This winter, hygge emerged as the most divisive cultural phenomenon to hit the world since that blue and black dress. Or was it white and gold? In the second episode of our podcast (iTunes; Soundcloud), The Rough Guide to Everywhere, we get to the bottom of what it’s actually about.
In case you’ve been living in a cave (probably unknowingly having quite a hyggelig time while you’re at it), hygge is the Scandi word that translates to being comfortable, content and – paradoxically – antisocial amongst friends. It is a spiritual turning inwards, or a literal turning towards the nearest candle; a concept casually applied by Danes for decades before the rest of the world caught wind last year.
Lovers have flocked to the shops to buy handsome books, thick woolly socks and as much cocoa as they can get their cashmere mitts on. Haters claim that the concept has been exploited by publishers and clothing companies in a cynical bid to sell more stuff.
So, just before hygge reaches ultimate saturation point, we decided to talk to the global spokesman for hygge, CEO of the Institute of the Happiness Research Institute, Meik Wiking, to settle the score.
Before you listen to our podcast, here are 5 things you need to know about hygge to get you up to speed.
1. It rhymes with “cougar”
“Higgy”, “herger”, “hig” are all wrong.
It’s “hoo-gah”, people.
2. It’s not new
The word hygge has been part of the Danish language since the early 1800s, when the word first appears in written records. Meaning it took the rest of the world a mere two hundred years to catch on.
3. It was the 2016 Word of the Year
Every year, Collins English Dictionary publishes a list of the ten most popular new words and expressions of the year, and hygge made the cut. The 2016 list also included the words “Trumpism”, “Brexit”and “uberization”.
4. But some people think it’s an over-hyped trend
After a swathe of articles and magazine pieces on hygge, the press quickly turned on hygge, calling it “overhyped”, “a conspiracy” and one article even went so far as to brutally proclaim “Hygge Is Byllshytte”.
5 Hygge’s not just for winter
In our podcast interview with hygge spokesman, Meik Wiking, he explains that Danes embrace hygge throughout the year. Sitting outside a café in Copenhagen, supping a beer in the July sunshine – it turns out that’s hygge too.