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November 22, 2016 3:21 AM   Subscribe

The hygge conspiracy: If this is the year in which globalisation has been found wanting by millions, hygge appeals to an earlier age, an imagined past, where one could take back control or make a country great again. [SL GuardianLongRead]
posted by threetwentytwo (121 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, as a Scandinavian, I'm baffled.
posted by Harald74 at 3:28 AM on November 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


…the German football manager who took the Danish national team to their first World Cup in 1986 – and quickly discovered that hygge was an obstacle to the team’s success. “In order to achieve any results in Denmark, the national team had to go through a minor cultural revolution,” Piontek wrote in his memoir. “The general attitude was that it should be fun and hyggelig to be a part of the national team.”

That is so cute.
posted by polymodus at 3:40 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you're reading about it in English, “hygge” is about as authentically Danish as the Superdry clothing brand is Japanese.

A friend of mine who studied in Denmark says that the word ‘hygge’ is only untranslatable because "having a nice time with friends and family" is too long. Though presumably there's an added “in a Danish fashion”; which in Denmark is effortless, but in London involves spending money on special homewares and pastries to set the mood.
posted by acb at 3:41 AM on November 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


I'm honestly jealous of anyone who manages to have an effortless nice time with friends and family in a cozy environment. And since these books seem to be a big success I guess I'm not the only one.
posted by dominik at 3:45 AM on November 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


So it's basically a Danish couthy?
posted by gnuhavenpier at 3:46 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sounds like arte povera version of the Dutch 'gezellig'.
posted by ouke at 3:56 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, nothing like Lars von Trier, then?
posted by carter at 3:58 AM on November 22, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'm honestly jealous of anyone who manages to have an effortless nice time with friends and family in a cozy environment. And since these books seem to be a big success I guess I'm not the only one.

No, there must be some deep middlebrow evil concealed in this bland lifestyle trend
posted by thelonius at 4:15 AM on November 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


I know "RTFA" is a common refrain around here to shut people up, but I am going to say "read the article" for a wholly different reason.

It was fascinating, and I now have so many thoughts about

* The English-speaking publishing world's craze for creating pre-fab lifestyle trends,
* Small-community insularity and its dangers,
* the folly of buying things in a high-end store that you could get in a junk shop or make yourself or just do without...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:27 AM on November 22, 2016 [43 favorites]


I can honestly see the appeal. My biggest reaction to election night has been a turning inward. I have turned away from news as much as possible. I daydream about what I will cook each night. I've invited people over several times. I just want to get cozy with other people who feel similarly. I've been borrowing cookbooks from the library as fast as I can read them. And for one of my dinner parties, I even lit candles.

This year has been a tough one - I've noticed that both my husband and I, who come from different countries, and live in yet another one, have been feeling an increased desire for home. I've always been someone who's extremely tuned into what's new and different, always seeking novelty, but I find myself seeking the comfortable and familiar more and more.
posted by peacheater at 4:37 AM on November 22, 2016 [24 favorites]


If the concept of "hygge" can be extended to "huddling in bed on a weekend nursing a reheated cup of yesterday's coffee and trying not to think about the next four years", I've got it aced.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:42 AM on November 22, 2016 [57 favorites]


My favorite line from the article, when two editor colleagues had to make peace over each wanting to publish a book on the topic, "but it was a friendly encounter, not 'hygge at dawn'".
posted by twsf at 5:00 AM on November 22, 2016


well..... ummm.... you're welcome...... I guess?
posted by alchemist at 5:02 AM on November 22, 2016


There's this sort of knockoff soft Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in this sort of thing: the idea that strange 'untranslatable' words from exotic cultures somehow hold the key to different mindsets and ways of being.
Self-help editors, life-style 'gurus' and other lowlifes (lowlives?) build a thick carapace of bullshit around these words and try to ram it down the throats of the more naïve among us.
posted by signal at 5:23 AM on November 22, 2016 [34 favorites]


Get Hygge With It!

I almost spit coffee all over my chunky woolen throw blanket.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:26 AM on November 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I cannot wait for the hygge + cuffing Ultimate Trend Piece by which point it will have become a millennial moral failing
posted by litleozy at 5:28 AM on November 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


If the concept of "hygge" can be extended to "huddling in bed on a weekend nursing a reheated cup of yesterday's coffee and trying not to think about the next four years", I've got it aced.

Blue swedes call this their "hygge shack".
posted by rollick at 5:37 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I moved to Denmark two years ago.

It's a bit of a challenge to have regular hygge in a country where you know nobody.
So I bought a full spectrum lamp. Works pretty well against winter-depression.

(Yes now I've been there a while and it's better, but I'm keeping my lamp.)
posted by nat at 5:40 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


In Philly we recently got Bar Hygge. I haven't been but they tell me it's great, though it's almost untranslatable.
posted by fixedgear at 5:44 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hygge might not really be a trend in the US, but I definitely think that the Pinterest ideals of home and family, aside from being unachievable for a lot of people, seem to be the key to the Ivanka Voter, who seems to feel as though she isn't really that conservative, but the far right is going to preserve her ability to pretend her lifestyle isn't hurting anyone and in fact is a lovely thing that should be defended. The left is going to keep insisting that she remember that poor people exist and that climate change is going to kill millions and other things that don't at all fit with her life as she's trying to portray it on social media. It's easy to cozy up with people who aren't asking you to do anything differently.
posted by Sequence at 5:44 AM on November 22, 2016 [28 favorites]


God it's interesting though. I hadn't really known much about it (other than that it was A Thing) but it's amazing that it can work for both Brexit sides: those feeling battered that want a cozy hygge retreat and those that want to enforce a social conformity (those who rock the boat disturb the hygge (e.g. immigrants)).
posted by litleozy at 5:45 AM on November 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


We'd often envied the carefree citizens of the Mediterranean, but towards the end of 2016, that annus horribilis, things got to the point where even the Danes started to look relaxed, warm and cheerful compared to the gaunt, hopeless faces of one's family and friends.
posted by Segundus at 5:51 AM on November 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


I'm honestly jealous of anyone who manages to have an effortless nice time with friends and family in a cozy environment.

As also a Scandinavian (Norwegian grandfather, my name is his mother's, that part of the family was huuuuge on the Norway, also I lived in Finland yes I know it's not part of Scandinavia), the effortless nice time has three ingredients: alcohol, food, and silence broken once every fifteen minutes by "this is nice" with a requisite one-minute silence during which people nod and then one person replies "yes".

As I also know the Mediterranean mindset pretty well, having lived in Nice for 15 years, a nice time with family over the holidays also has three ingredients: alcohol, food, and nonstop multiple conversations in which everyone gets pissed off at least once and a stuffed turkey gets stuck in the chandelier. After energetically debating how to carve a turkey that's been in a chandelier, no seriously you can't use that knife you have to use another one now why would anyone use THAT knife it's a chicken carving knife you need a turkey carving knife maybe one for beef will work didn't you see the turkey was in the chandelier it counts as a chicken now why are you talking about beef, more alcohol is served.
posted by fraula at 5:59 AM on November 22, 2016 [73 favorites]


I find it hilarious that the media have taken this everyday word and made it into a kind of metaphysics. It's really not.

The idea of "untranslatable" words is in itself a wonky concept. Baked into it appears to be a faulty understanding of how language works, apparently more common in monolingual communities. In reality, there is very rarely a one-to-one correspondence between a word in one language and a word in another, or indeed between synonyms in the same language. What those who seek to exoticize do is they insist that the basic meaning of a word -- which can usually be captured in one or two words, or a short sentence -- isn't enough: in order to really translate you need to also translate every possible connotation. If you hold all words to the same standard you might come to think that there is an unbridgeable gap between cultures and that translation is fundamentally impossible.
posted by simen at 6:01 AM on November 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


The word 'hygge' was on the shortlist for Oxford Dictionary's word of the year.
posted by fairmettle at 6:07 AM on November 22, 2016


This article was fantastic for the reasons EmpressCallipygos lists. I now really really want to read an article comparing the role of Danish hygge and Japanese wa in their respective societies.
posted by congen at 6:07 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I need to get the Norwegian Wood book.
I've probably been stacking my wood wrong all these years, and the Murakami book didn't help at all.
posted by MtDewd at 6:13 AM on November 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


alcohol, food, and silence broken once every fifteen minutes by "this is nice" with a requisite one-minute silence during which people nod and then one person replies "yes".

No children, then?

and nonstop multiple conversations in which everyone gets pissed off at least once and a stuffed turkey gets stuck in the chandelier

All children, then?
posted by leotrotsky at 6:13 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


The idea of "untranslatable" words is in itself a wonky concept. Baked into it appears to be a faulty understanding of how language works, apparently more common in monolingual communities. In reality, there is very rarely a one-to-one correspondence between a word in one language and a word in another, or indeed between synonyms in the same language. What those who seek to exoticize do is they insist that the basic meaning of a word -- which can usually be captured in one or two words, or a short sentence -- isn't enough: in order to really translate you need to also translate every possible connotation. If you hold all words to the same standard you might come to think that there is an unbridgeable gap between cultures and that translation is fundamentally impossible.

People have held similar views.
posted by thelonius at 6:19 AM on November 22, 2016


This is one of those times when I realise I'm completely oblivious to pop culture trends.
I'm all for being chill though, and if an exoticised word can make more people chill the f*ck out, that's a net benefit. I'm sure the Scandinavians can take a bit of light othering for the greater good.
posted by threecheesetrees at 6:23 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read all the article now; for some reason earlier I stopped at one of the big pictures, thinking it was the end. And I think it was quite insightful. Especially the parts about the hygge being grounded in both positive and negative aspects of Danish/Scandinavian culture (strong, stable welfare state vs don't-rock-the-boat-ism).
posted by Harald74 at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


It was a nice idea as an article (I remember one of the original ones appearing in the UK) but for me gets weird as soon as someone's writing a book on how to achieve it.

The Norwegian Wood book is good. It can get a bit over the top unless you have some form of wood preparation compulsive thing going on but there's some lovely history and stories in there.

That said, it describes an excellent way to light a stove, that gets the wood burning more efficiently (logs on the bottom, kindling on top) on pp 172-173.
posted by dowcrag at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2016


They say nostalgia is a key cultural selling point for fascism.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


Well, as a Scandinavian, I'm baffled.

In some parts of Scandinavia, this is a hygge. Not that cozy, but a pessimist might consider it a better representation of the next few years.
posted by effbot at 6:37 AM on November 22, 2016


As a Dane, reading our listening to people from the anglophone world talking about hygge is completely hilarious and mildly upsetting. It's like a five year old who's learned a new word but who doesn't really understand it yet applying it in all sorts of ways that are wonky, off, or just plain wrong. Only without the certainty that the five year old will grow up and learn soon enough. And I'm living in the UK so surrounded by torturedly metaphorical five year olds.
posted by Dysk at 6:38 AM on November 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


the effortless nice time has three ingredients: alcohol, food, and silence broken once every fifteen minutes by "this is nice" with a requisite one-minute silence during which people nod and then one person replies "yes".

That perfectly describes Finland, and parts of northern Norway and Sweden, but sounds as amusingly alien to a Dane as it would a Brit, for example.
posted by Dysk at 6:40 AM on November 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


As a Swede, I congratulate our fiendishly cleaver Danish friends for finding a GLOBAL solution to getting rid of unsold Christmas products.

Njut av er seger danskjävlar för imorgon kommer vår statsminister utropa Stockholm som The Hygge Capital of Scandinavia och då fan ska ni få se hur man på allvar kränger ullsockor, koftor, julpynt, must, knäckebröd och annat krimskrams till varje man, kvinna och barn från Antarktisk till Sahara.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:40 AM on November 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


You know, one thing hygge is - it's white. Northern European white, not the equivocal whiteness of people of Eastern Europe or the Mediterranean.

My family is substantially Swedish and my partner's family is entirely Danish, so it didn't occur to me at once - we already dance around the Christmas tree while everyone except me sings in Danish, we already have all the little tomte/nisse toys and traditional dishes and so on, and they're family things so they seem "natural"....but this is a time of resurgent white nationalism, so we've got a northern European trend going on.

Also, how ironic - we're all busy smashing up such remnants of social welfare as still exist, and we're celebrating one of the few places on the planet that still has a strong welfare state.
posted by Frowner at 6:51 AM on November 22, 2016 [23 favorites]


People have held similar views.

Indeed, and it's both wrong-headed and dangerous thinking. Quine's argument, taken to its logical conclusion, is that we can't even learn our native language due to underspecified data. It's like Chomsky's poverty of stimulus argument on steroids.

It's about empathy. We need to realize that we're fundamentally the same in most ways. We share 99.9% of our DNA with everyone else on the planet. That's how we communicate with each other. That's why translation is not only possible but ubiquitous.

The idea is used in the service of exoticism, and that's rarely ever a good idea. It simply alienates us from each other. This article takes an everyday word which is not in any way conceptualized as a philosophy and turns it into a sort of national myth. I imagine that if someone wrote an article in which they claimed that coolness was the essence of Americanhood, and then analyzed all of American culture through the lens of this one word, that would be picked apart as bullshit essentialism. I didn't even realize it was possible to take a culture so similar to one's own and make it seem like it exists on Mars.

As a Norwegian I note this with bemusement:
For all its ubiquity, hygge is also recognised as a self-evidently positive and particularly Danish value. Though the word itself is actually imported from Norwegian, its emergence as an element of national culture is sometimes traced back to Denmark’s loss of territory in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was forced to abandon tracts of what are now Norway, Sweden and Germany. It is stitched deeper into its language than equivalents in neighbouring countries (such as the German Gemütlichkeit, and the Swedish mys) and is firmly entangled with the way that Danish society organises and projects itself.
Ah, the dangers of essentialism. The two things which are held to be uniquely Danish are imported from Norway. We do all those things too, we have the same word, and far from losing territory in the 18th and 19th centuries, we are one of those territories that were lost! As for the second thing, Janteloven, I think we'll have to claim joint ownership. The term comes from Aksel Sandemose, a Danish-born author who emigrated to Norway, his mother's homeland; specifically, the novel En flyktning krysser sitt spor, which was written and published in Norway. Ah well. I guess the Danes stole our brand. At least we got that log-splitting book.

Huddling under a blanket by the fireplace is white nationalism now? Oh, my! I guess I have more in common with KKK and Anders Behring Breivik than I thought!
posted by simen at 7:08 AM on November 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


You know, one thing hygge is - it's white. Northern European white, not the equivocal whiteness of people of Eastern Europe or the Mediterranean.
Dare I say that as a non-white person, this actually makes me feel more excluded? There's nothing particularly white about coziness, or coming together with family or friends. I could tell you countless stories about casual gatherings of intimate family and friends which had a similar quality to that described by the word "hygge" - a certain safety in knowing that you're among friends, good conversation, good food, alcohol. There are a plenty of cultures around the world that value similar things. The external manifestations might be somewhat different - certainly there's no obsession with woolly socks where I come from in India - but the heart of it is something you'll likely find in cultures across the planet.
posted by peacheater at 7:18 AM on November 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


Huddling under a blanket by the fireplace is white nationalism now? Oh, my! I guess I have more in common with KKK and Anders Behring Breivik than I thought!

Yabbut the whole point of the "hygge" deal is that USians and Brits can't just say "let's be cosy and spend time with family"; we seem to need to import a concept from elsewhere. And we choose - in a time of white nationalism - to import a Northern European concept that is (and I know that none of the Scandinavian countries are exclusively white) associated with whiteness, not associated with, say, being Somali-Swedish or Chinese-Danish.

In forty years of life, I have observed many Anglophone trends in importing concepts/clothes/fashion/food. It's not always a barometer, but you definitely see that during Reagan, Italy and France were very fashionable and a lot of the Asian/African/South American stuff that had been in during the seventies fell out of fashion* and during the nineties there was a huge (culturally appropriative) vogue for East and South Asian stuff. Again, there are counter-examples, but I feel like you do see some meaningful swings in what's fashionable.

*I'm not trying to justify culturally appropriative fashion.

Also, during the eighties in the US, South and Central American clothes or bags were a real left-wing thing, tied in to US activism against the Reagan administration. I remember very clearly seeing all this fade out in the early nineties when I was in college.
posted by Frowner at 7:19 AM on November 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


The problem with glib explanations of “hygge” as being “coziness” or “bonhomie” or “having a nice time with friends and family” is that, while that's 100% true within a Danish cultural context, outside of it, the same thing is not hygge. Hygge-in-all-but-name in England, for example, might involve going to a pub with a name like the Red Lion or the Shepherd's Arms or something, with Victorian leadlighting in the windows and dark oak furniture, and sitting in a snug with a friend or two, shooting the breeze over pints of cellar-temperature mild ale in dimpled glass mugs, while a group of old men play darts on the other side of the room. Though “hygge” in England is coziness plus stylised Scandinavian trappings; a visit to the mythical promised land of everyday contentment quite unlike the eeyorish wrong-kind-of-leaves-on-the-line that's-just-typical-isn't-it half-affected irritation that is part and parcel of performed Englishness. This visit is facilitated by various props: bare blond timber, chunky, colourful knitwear, candles of the sort you don't get in an English high-street candle shop, pastries involving cardamom, and so on, which add an extra element of effort and expense to the experience. Thus, just by being exotic, the everyday becomes a premium-priced special experience.
posted by acb at 7:30 AM on November 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


You know, one thing hygge is - it's white. Northern European white, not the equivocal whiteness of people of Eastern Europe or the Mediterranean.

If white people started doing Kwanzaa, for example, that would be problematic as hell. (There isn't enough humility in the world that white people could approach that with whilst still maintaining white privilege and it not being problematic.) As for oriental trends, we've all seen the white anime-otaku/martial-arts bros who consider themselves Japanese or Chinese on the inside in a very orientalistic fashion, and that's not a good look either.
posted by acb at 7:37 AM on November 22, 2016


Well, I do think that part of the whole Marie Kondo Tidying Up appeal is that she is Japanese, and Japanese culture seems extremely neat and tidy from the outside. I think that's a good example of a huge trend from an Asian culture that isn't culturally appropriative.
posted by peacheater at 7:48 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay, perhaps I'm not saying what I'm trying to say very clearly:

1. There's a history of trends-in-white-people-cultural-appropriation. This is independent of the morality of such trends. These trends have some connection to the larger world. For instance, Patience Grey's post-WWII Mediterranean cookbooks reflect a new set of attitudes toward Europe and experiences with the Mediterranean.

2. So, for instance, the "multicultural" nineties were bullshit, but also not bullshit - I lived through them, and there really was a giant mess of stuff all mixed up - A Different World, wearing chinoiserie clothes, debates in even fairly conservative papers about literature. It's easy to say "oh, it was okay for people to talk about getting rid of the literary canon but morally reprehensible for non-Chinese people to wear qipao" but those things were not necessarily experienced as discrete things. The vogue for "multicultural" fashion among white people went alongside the public and general reconsideration of the literary canon and the optimism of A Different World.

3. Why must we import a term at all? It's not like someone is saying "you must choose hygge or Kwanzaa, one or the other" and we're all "well, it would be inappropriate to celebrate Kwanzaa, therefore it's hygge".

4. It's interesting that right now the hot cultural deal is something from Northern Europe. I'm sure there's multiple reasons for this - the exhaustion of other trends, for instance. But it's also of note that there's a general resurgence of insularity, hostility to immigrants and nationalism on the part of white people, and here we are.
posted by Frowner at 7:57 AM on November 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's like a five year old who's learned a new word but who doesn't really understand it yet applying it in all sorts of ways that are wonky, off, or just plain wrong.

This happens a lot with translations of concepts borrowed from other countries. I liked this article in that it did at least go into the dark side, when a lot of this stuff tends to only focus on the "ooh, shiny exoticism" side.

That perfectly describes Finland, and parts of northern Norway and Sweden, but sounds as amusingly alien to a Dane as it would a Brit, for example.

Your impressions are spot on :) my family is in fact from northern Norway (Lofoten) and yep I lived in Finland – Helsinki and a little Finnish-Swedish town called Ekenäs (Tammisaari in Finnish).

FWIW the dry humor Mediterranean description I gave is of course not to be generalized either, especially as the chandelier turkey incident took place in Savoie. Quite a few similar incidents happened in Nice, with similar teasing brouhaha, but none so grandiose.

I got a kick out of the article's French example word being "chic" too. Almost no one uses the word in France.
posted by fraula at 7:58 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


4. It's interesting that right now the hot cultural deal is something from Northern Europe. I'm sure there's multiple reasons for this - the exhaustion of other trends, for instance. But it's also of note that there's a general resurgence of insularity, hostility to immigrants and nationalism on the part of white people, and here we are.
Well, I guess the point of my Marie Kondo example above is to say that one could equally well say that the current hot cultural deal is from Asia. I understand what you're getting at, I just think it's a bit simplistic that's all.
posted by peacheater at 7:59 AM on November 22, 2016


I really thought that one benefit of the fascists taking over would be that we could at least spend our energy fighting the fascists, as opposed to on this endless involuted close reading of pop culture ephemera to figure out how they're problematic.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:03 AM on November 22, 2016 [28 favorites]


Oh man, as a Norwegian I'm finding both the article and the comments here oddly frustrating. There is nothing that exotic about hygge - honestly, coziness is a perfectly apt translation. And to be honest, I'm getting kind of offended that people are reading white nationalism into this. There is nothing surprising about the fact that as the world appears more threatening, people are flocking to things that feel cozy, feel connected, feel good. Just because something is associated with Scandinavia, doesn't mean people want to be white or think less of non-whites.

It's also no coincidence that this is becoming more prevalent now, as the western hemisphere is heading into winter. Hygge / Coziness is exactly how people everywhere make winter not just bearable, but nice - by looking for ways to stay warm (knitted socks, for example) and connected and content. There is nothing foreign or unknowable about this concept; it's just paying attention to your surroundings to make them feel nicer and more inviting. Finding ways to make your environment more intimate.

And I completely reject the concept that hygge is exclusive. Sure, it's easier or faster to connect with people you already know, or who have similar cultural values as you, but so what? We can connect with everyone. Peacheater, you're welcome to my house any time and we will hygge oss.

I will say that lighting is pretty important here. I've lived in the US for decades now, and sometimes get frustrated by how unconscious Americans' lighting choices are. Illuminating a room to surgical standards is really only important in the operating room, and prevents intimacy. So if you take only one thing away from all this to-do about hygge, let it be this: be more deliberate about lighting in your home. Have options to go from well-lit, for when accuracy is needed, to soothing, for when connecting is needed. Firelight and candlelight are cliches for a reason. It's amazing what a difference a few tealights can make.

Now go forth and hygg dere, alle sammen!
posted by widdershins at 8:18 AM on November 22, 2016 [33 favorites]


Great: so I searched hygge on Pinterest, and now all my selected pins are pictures of warm fireplaces and pastries with cardamom in them. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with fireplaces or delicious pastries. And I guess that, as with a lot of maligned lifestyle trends, I really see the appeal of this one. Every winter I get the urge to cocoon a bit, and this Fall that impulse seems a lot stronger, just because the outside world seems a lot more hostile. I already want to stay home, knit socks, and hang out with people who I know don't despise me, since I've become a bit obsessed with the fact that a lot of people who I pass on the street probably do. Maybe I'd be craving hygge a bit less if I didn't live in a state where most people voted for Trump.

I'm not doing the frigging candles, though. I'm too klutzy, and years ago a friend of mine lost all of her possessions in an apartment fire that started when her cat knocked a candle over.
You know, one thing hygge is - it's white. Northern European white, not the equivocal whiteness of people of Eastern Europe or the Mediterranean.
I wonder if that's a slightly American perspective though. (And I don't think this has made its way to the US yet, although maybe I'm just not following the right lifestyle sites.) It's definitely white, but it's also European, which means something different in post-Brexit Britain than it does in the US.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:37 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


(People are talking up hygge stuff in the US - or at least, I've heard a good deal about it even in my non-Pinterest circles.)
posted by Frowner at 8:40 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The thing is that I'm sure this is not the first time that the UK has flirted with the use of the word/concept of hygge. I'm sure it went through this before at perhaps a lower level of awareness about 10-15 years ago.

There seems to have been a bit of fascination with Denmark building in the UK for the last few years and now this has come as a focal point on this particular thing. Have a search for Denmark on amazon UK and you get some books on hygge from 2016 but also some on living there and/or revealing its dark truths going back to around 2012.
posted by biffa at 8:49 AM on November 22, 2016


Widdershins, I think the whole "nationalism!" accusation is more about the drive to package hygge as a trend, than it is about hygge itself. That kind of ties into the whole chain of thoughts I was having about "why does the English speaking world feel so driven to package things".

And that, oddly, is leading me to something I heard in a sexual behavior class from college (I swear this is relevant). The professor was talking about how people sometimes behave differently towards something if it has a label of some kind; her example was that if Bob was really into feet, Bob's friends could just shrug and say, "eh, Bob just digs feet." But if you gave Bob's preference a label, Bob's friends could get uneasy - "Bob has a foot fetish? That's weird."

Similarly, I think this is a whole business/marketing drive to come up with a label for hygge as a concept in order to sell it - like you say, there's really nothing out-there about hygge as a concept - in fact, everyone's probably been doing it already. But giving it a shiny new label makes it seem exotic, which makes people much more prone to buying the trappings of it. So this drive to label things could be what's driving the trend; the question is why people want to come up with a label for this in the first place (my guess - to sell things).

I'll admit to being suckered into picking up a book about "thrift market decor style" and flipping through it, only to realize a couple weeks later that "thrift market decor style" only means "shopping at flea markets because you're too broke otherwise".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on November 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


To define is to damn.
posted by acb at 8:58 AM on November 22, 2016


In America, the phrase that roughly means "hygge" seems to me to be "holiday spirit," if Hallmark Holiday movies are anything to go by. And yes, Christmas in Hallmark's world is for white people.
But anything that threatens that safe community, including alien values and ideologies, cannot be tolerated.
In many of the movies there is also a parallel sense of having to defend a small town from the greedy forces of the outside world, and thereby saving Christmas itself. Or in a slightly subtler way, convert an outsider (but always a white person) to an insider by teaching them the meaning of Christmas and the value of living in an insular community.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I lived in Copenhagen when I was a kid, and was reasonably fluent in Danish -- I could hold a conversation, read kids books, etc. I don't remember hearing the word "hygge" before that movie a few years ago, where it was a plot point (and I can't remember what the movie was, and trying to look it up is useless).

Was it that I didn't notice people saying "hygge" all around me, or was it a word that wasn't used much in the 1970s/ 1980s?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:08 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the eeyorish wrong-kind-of-leaves-on-the-line that's-just-typical-isn't-it half-affected irritation
posted by The otter lady at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I take your point, EmpressCallipygos. Particularly because the packaging of hygge makes it something that can be bought, as opposed to created. And your thrift market decor example is apt, because hygge is almost the opposite of elegance or high-priced consumerism - it's literally about taking pleasure in the little things. So the only way to commercialize it is to label it - literally - so that unknowing people will try to buy their way to it. I don't want to put words into Dysk's mouth, but I'm guessing that's why s/he's so frustrated with the misunderstanding and misappropriation. Buying something that says HYGGE on it is about as far away from actual hygge you can get. It's like bragging about being mindful, or something. It just displays your complete ignorance of the concept.
posted by widdershins at 9:14 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Its advice to take up the hyggelig activity of cycling is accompanied by a motivational quote from that byword of existential contentment, Sylvia Plath.
LOL, okay, I'm sold on this article. Happier, fitter, and slimmer, indeed.
posted by clawsoon at 9:24 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I like to spend my under a blanket by a fireplace time reading Lovecraft. It's kind of hygge Shoggoth thing.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:30 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


They say nostalgia is a key cultural selling point for fascism.

Maybe this explains some of my issues with high-end lifestyle stores (some of which sell hygge as both a concept and as products to hasten its presence). IMO, being nostalgic for aesthetics, or form, can easily lead into nostalgia for beliefs, or content.
posted by stannate at 9:52 AM on November 22, 2016


Looking at the picture of the idealized, commercialized hygge, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell as painted by Thomas Kinkade.
posted by clawsoon at 9:52 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


The danish language has collapsed into a series of meaningless, guttural sounds: Norwegians poking fun. [SLYT]
posted by Morpeth at 9:57 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I take your point, EmpressCallipygos. Particularly because the packaging of hygge makes it something that can be bought, as opposed to created. And your thrift market decor example is apt, because hygge is almost the opposite of elegance or high-priced consumerism - it's literally about taking pleasure in the little things. So the only way to commercialize it is to label it - literally - so that unknowing people will try to buy their way to it.

* nods * I'm further reminded of an anecdote from an essay by the food writer M.F.K. Fisher, in her brilliant book How To Cook A Wolf. The book as a whole was written as a guide to how to cook and dine well when you're on a very limited income, and was then updated in the 1950's to offer a sane alternative to some fad-ish food trends. I forget the exact circumstances, but she writes about a group of women - possibly at a bridal shower - where it's mostly young women, and then the host's grandmother. The women all start talking about some of the "clever tricks" for cooking that they read about in some magazine, but it was tricks like saving bones to make soup stock, re-using leftovers, and the like. After listening to them talk for a while, the grandmother finally said something about how it was interesting that all of these "new ideas" the younger women were talking about were things that she herself had been doing for years, because they were common sense.

I probably have a hygge type of vibe going on myself in winter - there are blankets thrown on chairs, I put out candles, I drink a lot of tea and hot cocoa. But it's not because I'm trying to capitalize on a lifestyle trend - it's because it is winter and that means it is cold out, and I am trying to stay warm inside a drafty apartment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on November 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


Man, this is further spurring thought - if you thought my pulling my sexuality course into the mix was weird, I'm now about to pull in liner notes from a Sting album.

In his album If On A Winter's Night, which is as close as Sting is gonna come to a Christmas album, he said something about how in agrarian times, winter was by necessity a time to hunker down, settle in, and rest. And - that actually may not be a bad thing, that there's this regular opportunity for us all to rest a bit. We need time to chill out, we burn out if we're always running around and doing things. When we started modernizing, he goes on, we started to get away from that - we push ourselves to be doing things, being active and productive all the time. We lose out on the chance to rest, but also on the chance to just sit and reflect - both of which may be things we need, and don't give ourselves enough of a chance to do.

The craze for hygge could be about an unconscious need for that, coupled with us all being so cut off from that need that we have to be spurred into it by marketing it as a trend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on November 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


i am sharing the following as my authentic, socially appropriate american expressions of hygge

- eternal lo-grade mulled wine upon the stove, in the big pot we usually make pasta or boil corn in. keep her topped up with jugs of Carlo and you're in business

- this simply bitching hooded sweatshirt that looks kind of like a wizard robe i got a friend to make

- lots and lots of nature's christmas music: mobb deep
posted by beefetish at 10:29 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


And I completely reject the concept that hygge is exclusive. Sure, it's easier or faster to connect with people you already know, or who have similar cultural values as you, but so what? We can connect with everyone. Peacheater, you're welcome to my house any time and we will hygge oss.

I read the article this morning and I also took issue with the idea that coziness should be exclusive or 'white nationalist'. I think it's being interpreted that way because the spectre of those things hangs over us, but (as a lefty progressive) I can't think of anything cozier than welcoming strangers and making them feel better.

As for hygge coming from a Northern European country, couldn't we just as easily say that we are all longing for a democratic-socialist state where people share an interest in each other's welfare?
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:30 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


No, there must be some deep middlebrow evil concealed in this bland lifestyle trend

Incidentally, "Deep Middlebröw Evil" is the name of my new Black Metal band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:41 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read the article this morning and I also took issue with the idea that coziness should be exclusive or 'white nationalist'.

The article isn't saying that it "should be" exclusive or white-nationalist, but that the concept of hygge and it's counterpart, uhygge, is tapped in to by white nationalists as a rhetorical argument to instill fear in the corruption of comfort and safety by interlopers.

For example, in America, "family values" themselves are not exclusive to the religious right, but the concept is used and even poisoned by the right to provoke a sense of reactionary fear for anything seen as breaking up the "traditional family."
posted by muddgirl at 10:42 AM on November 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think it's being interpreted that way because the spectre of those things hangs over us, but (as a lefty progressive) I can't think of anything cozier than welcoming strangers and making them feel better.

You're a lefty progressive. So basically, if this turns into a thing, then it's exactly as inclusive as the population intends for it to be. Well, lefty progressives, we're happy to think of sharing dinner with a diverse group. But even the people who don't think of themselves as racist? They're fantasizing about being cozy with people who they feel safe with. And they've been absorbing messaging for a long time that trans people are not safe, that refugees are not safe, black people are not safe, and so on and so forth. So anything that encourages people to retreat will be encouraging most people to retreat to spaces that're exclusive of nonwhite people and other marginalized groups. That makes it something that the actual white nationalists would very much like people to prioritize.
posted by Sequence at 10:46 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


You're a lefty progressive. So basically, if this turns into a thing, then it's exactly as inclusive as the population intends for it to be. Well, lefty progressives, we're happy to think of sharing dinner with a diverse group.

So maybe the problem lies with the population rather than the concept of hygge and being cosy itself? It just sometimes feels that we "progressive" people are busy putting out tiny candle fires while out there the entire forest is burning down. It's pretty natural for people to want to retreat to people they feel comfortable with. Our aim should be to try to expand the circles that people feel comfortable with, not to try to police their behavior and say that they should not submit to honestly pretty normal human impulses.
posted by peacheater at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


not to try to police their behavior and say that they should not submit to honestly pretty normal human impulses.

No one said this, not in the article and not in this thread. The main critic cited in the article, Danish writer Dorthe Nors, is even described thusly: "she loves to partake in a bit of hygge (she has candlesticks in her office, for example)"
posted by muddgirl at 11:22 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, "Deep Middlebröw Evil" is the name of my new Black Metal band.

Strange, "Deep Evil Middlebräu" is the name of my new black beer.

To add a little commentary to the actual discussion, I don't know that its growing presence in England is all that sinister. I've seen the movement (sometimes by that name, sometimes not) growing in both my white, middle 30s, high income, hipster and more racially diverse, lower earning, SJW type friends for years now. It's not uncommon for things that are trendy in the US to migrate to England. But I could buy that post-Brexit anxiety has stoked interest in feelings of comfort and safety.
posted by Candleman at 11:35 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


the concept of hygge and it's counterpart, uhygge

Uhygge and hygge are not binary opposites in that way, really.
posted by Dysk at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


nothing kills a nice foreign concept for me like seeing it all smugged up on pinterest or instagram. I now want to spend my holidays under bright halogen lamps in the company of strangers, drinking ice cold beverages and listening to afrofuturist hip hop
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:43 AM on November 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


This article was great and I am getting really sick of people whining about mischaracterization without reading it. As muddgirl pointed out, the idea of hygge and nationalism going together are because nationalists use hygge to push their ideas. Those are Danes, man, not some anglo jerkfaces making shit up. Most of the critics in the article are Danish. And I guess you could say they are just telling the Brit what he wants to hear, but that would be a little surprising.

Anyways, I find the questions at the heart of the piece — the ones outside whether foreigners got this trend authentically which of course they didn't — super interesting. What does it mean when we pull back into ourselves? Who benefits when we construct the story that welfare only works with homogeny? How can we use culture to counteract the impulse to hide ourselves away from the deeply terrifying trends in our world? What the fuck is going on with all of us? What social yearning do our "totally individual" choices give voice to? What lurks in these complex layers? Asking these is important and engaging them is important to being engaged with the world. Please read the thing. It's great.

Final unrelated thought: as an Italian American, I do have to say Fraula's Mediterranean holidays seem much homier to me. What is family for, really, except vociferously disagreeing and knowing they still have to love you? Sitting quietly is interminable. At least chaos is interesting.
posted by dame at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Uhygge and hygge are not binary opposites in that way, really.

Counterpart doesn't mean the same thing as opposite.
posted by muddgirl at 11:58 AM on November 22, 2016


the concept of hygge and it's counterpart, uhygge

And, for completeness, otyugh.
posted by SPrintF at 12:21 PM on November 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you play Fireplace For Your Home backwards at 1.5X while wearing an ugly sweater and drinking spiced apple cider you will hear "STEVE BANNON IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF TRUUUUUUUUTH"
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:39 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


From the article:
A common critique of hygge, according to Mikkel Vinther, is that it “makes the democratic process weak because to discuss difficult things is not hyggelig”. Vinther, himself, is more positive: it has the potential, he argues, to provide a powerful, non-confrontational way for people to come together.

On the Saturday after the election there was a candlelight ceremony in Fort Greene Park, in Brooklyn, to reaffirm to ourselves, our children and our neighbors that we value each other and especially our diversity. Maybe I don't understand the concept of hygge as well as others but it seemed like a very hygge thing to do. I guess you could say we are all the same politically and pushing away the political other.

Just as people complain about hygge being commodified, it shouldn't be given up to the xenophobic far right.

It's so weird that an idea of being cozy should become to embody all that is wrong with the world. 2016, man.
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:47 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


What do you call an old punk in a cozy sweater?
.
.
.
.
.
.
Hygge Pop, inevitably.
Sorry.
posted by aesop at 1:05 PM on November 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


Our aim should be to try to expand the circles that people feel comfortable with, not to try to police their behavior and say that they should not submit to honestly pretty normal human impulses.

One perfectly normal human impulse is to not expand the circles that you feel comfortable with. We can't have this both ways. The way you expand your comfort zone is by not living permanently inside your comfort zone, by occasionally enduring small and completely endurable amounts of discomfort. I'm not saying that anybody shouldn't make cocoa this winter or that everybody should stop knitting. I knit! My point is that we should be critical of the media that makes a particular image of life the thing everybody should be seeking, the ones who are trying to sell yet larger expanses of comfort to the already-comfortable, and what goals they are going to achieve by doing so.
posted by Sequence at 1:06 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I imagine that if someone wrote an article in which they claimed that coolness was the essence of Americanhood, and then analyzed all of American culture through the lens of this one word, that would be picked apart as bullshit essentialism.

Counter-possibility: The Cute and the Cool is both interesting and defensible, I think. (The author doesn't share my political temperament, but the assumptions, evidence and deductions are distinguished well enough that that didn't matter.) It's about how idealizing the innocent American childhood, in a consumer culture, generates cool consumers who parents don't trust; but child/parent operates within adults as well as between actual parents and children, so it generalizes.
posted by clew at 1:56 PM on November 22, 2016


Maybe I don't understand the concept of hygge as well as others but it seemed like a very hygge thing to do.

I mean, maybe you don't? I'm not sure I do, either, because I'm Dutch. But there seems to be more to it than just wearing sweaters by candlelight.

One comparison drawn in the article is between hygge and the American political trope of "the guy I'd like to have a beer with". Having a beer with somebody is not some kind of inherently right-wing act; lots of people drink beer, frequently with other people.

But, for some reason, only right-wing politicians get to be the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. Because the right-wing has weaponised the idea of "the guy I'd like to have a beer with" as a means of undercutting those troublesome lefties who think things with their brains instead of feeling them with their guts.

The critics quoted in the article are basically saying that hygge is being turned to the same political purpose as "the guy I'd like to have a beer with" by the same kinds of right-wing political operatives who perverted the latter concept in America. If that annoys you, get mad at the fucking fascists, not the people pointing out that the fucking fascists are ruining some perfectly innocent concept.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:50 PM on November 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


I lived in Denmark and hygge was described to me at the time as "a secret coziness." After reading through all these, maybe I was misled.
posted by bz at 3:24 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


This hygge thing sounds like oxytocin: commonly called "the love hormone," it can trigger empathetic and altruistic behavior in single individuals but insular and xenophobic behavior in groups of individuals who get a dose at about the same time and place.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:33 PM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh yea America can totally be understood via the concept of cool. It's how white people appropriate blackness without giving black people any power. What's more American than that?
posted by dame at 3:36 PM on November 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


But, for some reason, only right-wing politicians get to be the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. Because the right-wing has weaponised the idea of "the guy I'd like to have a beer with" as a means of undercutting those troublesome lefties who think things with their brains instead of feeling them with their guts.

I don't know; the only actual parliamentarian I've had a beer with was an Icelandic Pirate Party member.
posted by acb at 3:40 PM on November 22, 2016


Hygge, hygge, hygge, can't you see
Sometimes your candles hypnotize me
And I just love your cozy ways
Guess that's why they bröke, and you're so påid
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:46 PM on November 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


wearing sweaters by candlelight

Incidentally, that's the name of Deep Middlebröw Evil's first album.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:46 PM on November 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, "Deep Middlebröw Evil" is the name of my new Black Metal band.

Strange, "Deep Evil Middlebräu" is the name of my new black beer.


Oddly enough, "DP ville Middlesbro" is North East England's most popular source of home grown continental-style speciality porn.
posted by biffa at 4:25 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


90 comments and nobody has said "Hygge is hyuge!" yet?

Thank you for letting be be the one. I'll just slink away now.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:35 PM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


What do you call an old punk in a cozy sweater?
.Hygge Pop, inevitably.


What is the most comforting Riot Grrrl band?

Hygge Bear
posted by acb at 4:40 PM on November 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


A friend of mine is going through a big phase right now where she's trying to make her room "cozy" by getting rid of excess clothing she owns, making the lighting feel good, and organizing everything properly. She's a big time nester. The concept of "cozy" isn't foreign to her, but this may be something she's into. What would be a good book to get her that explores this concept? I know she's currently reading something about feng shui.
posted by gucci mane at 5:14 PM on November 22, 2016


As someone who grew up in a rural, cold, non-Scandinavian place - I do not get why this is a big deal. It's basically "life in winter". Slippers, a fire, lots of blankets. Sure, candles and twinkle lights. And it's Christmas so throw some boughs on the table with a bowl of clementines.

If anything, it is striking to me that this is such a trend in Britain. What exactly is novel about this idea to Brits?
posted by pintapicasso at 6:26 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


But that isn't really what hygge is. I mean, in a cold winter that's likely how you'd hygge, but it can just as happily be sitting in the garden on a long summer's evening or chilling on the beach on a sunny afternoon.
posted by Dysk at 8:45 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, I really only know this concept from the Norwegians I know (and the people I know who've spend time in Norway) so it's maybe slightly different than the Danish concept but ... as delightful as I find it to have people come hang out at your place and it's all comfy and homey and all ... I understood that people did this because it is cheap and going out is expensive as hell. So yeah, it's much better to serve people drinks in your place than meet them in a bar. Or you meet up for one drink and then retire to someone's place. Plus, it's cold. It just makes sense.

I guess to me, "hygge" isn't something you sell, but just something you do out of necessity. I'm all for people hanging out at home (I've explained/lamented that DC is a going-out culture so we don't do this).

But I guess if it's something worth marketing, people will market it. Sadly.

(My bf, who spent time in Norway, often wishes me "stay cozy" when he signs off. I appreciate it.)
posted by darksong at 10:05 PM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Dame: The reason this is not a good article is that it's muddled and unsound. The first half is great: it reads as media critique, documenting how the British publishing industry manufactured a fad in order to sell books. At this point I assumed that was what the article was about. But then the second half of the article delves deep into the same sort of phony sociology that the first part casts doubt over.

The result is that the interesting questions that could be raised get lost in the noise. Literally lost in translation. If you want to discuss Scandinavian right wing resurgence, how it fits into the wider right-wing turn seen across Europe and in the United States, and how retreat into the comfort zone figures into that, you have to jettison the fashion trend which, as documented in the first part of the article, is largely manufactured to sell.

You can't rest a sociological analysis on a philosophy that doesn't exist. It just doesn't work.
posted by simen at 10:45 PM on November 22, 2016


I understood that people did this because it is cheap and going out is expensive as hell. So yeah, it's much better to serve people drinks in your place than meet them in a bar.

Going over to people's places for a drink seems to be more of a thing in Germany as well. In fact, it may be only Britain (and, to greater or lesser extents, former British colonies) where the idea is a bit too weird and/or over-familiar, and there exists a whole infrastructure of agreeable, affordable and not intrinsically seedy pubs to provide a neutral territory for drinking in friends with.
posted by acb at 2:26 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, the article and the discussion both here and in the comments actually demonstrate that hygge cannot be translated or commodified. And I normally totally agree that this type of language essentialism is nonsense. Well, it's still nonsense, because of course everyone can have hygge.

Right now, we are all doing hygge by sitting and reading and commenting this thread about a silly subject. That is a hyggelig thing. Though a few moments ago, the dog barked at a car outside, and that was a bit u-hyggelig, because there are not supposed to be cars out here in the woods.
Going for a walk can be hyggelig, if there is an atmosphere of comfort and intimacy, as can lying naked in the garden. No need for a fireplace or socks. Home cooked meals can be hyggelige, but so can a restaurant meal or take-out.
Alcoholics in a dive bar can be having hygge, and so can the super-rich on their yacht. It's not middlebrow, and it doesn't have a style. Actually, it's very common to speak of someone one likes saying that their home is not stylish, but hyggeligt. Everything can be hyggeligt, or not - you can have a hyggelig time at class or at work, and you can have a hyggelig time alone in the car, listening to a podcast. You don't even need baked goods, though they certainly help.
A few months ago, I had a very hyggelig evening here with my international group of students, eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of wine. The other day, I gathered some of my colleagues for a lunch, because a lot of us are getting fired. It was immensely hyggeligt, but at some point someone began discussing politics and gender, spoiling the atmosphere. If it had been a family gathering, someone would definitely have said "Nu skal vi hygge os", Now, we need to hygge, to end the fight, and there is maybe where some Danes and non-Danes feel the problem with hygge is: Danes are not very happy with disagreement, specially not loud disagreement, and hygge is often used to control the tone. (My guests the other day were of course polite and self-policed back into hygge). We do have crazy uncles at holidays, but often they are told to quiet down, so I don't see a lot of the holiday anxiety many Americans seem to experience. Definitely no birds in the chandeliers. I have close German and Dutch friends who live here in Denmark, and for them, that would be the difference between hygge, gezelligheit and gemütlichkeit. They enjoy a bit more loudness in many ways. Which again doesn't mean non-Danes can't have hygge: I have strong memories of a day where my German ex-father-in-law and I cooked coq au vin in an apartment in Belgium, and we had a very hyggelig time till all the (German) others came home and the atmosphere became more gemütlich. Which was fine, and we both talked about for the remaining years of his life, because it was so sharp a change.
Most of the time, I'll agree that lighting plays a role, but then some years ago, we were invited in for the Eid at an Iraqi neighbor's house, and it was so hyggeligt, in spite of the very bright light in the room. Tens of thousands of Danes spend a lot of time trying to teach refugees how to hygge, and finding out that they already know the basics (though again, many refugees find the Danish aversion to argument strange).

I lived in Copenhagen when I was a kid, and was reasonably fluent in Danish -- I could hold a conversation, read kids books, etc. I don't remember hearing the word "hygge" before that movie a few years ago, where it was a plot point (and I can't remember what the movie was, and trying to look it up is useless).

Was it that I didn't notice people saying "hygge" all around me, or was it a word that wasn't used much in the 1970s/ 1980s?


You didn't notice. Danes seriously talk about hygge all the time, and have done so for ever - as it says in the article, even the critics do hygge and talk about hygge. It's for soothing and for appreciating and for planning soothing and caring events and probably a lot more. But it is probably more used by adults.
posted by mumimor at 3:02 AM on November 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


So, cozy places to snuggle when it's howling outside? Fondue redux.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:22 AM on November 23, 2016


I guess to me, "hygge" isn't something you sell, but just something you do out of necessity. I'm all for people hanging out at home (I've explained/lamented that DC is a going-out culture so we don't do this).

You can totally go out and hygge. Doesn't have to be cheap, either.

This is like watching someone trying to explain the idea of 'comfort' by suggesting things like warmth, sweaters, duvets ate part of it, and then seeing a while group of people start treating the thing like a) they actually understand it and b) it's only possible to be comfortable in winter and oh god no, you wouldn't want any of that comfort stuff in summer, what do you mean "comfort"? It's just wrapping up warm! Etc, etc.
posted by Dysk at 4:21 AM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Or as a better example, it's as if everyone decided that "essen" meant to dine in pig's knuckle and bratwurst and you invited a German over for some essen and they were there thinking "oh, dinner!" while you explicitly mean 'stereotypical German food' because you didn't understand that it's just German for eating and you've invested way too much of your understanding in the German-centric examples that were with the explanation.
posted by Dysk at 4:42 AM on November 23, 2016 [11 favorites]


muddgirl: "Counterpart doesn't mean the same thing as opposite."
No, it means "a person or thing that has the same position or purpose as another person or thing in a different place or organization." And that does not describe the relationship between hygge and uhygge in any way, shape or form.
posted by brokkr at 5:05 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


And I come late to this thread (being busy explaining hygge to a UK magazine, no less!) and notice that no fellow Danes have mentioned that "skal vi hygge os?" (lit: "shall vi hygge us") also means Netflix & Chill.

Fellow Danes, I look at you in reproach.
posted by kariebookish at 5:34 AM on November 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


mumimor: "Danes seriously talk about hygge all the time, and have done so for ever …"
Well, it depends I guess? We don't talk that much about hygge in my family - and when we do it's mostly used ironically or in jest, such as when my son and I fart shortly after each other and my wife looks at us and says "hygger I jer?"
posted by brokkr at 6:00 AM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm going to spend a month or two in Denmark next year, and I do have hand-knitted socks, but I need to know how fuzzy a sweater is required for entry.

My first exposure to hyggelig was in the brilliant and disturbing novel The Saskiad (Brian Hall, 1996) in which the protagonist's few memories of her absent Danish father include the word "hoogily".
posted by moonmilk at 6:22 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


simen, do you mean the idea that things are untranslatable therefore renders all further points moot? Because I agree that is stupid in a linguistic sense but as a non-scientific way of talking about how some concepts are so embedded culturally that it is hard to express them fully elsewhere, it is useful. (I wish people didn't try to wrap stuff like that in science! to give it authority but that is a different rant.) Look at all the Scandinavians rushing in here to explain how we've all gotten it wrong, how it is more complex, how there are a thousand shades. If that is not evidence that a concept is so deeply buried in the heart of a culture, I don't know what is.

Anyways, it is interesting to have something predicated both on egalitarianism and the squashing of dissent as central to your culture, at least it is to people whose homes are less like that. Considering the ways that egalitarianism also keeps people out is a neat conundrum. And frankly something that people who are interested in remaining open and cosmopolitan in our retreating world might do well to consider.
posted by dame at 6:29 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


my son and I fart shortly after each other and my wife looks at us and says "hygger I jer?"

Haha, that is indeed typical. Like just now I had an unexpected visitor, the brother of one of my aunt's friends who I haven't seen for maybe 30 years. So we spent some time catching up and small-talking and when he left, he said bye, that was skidehyggeligt, literally s***-hyggeligt. Meant as a compliment. Denmark is different.

Jokes aside, brokkr, you must hear it often used in the sense he just said it, as part of saying goodbye, or when someone brings cake to work, that sort of informal soothing and smoothing use.
posted by mumimor at 7:06 AM on November 23, 2016


I'm going to spend a month or two in Denmark next year, and I do have hand-knitted socks, but I need to know how fuzzy a sweater is required for entry.

Fuzzy sweaters aren't required, this isn't Norway we're talking about.
posted by Dysk at 7:31 AM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


No fuzzy sweaters, but an all-black wardrobe with plenty of huge scarves. This is five years old, and some people are wearing a bit more color, but it is still fairly reliable.
posted by mumimor at 7:49 AM on November 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


I actually have that exact scarf from Step 7 in that exact size and color. (My mom made it for me and didn't want to stop knitting)
posted by moonmilk at 8:12 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


No fuzzy sweaters, but an all-black wardrobe with plenty of huge scarves.

So Danes are like Melburnians then?
posted by acb at 8:28 AM on November 23, 2016


So Danes are like Melburnians then?

Good point! I really need to go to Melbourne, because a lot of Melburnians come here, and there seems to be a very good understanding among Danes and Melburnians. I have some friends there too, but it seems to be such a long journey..
posted by mumimor at 8:31 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]



I will say that lighting is pretty important here. I've lived in the US for decades now, and sometimes get frustrated by how unconscious Americans' lighting choices are. Illuminating a room to surgical standards is really only important in the operating room, and prevents intimacy. So if you take only one thing away from all this to-do about hygge, let it be this: be more deliberate about lighting in your home. Have options to go from well-lit, for when accuracy is needed, to soothing, for when connecting is needed. Firelight and candlelight are cliches for a reason. It's amazing what a difference a few tealights can make.


Oh fuck yes. Why the overhead lighting on full tilt Americans?

This is why I say Candlehaven unconsciously when I am on my way to Copenhagen in January. The streets adorned with modest square glass candle holders, the candles in windows, the residential and shop doorways with delicate candles aglow. Tealights even on the breakfast table for the win, something I do years later in sunny Western Australia.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:05 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


some people are wearing a bit more color

Last time I visited the motherland, I wore a red handknitted hat. A small child pointed at me and said "look, look mum!". His mum told him to shush and not point at strangers. I hope Denmark is less scared of red handknitted hats this winter for I am struggling in the black clothes department this time around.

My mum has already said "iiiiih, nu skal vi hygge os!" (lit: wheee, now shall we hygge us!) which means she'll be doing her usual bowl of lørdagshygge (lit: Saturday hygge) - i.e. a metric tonne of homemade candy (which we'll be devouring on a Tuesday).
posted by kariebookish at 9:13 AM on November 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also, I have a halfbaked theory that how you use hygge as a word depends upon where in Denmark you are from.
posted by kariebookish at 9:14 AM on November 23, 2016


> My first exposure to hyggelig was in the brilliant and disturbing novel The Saskiad (Brian Hall, 1996) in which the protagonist's few memories of her absent Danish father include the word "hoogily".

That's it! That's the movie I was trying to think of! But it was a book, not a movie. Thank you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:21 AM on November 23, 2016


Also, I have a halfbaked theory that how you use hygge as a word depends upon where in Denmark you are from.

I'm intrigued to hear it - it totally wouldn't surprise me, but I'm struggling to come up with any differences I've noticed. Then again, my family and friends are almost universally very jydsk.
posted by Dysk at 11:07 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, I have a halfbaked theory that how you use hygge as a word depends upon where in Denmark you are from.

Nah, but there might be a class aspect to the language. Which would be complicated, because there is so much suppression of class issues in Denmark. Maybe people with higher educations and better paying jobs talk less about hygge than other Danes. But that doesn't necessarily mean they value it less. Contrariwise. Hygge comes with a lot of rules, and can be a means of distancing one self from others.
I'm remembering a big workplace party where one of my colleagues got seated at a table with two succesfull outsiders. Later, he described them as being vulgar, which is obviously classist, but when he got into the details, their crime was more that they weren't hyggelige. I know he would have enjoyed an evening sitting between two of our workplace's blue-collar workers regardless of race, if they were hyggelige, but he would never use that wording. Also, the people he didn't like would never use the word hyggelig, because they are aspirational and recognize how upper-class people like my colleague never talks about hygge. But they don't get that hygge still applies. I have a good friend from Jutland who is struggling with this as well - they are a perfectly good person, but seem arrogant because they ignore the law of hygge, and thus doesn't get stuff done. You need to make coffee for your colleagues, even if you are the biggest boss, you need to spend time having hygge with everyone, and you need to say thank you a billion times every day.
On the other hand, some immigrants get it right away - specially British people seem to fall right in, again, regardless of race: Indian-British, Caribbean-British, Chinese-British, all get hygge fast when they are actually here. Maybe that is the basis of all that British fascination and attempt of commodification?
posted by mumimor at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


“In Denmark our basic needs are covered,” Marie Tourell Søderberg told me when she hosted breakfast for me at her apartment – candle flickering, bread straight from the oven. “We don’t need to fight for our survival – and so we have time to do things that we find meaningful.”

This just makes me sigh wistfully.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


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