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How to hygge: a student abroad’s guide

Deadlines and bad weather got you down? Calypso April explains the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ and how to apply it to your everyday life

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The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) has seen an unprecedented rise in popularity in the UK over the past few years. It is easy to see why. Loosely translated as ‘cosy’ or ‘cosiness’, the idea of snuggling down and relaxing is very appealing, especially with recent weather considered.

However, whilst many British interpretations of hygge have chosen to focus largely on the application of hygge to living spaces, an equally important aspect of hygge is its sociality. It is not only an environment which can be hyggelig, but also an evening with family, friends, or a conversation. Although, the most common setting for hygge is within the home, it is also easy to access hygge outside of the home, perhaps by sharing food or drinks with loved ones.

Whilst there is no direct translation of the word hygge into English, Danish anthropologist Jeppe Linnet has approximated its meaning as “cozy, homey, informal, sincere, down-to-earth, warm, close, convivial, relaxed, comfortable, snug, friendly, welcoming and tranquil.” These words apply to interactions, conversations, and surroundings alike.

With all this in mind, here are a couple of tips that I have picked up from living in Denmark, which are useful for applying some hygge to your daily life.

 

Organise your time effectively

The Danes are known for being organised, punctual and efficient, which is crucial to being able to relax and switch off in your down time. Often it can be impossible to do this knowing how much work you have left to complete, which is why effective time management is both a useful skill in general, and one which will help you add a little more hygge to your life.

Plan and adhere to a timetable of work and relaxation, factoring in activities which are important to you, as well as university work and everyday chores. Planning this allows you to totally relax during your time ‘off’, knowing you have left yourself enough time to complete necessary work and tasks.

 

Take time offline

There is a vast body of work suggesting the benefits of taking time away from our phones and social media for everything from improved mental health, to better sleep quality. Turning off or silencing your phone when spending time with friends and family allows you to be more present, and create deeper connections with people, thus contributing to a more hyggelig experience.

 

Less screen time

Whilst an evening in eating popcorn and watching a movie could certainly be a very hygge one, it’s nice to ensure you also spend time doing other activities with friends, family and housemates. Why not choose some activities that require more interaction? Get out of the city and go on a walk together, play a board game, card game, or cook a meal together.

 

Mood lighting

On the whole, the Danes are a huge fan of mood lighting, particularly candles. Turn off your main overhead light and switch on your side lights, desk lamps, or whatever you have. Pick up some cheap candles or fairy lights and get cosy in your living room.

 

Decorate

In order to create a hyggelig atmosphere, you don’t need to spend a fortune. In fact, anthropologist Jeppe Linnet has argued that spending a lot of money can be counter-productive to creating a hygge space or occasion, as it distracts from the quality time you’re spending with your loved ones. So go ahead and decorate with plants, photographs, cushions, blankets and textiles, and don’t worry about matching everything — there’s no need to break the bank.

Although hygge as a concept is not something that we have a word for in English, it basically connotes quality time, joking and conversation with those that we love, facilitated by a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s about enjoying the little moments, whether that’s going for a walk with some friends in the cold, and warming up with a hot chocolate, or playing boardgames in a cosy room.

Hygge is almost like a philosophy. It highlights the importance of simplicity, taking time out and relaxing. It has even been suggested that hygge is the key to why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world. So why not take a leaf out of the Danes’ book, and add a little more hygge to your life.