Instagrams

Follow Me!

Danish Life

What Hygge Really Looks Like

July 31, 2017
What Hygge Really Looks Like

When I began this blog back in 2004, no one outside of Denmark really used the word ‘hygge’ and there definitely wasn’t blogs, articles, books and twitter handles dedicated to it. And my memory might not serve me well but I don’t think there were a lot of images being used to show it either. I think that was part because hygge really is a feeling and not a thing. Danes know this, people who want to sell it do not.

Now, it seems like every magazine or blog post has something to do with hygge. I’ve seen “top 10 hygge food” lists, hygge hair, how to buy a hygge living room and so on. The images are always the same – overly styled, sort of hipster, fluffy this, cup of coffee.

That highly styled, store-bought image? That’s not hygge.

What hygge really looks like is in the image above. It’s my mother on the right with my great aunt who lives in a care facility just outside of Copenhagen. Her little room isn’t fancy, styled, or magazine worthy. When we visited, we had the traditional Danish visit with coffee and a little sweet. Coffee was just the cheap kind from the home, housed in a plastic purple carafe and we had it in paper cups and the sweets weren’t home made but individually wrapped in plastic from a shop.

The room wasn’t prepped before we came so things were here and there but the basic tea light candles were lit of course, little plants were in the window and art collected over the years was all around. There was no designer furniture (you can see my mum sitting on a hospital bed) or dozens of pillows plumped up against perfectly white walls. It was a functional room with a few personal items that reflected my great aunt and made it feel like her home.

My two second cousins were also in this tiny room and for a few hours we snakke snakke snakke (chatted) and as we did, nurses and fellow residents came in and out. And each time someone came in, saw us all huddled around, drinking coffee and laughing, they would say “Det er så hyggeligt” (this is so cosy). Hygge must have been said a dozen times over the course of the visit.

No one wished they were somewhere else, no one wished they had something more than what was there. In those moments there was no worry, just joy.

And that’s what real hygge is – a simple moment that feels so special, cosy, relaxing, loving or happy that you just need to call it out. It’s not about being fancy, or styled, or being in the best circumstances, or having the right things. It’s literally about being present enough to see how great a moment is, and give that moment a name – hygge.

I’m not against beautiful images and styled things at all. I love to both see these and take them but I am against all the sites, articles and posts selling the concept of hygge as if it’s something you can just buy and do and you’re done. It’s not a “lifestyle” as so many non-Danish posts try to make it out to be. It’s not one thing you can check off your list and your life is better. And it’s not always picture perfect.

Hygge in its simplest form is really about being present. It can happen several times a day, anywhere, anytime – all it takes is you. Nothing else.

I share this because I don’t like seeing comments from people who are looking for some kind of life fix and literally buy into a concept when they don’t need to. That is so the opposite of what hygge is and how Danes live. Thinking that hygge looks a certain way or can be gained by following 10 steps or buying 3 key items sets a person up for failure, I think. Like if they don’t do x,y and z they aren’t living the right “hygge” life. But Hygge is a little bit like Dorothy’s ruby slippers – you already have the ability to live well. You just need to take a moment to recognise it. That’s all.

So if you ever need a reminder that hygge is really simple and can be found in any circumstance, just look at this photo. It’s not the best photo ever, it’s not the prettiest, these are not people who have it all, but they’re people who were enjoying each other and the moment so much, that everyone could name it.

And they called it, hygge.

  • Reply
    LindaNo Gravatar
    July 31, 2017 at 6:10 PM

    thank you for writing this! It’s easy to slip into thinking if you just have this that or the other your life will be perfect. When in reality your one sentence sums it up perfectly “Hygge in its simplest form is really about being present.” Just try to live an intentional life. Stay present. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

  • Reply
    LesleyNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 1:56 AM

    Exactly: living in the moment. Difficult to remember sometimes!

  • Reply
    JessicaNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 3:54 AM

    Wonderful post. As someone who has recently learnt about the word “Hygge” since it’s pretty much everywhere at the moment, this is refreshing to read. It seems whenever something new is found they always find a way to box and sell it to the masses. But this type of thing can’t be sold.

  • Reply
    Kim DuhaimeNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    Yes, yes and yes! I chose hygge as one of my “words for the year”, and I have not bought a single item or changed anything in my home to try to attain it… I’ve just relaxed into enjoying things as they are with the ones I love. I’ve come to realize that hygge is a value that I hold dear, that it comes from the heart, and that it functions as a guide that helps me to make choices from moment to moment about how I want to live. Thanks for writing about the true spirit of hygge. I love that photo of your mum and her sister… it’s beautiful and so are they ♥ (and I love your mom’s outfit)

    • PamNo Gravatar
      August 1, 2017 at 9:30 AM

      Me too! But until this article I wasn’t able to clearly define it.

  • Reply
    Kim McMannNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 10:55 AM

    Yes, this is what I initially thought “hygge” meant when I came across it. But then, a quick internet search brought up all that hipster stuff and I was a little disappointed. I am so glad to see this and realize that yes, I did get it… it is what I thought! And like so many things, it’s now being commercialized into something to sell, rather than really understood! Thank you!!

  • Reply
    SunnyNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 11:32 AM

    Alex, I just love this! I saw the two women and the pleasant decor and never saw the hospital bed until you brought it up. I love that people came and went and enjoyed being there. that is hygge as I’m beginning to understand it!

  • Reply
    NathalieNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 4:44 PM

    Thank you for saying everything I always thought my whole life! Living in the moment, surrounded by those you love and things you love. What could be better? 🙂

  • Reply
    Anders NorgaardNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 5:18 PM

    Det er da hyggeligt al laese om det,

  • Reply
    Anne GoldmanNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 8:29 PM

    I have had many similar hyggelige moments over the years. Thanks for making it clearer.

  • Reply
    CourtneyNo Gravatar
    August 2, 2017 at 12:43 AM

    Thanks for reminding us to live in the moment.

  • Reply
    LJNo Gravatar
    August 5, 2017 at 3:51 PM

    Absolutely. But this is the United States, the land of opportunity and commerce. It isn’t surprising that a philosophy of life, a certain way of living would absolutely be “hijacked” and turned into something saleable, marketable. Sad but true.

    Keep writing, Alex. 🙂

  • Reply
    MarieNo Gravatar
    August 13, 2017 at 10:59 AM

    I keep coming back to this to read and re-read it. We are in the middle of renovations right now, and I have spent so many hours pouring over decor styles trying to find the “right” look, and have been nothing but frustrated because I’ve stopped thinking about what I want and more what everyone else is saying things should look like. Thanks for the reminder of what hygge actually is, and the reminder that my home doesn’t need to look like a magazine picture. ♥

  • Reply
    HendrikaNo Gravatar
    August 17, 2017 at 4:04 PM

    Exactly!!! Thank you for writing this piece about hygge. I, as a Dutch Denmark lover, am not into the styled up version. Hygge can be felt with the heart, not bought or prepped. It’s all in the connection between people. I also wrote a small piece about it. Hygge is in you and in the moment. Wishing you lots of hygge stunder med snak og søde mennesker.

  • Reply
    KarenNo Gravatar
    September 2, 2017 at 3:10 PM

    Love this piece very much. Thank you for showing us an understanding of true hygge and that it is rooted in being in the present moment!

  • Reply
    Rebecca KirbyNo Gravatar
    September 4, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    Brilliant. So refreshingly honest.

  • Reply
    CarolynNo Gravatar
    September 20, 2017 at 10:55 AM

    Ugh, leave it to western culture (or totally lack thereof) to take something so simple and commercialize it until it spins out of control, and completely mucks up and distorts the truth. Everything you said…spot on. I’m not even a Dane, but I appreciate being PRESENT! My motto has been “present over perfect” (after reading a book of the same title), and it’s so refreshing and liberating to be just that. I have experienced lovely hygge moments and I look forward to more as they naturally unfold. Thank you for the reminder, as we are completely bombarded with the “rules of hygge”, that it is in fact not that; not a lifestyle. As soon as there are rules to something, it almost becomes a game of sorts – like who can “win” or who can do it the best. RUBBISH!

  • Reply
    RachaelNo Gravatar
    November 9, 2017 at 1:24 PM

    This is such a beautiful and realistic article! I’m so happy you wrote it. As a non-Dane, I first thought, “Ooh, if I buy nice candles and play music and read and have x, y, z, I can be happy.” And you’re 1000% right. Last night was a perfect hygge night and I was wearing ratty PJs making dinner and my dad was relaxing in his recliner and our house was messy from our animals, but when my mom came home and we all sat and ate dinner I was filled with the most pure joy as if no moment could be better. I’d like to think this is hygge. This is fantastic and I’m totally guilty of ‘stylizing’ my comfort, so even though I’ll continue to do style photos, it’s nice to see the separation between what’s staged and what’s plain real life moments.

  • Reply
    Ann SlezewickNo Gravatar
    November 9, 2017 at 4:23 PM

    hygge-not sure how to pronounce it, but I say huggies….It sounds like it’s warm memories. Simple and perhaps unplanned.

  • Reply
    Jean C.No Gravatar
    November 10, 2017 at 12:25 PM

    I loved this post. It is heartfelt and pure. And it reminds me that buying coziness and well-being and comfort isn’t possible if you’re brain is cluttered with ill-will, regrets, anger and so on. So beautifully said. Each phrase is repeatable. Thank you for sharing this personal glimpse into what is a precious gift from another culture.

  • Reply
    JesseNo Gravatar
    November 12, 2017 at 9:51 PM

    Hygge seems almost synonymous with gratitude. I’m I wrong? I just started looking into this after reading a book cover

Leave a Reply to Rachael Cancel Reply

Instagrams

Follow Me!