Hygge: What you need to know
Luisa Thomsen Brits, a writer and journalist focusing on hygge, defines it as the pleasure of simply being—having less, enjoying more, and remembering how important the act of simply living is.
- It’s more than just a word—it’s an integral part of Danish culture that first appeared in writing in the 18th century
- Contrary to what you might think, the word actually has Old Norwegian roots, where it originated from the idea of wellbeing (Jeppe Linnet, an anthropologist dedicated to researching hygge, will show you how to properly pronounce the term)
- The cultural concept was born with the introduction of the Danish welfare system (also known as the Scandinavian welfare model, designed to provide equal rights and access to healthcare and education for all citizens)—which also placed great emphasis on family and home values
- In today’s fast-paced world, hygge reminds us to slow down, rethink our work-life balance, and be more mindful in our daily activities
Hygge around the world: A Danish word, a universal concept
As unique as we are (or think we are), when we examine language and its functionality, we see that in many ways our cultures are very similar; that relaxation, peace, and a desire for balance are universal values we all cherish. So, ideas that branch off the same ‘hygge’ tree can be found in many languages and cultures all over the world.
In German, gemütlichkeit describes a feeling of cosiness, with emphasis on the feeling of social belonging. The Swedish mys and fredagsmys might often be heard in reference to recharging with junk food on a Friday night. Gezelligheid is the Dutch word for time spent having fun with people whose company you enjoy. And the Japanese wabi sabi refers to deriving enjoyment from and appreciating the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete nature of life itself.
Mindful travels: Travel planning and inspiration with hygge in mind
It’s true that our current restrictions don’t favour travelling, but who says we can’t use this time to plan for our future trips with a hygge attitude?
Jump into your comfiest clothes, prepare a mug of hot cocoa, and light the fireplace (or your favourite candles). Unwind, turn off social media, and let’s explore some ways to make your travels more mindful. For extra hygge points, try baking some streusel-topped maple carrot muffins to go with your tea, or make a mug of homemade mulled wine.
6 simple ways to add hygge to your travels
1. Slow down and take it easy (instead of loading up on checklists and must-sees)
Travelling slowly allows you to form a stronger connection with the places you visit. Wherever you are, don’t forget to pause and take time to marvel over the beauty of the landscape, or simply enjoy a coffee. The Swedish concept of fika refers to a coffee break as a social experience to be cherished, and makes you realize drinking your way to hygge can be both simple and delicious.
The buffet at Chalet Monte Cristo offers incredible views of nature come snow or shine.
2. Be Present
The main idea behind hygge is centred on making an effort to see the everyday as a special celebration. That rule applies for travel, too. Try focusing more on mindful experiences: pay attention to the atmosphere of the cafes you visit; don’t just eat your food, but really taste it; observe the locals as you pass them by through the city, and absorb every detail that catches your attention.
3. Go wild, and reconnect with nature
Connecting with nature is a crucial element of hygge. Whether you’re treading your favourite bike trail, on a morning hike, roaming botanic gardens or simmering down in a hot tub overlooking the mountains, remember to take a breath and appreciate the moment.
4. Socialise (distantly, if necessary)
Hygge encourages togetherness in travel, be it intimately with friends and family, or through making new connections with locals. But you don’t have to change your whole personality to suddenly be more social—you can account for the togetherness of hygge in your travels by creating memories that you can revive at a later date, by sharing with others or reminiscing on a cosy evening by the fireplace.
5. Get comfortable on the road
Feeling comfortable while you travel can only make the journey better, so choose comfortable clothes and your favourite means of transportation whenever possible. Prepare your favourite snacks, put your headphones on, and watch the world as you move through it.
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6. Indulge in self-care, hygge style
Who knew massages, facials, and a trip to the sauna could be so hygge? Scandinavian culture has perfected the spa concept, and it’s one of the pillars of hygge. Luckily, most hotels are equipped with spas and related facilities, but if you don’t have access to all the amenities, there are ways to stay hygge-conscious. Just pack your bath salts, electric candles, and a portable speaker to connect to your favourite jazz or piano music, and relax in your hotel bathroom.
Bring hygge with you, wherever you are
Though the world has been forced to adopt the hygge practice of slowing down, the urge to travel lives on in each of us. Whether you’re travelling already, or you’re planning and dreaming of future trips, you might see that being mindful of hygge along the way will level up your experience. Choose hotels and practices that help you live in the moment, unwind and recharge.
More than a time or place – how to reach hygge no matter the weather
Many people think a hygge lifestyle is expensive and as complicated as the pronunciation of the word itself. At the heart of hygge is presence—physically and mentally living in the now, appreciating your surroundings and the people there.
The concept of hygge originated in a region where winter nights are long and days are chilly, which is why we often link hygge with warm socks, woollen jumpers, and hot drinks. But that doesn’t mean your hygge lifestyle is on hold in the warmer months. It’s much more a feeling rather than a place or a season. Nothing is stopping you from enjoying a hygge evening in a palm tree clad, pool-side resort in Spain.
In the words of Jeppe Trolle Linnet, “With hygge, we can build a bubble where time stands still and we can feel safe.”
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