A fashionable phenomenon in Britain yet a simple outlook on life for Danes, the word “hygge” means different things to different people. Pronounced “hoo-ga,” according to Google, there is no doubt that this simple concept is now worth a considerable amount of money. Go into any bookshop and you will find several books on the subject; even lifestyle shops such as Anthropologie have hopped on the bandwagon. Everyone seems to have gone a bit cinnamon bun-crazy for this Danish word. Having mostly avoided the trend, I thought it was time to find out what it’s all about.
First of all, what is hygge? Besides being a trendy thing to talk about on your blog, hygge has a rather interesting origin. It is a Danish word without an English equivalent. Much like the French “je ne sais quoi,” it has manifested itself in western culture outside of its native country.
Neel Sejer, a Danish first year geography student, told The Saint what hygge really means, saying,
“Hygge is not a trend in Denmark. It’s more of a perspective on your daily activities. It’s an atmosphere of comfort.”
“A person can be ‘hyggelig’ if they look bundled up, warm and content. Someone’s personality can also be ‘hyggelig’ if they are calm and easy to be around. Meeting someone can be ‘hyggeligt’ if you had a nice time with them.
“Hygge is a feeling of contentment, and since Denmark is cold most of the year, for us it revolves around being warm and eating food mostly. But it is very broad and even though people say there is no translation, everybody in the world can ‘hygge’ and has already ‘hygget.’ There’s just only six million Danish speakers out there to point it out.”
It is amusing to me that something so simple in the Danish culture, merely a way of looking at life, has become so commercialised in our society. The reality seems to be that hygge is a concept which should be viewed as free to all, a mindset which people in all cold climates and beyond would do well to adopt. For me, it is important to separate the hygge we see in bookshops and on numerous blogs from the hygge that Danish people experience. Hygge is meant to be something that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on. And, surely, low-priced commodities are every student’s favourite thing. So, these are my ideas on how to bring the real meaning of hygge into your everyday student life without buying fifteen scented candles, a throw from the White Company, and a Fair Isle jumper.
1. Treat yourself
Remember, it’s all about treating yourself and looking after your inner warmth. Some of the students at St Andrews have a serious problem with taking care of themselves. I know so many people who, no matter how unwell they get, refuse to go to bed or relax properly. I would love it if the students of St Andrews could take hygge as a reminder to look after their health; make warm, wholesome food; and have a relaxing night in every now and then.
2. The big night in
Following on from my previous point, this is the perfect hygge activity for a run-down student. It should include some fairy lights, comfort food, big blankets, and some hygge people. In these colder months of 2017, there is no better way to spend an evening. Please do not set alight your flat or student halls, but instead create an ambience that is going to transport you to hygge heaven and give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. Furthermore, make sure to surround yourself with hyggelig people; hygge is a social concept, and the whole point is to enjoy the hygge with some hygge-minded people.
3. Home baking
You will have to spend a couple of pennies on this one, but I guarantee the result will be cheaper than that Pret brownie. The main piece of home baking featured in hygge books is cinnamon buns, but anything warm and doughy will have the same effect.
4. Find a hobby
This does not have to become another pressure on your time, as reading a book for half an hour whilst curling up with a blanket qualifies as a hyggelig activity. It may sound simple, but I personally can never seem to find time to do that. Or why not just go the full monty and take up knitting?
Essentially, just take time to do something that involves neither the library nor a Pablo.
The point of hygge is that it revolves around simple self-indulgences. I think it is perfect for the St Andrews climate, which is often unforgiving and downright chilly.
Everyone should get bundled up with a blanket and a good book at some point during their day and enjoy a warm, hearty meal at its end. We should all try to surround ourselves with warmth-inspiring people.
There is really no need for us to all go out and buy a book on this because, as students, we all know that we need this kind of comfort in our lives. We could all do with being a bit more hygge, leading an existence filled with simple pleasures. I really do want to reiterate that important message of taking care of yourself as a student of St Andrews. We all work extremely hard and could really benefit from weekly hygge-style nights in.