Danes combat darkness and chilly temperatures with the very best weapon: hygge – and lots of candles. It’s no surprise that the Danes top the European league when it comes to candle consumption, burning 4.3 kilograms per capita every year. Fragrance also plays a key role in creating a cozy, comforting hygge feeling: the special scent of the ground after a summer rain shower, the warm smell of wood, the aroma of freshly baked apple cake, the tangy smell of the sea or the sun on warm skin, the comforting scent of freshly laundered clothes.... that is hygge.
About the Expert:
Christian Lüke is director of R&D/Marketing at Düllberg-Konzentra in Germany.