Today, Twitter started tweeting tweets at me saying stuff like, ‘The hygge backlash has begun’ and ‘Smug Danes’. Twitter does this sometimes, and I cannot help but look because, well, curiosity. And so I discovered that someone from Time Out has written an article called Hygge is a waste of London.
There is a love of the media darling, the ‘It thing’, the next big deal. So something gets built up, then expands out of proportion, then elevated further until it’s a shadow of its former self. A bit like an X Factor winner propelled into a media meat chopper. And then, with great aplomb, this big deal is dropped from such a great height that the size of the resulting splatter completely obscures the original sentiment or ambition. And this is what is happening to poor hygge.
Well, I’ve had enough.
It shouldn’t be me writing this post. I currently have a book to sell, called ScandiKitchen Fika & Hygge. And look, there’s the offensive little word right in the title. I know a lot about it because I come from the land of hygge. On the day I pitched my book, I was told to think about using a different word to hygge, because nobody in the UK would understand what it means. Little did we know that a year and a bit later, there would be 20-odd books on the shelves directing people in how to tidy their house and how to light their bedsits in the most efficient hygge fashion.
The problem is, hygge really isn’t about being smug under loads of blankets. It was never about death by a thousand candles or cosiness. Hygge also isn’t mindfulness. It won’t make you happy if you chase it, it won’t make you into a blond Scandinavian, and it certainly won’t make you suddenly rich or stylish. Hygge is nothing like it is being portrayed right now. This hygge train is charging ahead in the wrong direction – can we please stop?
Here are my thoughts about hygge (as detailed in my book. Did I mention I have a book out? Buy it. It’s about hygge. And bloody brilliant cakes.):
- Hygge is that feeling you have when you forget about time for a bit. You relax your shoulders. You forget about tomorrow’s deadline and just take a tiny bit of time to live in the moment with whoever you are with (usually nice people, because who can forget about time when you’re surrounded by idiots?). Sometimes there’s food. Sometimes the telly is on. Quite often there’s wine. Sometimes candles – sometimes not. Sometimes sun, sometimes darkness, sometimes rain. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing.
- Hygge doesn’t care about where you live. A shared flat in Dalston with no living room or fireplace? Three days’ worth of washing up in the sink? If you can relax around dirty pots, then that’s your hygge. I can absolutely forget about the two loads of washing in the basket if it means I get to sit down and play boardgames after school with my kids whilst we eat a whole packet of biscuits. From Aldi, because we don’t need expensively hygge biscuits in my house. If any hygge guide is telling you to spend huge sums of cash on certain things, don’t pay any attention. Hygge doesn’t exist in brands or labels.
- There’s no single way to achieve hygge, and I wish people who say there is would just stop it. Hygge is not about Scandi jumpers and socks with mock Viking patterns on them. If you’re feeling at your wits’ end and you light a candle with the word ‘hygge’ on it and a stink of artificial pine engulfs you, will it make you happy and hyggeligt? If it does, then good for you. If it doesn’t, then that’s fine too. Your hygge is your own.
- The Scandi smugness that a few papers have mentioned isn’t real either. Scandinavians aren’t smug. I think I’m right in saying that we are generally calmer than Londoners, but do not confuse this with being smug. Do, however, interpret this as us saying, ‘What on earth are you doing trying to chase something that can only be found when you stop running?’ Or asking, ‘Why do you voluntarily stand in line for four hours to eat a burger made out of roast hipster cow and pay £20 for the joy of being a gullible idiot?’ If that is smugness, then I’m pretty sure most Brits who don’t do these things will join in with this smugness.
So, for the love of Thor and Freya, calm down and stop abusing our nice word. Stop attempting to create a new level of nonsense using a Danish concept that you can just throw away afterwards. Hygge is right here, inside you, where it has always been. You’ve been too London busy to feel it.
Do you know who is really good at hygge? Like, really good at it? The British. Down a nice pub, sitting down, talking around the table and taking time out. You’ve been doing hygge all along. And when you think about it like that, hygge suddenly makes sense. That is where it is and that is what it means, inside the space where you feel happy. If it isn’t the pub, it might be a café, your kitchen, a bedsit, a mansion or a tent in a field: hygge is always inside you. It’s holding hands, it’s walking along the South Bank with someone you’re falling in love with. It’s that last drink at Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers Street with your best mate. And yes, it can even be Netflix and chill. So stop chasing hygge through stress and unattainable ideals. Stop branding hygge.
Just feel hygge – it’s been there all along, and it’s definitely part of London, and part of you.
Photo by Roberto Trombetta via Flickr