A lesson in hygge, straight from the mouths of Danes.

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The Danish concept of “hygge” has been popping up more and more lately on our side of the world. To find out more about it, we talked to five Danish 20-somethings who have spent the last few months in New Zealand. We asked them to explain what hygge means, to give examples and to tell us if they think Kiwis do it well too.

Explain hygge – what does it mean to you? What are the benefits?

“It’s not like it’s anything special. Maybe it’s just because we have a definition for it. But I would say that hygge is basically hanging out, normally  in smaller groups. Though you actually are able to hygge all by yourself: have a book, sit under a blanket with a cup of tea and listen to some good music, while it’s raining outside. That kind of feeling is hygge. Basically a commercial for Coca Cola. The benefit is that you almost can’t be too lazy to hygge, because you don’t have to do anything.” – Louis 

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Image and merino hats courtesy of Bean Sprout.  #FirebyEscea

I think “hygge” is a feeling rather than something concrete. In order to have “hygge” you need to be relaxed and feel peaceful. – Camilla

“Hygge to me is a state of mind (collectively if I’m with other people) where you feel at peace. The stress of the daily life are pushed back for a while and you can just sit and enjoy being in the moment. You could also describe it as being content.” – Helene

Can you give me examples of how you/ your friends and family experience hygge?

“Normally I don’t invite people over to dinner, I invite them over so we can make it together. Sometimes that’s actually the most hyggelige part of the evening. The idea I guess is simply to spend some time together. Doesn’t matter whether it’s to see a movie or it’s just to talk. It doesn’t that much what it is, though it is usually used when you kind of chilling. Like a football match won’t be hygge, even though you spend time together.” – Louis

“I think it’s slightly more descriptive of ‘slow’ things. Things I might consider as hygge could be: reading a book for pleasure, watching a movie at home with the family. A vacation can be hygge as well. If you go off to a small cabin near the sea, with no intentions of doing much except relax, grill some food and nip at some wine. In short I would say hygge occurs when you have little that you need to do, but take pleasure in the relaxing things you decide to do, or the people you’re with.” – Daniel

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How do we experience it here in NZ (but may not realise we are doing it?)

I think “hygge” takes place a lot of places even though you don’t have a word for it. It could be as simple as going out for a pizza with friends because you don’t feel like cooking on a Friday evening. – Camilla

“I have yet to experience it. For me to feel hygge the atmosphere has to be calm and relaxed (not lazy) and New Zealanders just talk too much!” – Helene

“I think you have hygge here. When you are with people you can relax around (like your family) and you don’t have things you are supposed to do, so you just treat yourselves to some sweets, some tea, or a glass of wine, while watching a movie, sitting in the yard or something similar, that is hygge.” – Daniel

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