Let’s address the elephant in the room right out of the gate: how do you pronounce it?! If you've ever been caught saying “higgy” (like my sister, recently) or “hiyga”, you’re not alone. We understand that this is not part of the English language, and Google is sometimes too far out of reach, so let’s settle it once and for all.
“Hoo-gah” or “Hue-gah”
Both will get the job done (though the latter pronunciation is best)! For those who aren’t familiar, the term is, in fact, Danish, originating from the country, Denmark. And yes, I did feel like I needed to say that. Norwegians know a bit about this concept too, but it’s more ingrained in Danish culture.
The concept essentially boils down to “being cozy”, but it is so much more than that. Did you know that Denmark is often rated the happiest country in the world (by, what I imagine to be the happiness police, but I digress)? The reason this is so shocking is mostly because of the less than desired weather conditions in Denmark—think bitter cold and dark for the majority of the calendar year. How do they stay so happy, you ask? Hygge.
Imagine candles, wool blankets, fuzzy socks, puzzles, hot cocoa, fireplaces and a book. Are you thinking of quarantine 2020? It’s actually not too far off from what we’ve all been forced to do this past year. Focus on spending quality time with our family, at home, doing activities that we otherwise are too busy for.
Hygge highlights all we know to be true about finding joy in the little things, but we often forget in the craziness of day to day life. I imagine hygge is a Danish version of meditation—allowing yourself to be truly present in the moment, and bringing all the proverbial good vibes to you.
You’re almost a novice. Let’s continue…
Snuggling up in your pajamas in front of the fire with the sound of rain outside: hygge.
Inviting your close friends over for a home-cooked meal, and a feel-good movie: hygge.
Drinking tea with a book in your hand and savoring a quiet moment with your pup: hygge.
Watering and tending to your plants, or better yet, using some home-grown spices to cook a warm meal at home: hygge.
Building something for your home out of raw materials and even better, with one of your elder relatives who knows how to do such a thing: hygge.
This is nothing revolutionary. Hygge is probably something we already incorporate into our lives, but Danish culture centers around it. Meik Wiking explained in his “The Little Book of Hygge” that it is uncommon for working professionals to schedule a meeting at 4:30 p.m., when they know all too well that their colleagues with school-age children will have to leave soon for school pick-ups. Likewise, it is frowned upon to send an email on night or weekend after hours, and is often indicative of not being able to manage their time well.
Hygge is not just a word, but an entire concept to live by, and in some cases, a verb. Danes explain things as “hyggeligt” and not surprisingly, they are the world’s largest consumers of candles. Unlike their friends down in Amsterdam, it’d be hard to get invited to a huge party in Denmark. Parties are often small, in-home gatherings with wine, charcuterie boards, games and laughter. What do you remember most about any large parties or gatherings you’ve attended? It’s usually centered around your group of friends, no? The Danes have already figured this out.
In this regard, we’re a bit behind the curve, America. We haven’t quite figured out that 80-hour work weeks and music festivals aren’t nearly as fulfilling as some of these times at home. Or maybe there’s a balance that’s just barely out of reach.
Whether you’re just beginning your understanding of Hygge or you’re an advanced expert in joy of simplicity, you can leisurely stroll over to Hygge nestled in a garden on Broughton Street for some delicious tea curated here in Savannah from Hale Tea Co., bring home a cutie Kokedama plant (more on that later), or simply chat with the owner, Cristina, on how she brings elements of Hygge into all her sustainable goodies, for the home, body, and mind.
P.S. I have a personal goal of all locals easily pronouncing hygge. Tourists will be blown away by how happy, and cultured we are in Savannah.
The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking (for stellar pronunciation, I recommend the audio book)