Understanding Hygge

A while back I read a book about Hygge (The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking) and I thought I understood what they tried to express through this word. Little did I know, that you can only understand the meaning by seeing how these people live and experience a little bit of hygge yourself.


1. Return to natural elements

Whether you are visiting a store, a hotel, the homes of the Danish people or the restaurants you will always get to see the most amazing pieces of furniture. Most of them are old and from massive wood, but in great condition. Plastic is definitely not fantastic and while being in Copenhagen I haven’t seen much of it being used. Most of the people would bring their own bags in the supermarket and most of those were from fabric, not plastic. Iron pieces are almost always combined with wood so that the atmosphere is not a cold one. Natural wax is used for candles and their clothing is made from wool.

The fact that is very cold during winter makes them turn to the softer elements. Their respect for nature is a huge one and we should all learn from them. The hygge pieces are the ones that are made from natural elements.

2. Relax and enjoy the moment

Perhaps the most defining hygge moment is the one when people get together and relax. While in restaurants eating or grabbing a beer on a terrace, the atmosphere is a relaxed one and they are truly enjoying the present, without letting stress interfere with it. Watching the Danish people riding their bicycles is a pleasure, since they look so at peace with themselves, never rushing.

3. Read and learn

Books are everywhere in Copenhagen, from bars to libraries you can enjoy a cup of coffee while reading a good book. Learning is part of the Danish culture and just watching them browse through the shelves of the library makes you see and feel the hygge.


4. Eat well

I eat at a lot of places in Copenhagen, from nice bars on the Nyhavn street, to open buffet in the city center, to the street food hot dog. Yet everywhere I ate the food was amazing, the taste was great and the composition was always made from fresh items. It wasn’t very processed and it tasted like it was made by gods. If there is anything that the Danish people treasure is what they eat and how it was made. The fast-food big chains are avoided and the people that eat there are usually the tourists since, for the local people, food has to be hygge, which here would be translated into great taste and high quality.

Since the prices for eating out are high, most Danish people cook at home, which would make it even more hygge since it was made with love. If you find yourself in this amazing place, enjoy the food, it’s possible it will be one of the best you’ve ever had.


5. Have a coffee

While in Copenhagen you will get to see a lot of coffee shops and all day long you will see people holding a to-go coffee cup. Maybe it is because of the cold weather or because they just love it, but coffee is extremely popular among the Danish people. Since I am also a coffee addict, you can imagine that I felt like home among others like myself.

6. Lights on

While walking in the city during the evening, what I’ve seen is that most of the Danish people keep the lights on, it is the same in the bars and restaurants. They are not big fans of curtains so you would get to see into their houses, mostly because on every window you would see a lamp on. In the northern countries, during winter they only get around 6h of natural light and that is why they want to surround themselves with light.

7. Candles and warm lights

Probably the word hygge is better described by the candles and the lovely atmosphere they create. In every bar, restaurant, pub, store or house you will get to see candles. As soon as the sun sets all of them are light up, creating a very intimate and homely atmosphere.

During the evening and night, all the places are light-up in an orange, warm light, either from candles or from yellow light bulbs. The very powerful white lights are nowhere to be seen in Denmark, and maybe this is a good thing, ’cause everything looks better in the twilight.


8. Riding a bicycle

The most used way of transport is the bicycle, everywhere you go and whatever the temperature it is, you would get to see people riding within the city. With kids, or with a bag from the supermarket, the Danish people love to use their bicycles. Either painted in vivid colors, with small baskets in front, or the very simple ones, you cannot stop staring at the huge amount of people who use them. Even if the streets are also filled with cars, more and more people give up driving and start riding with the busy streets of the city.

Copenhagen is the most bicycle-friendly city in the word and it also has one of the best air to breath, coincidence? Don’t think so!

9. Protect nature

For the Danish people, hygge also means to live beautifully in harmony with nature. This is why you would get to see them give up comfort to ride a bike, shop vintage, reuse bags, and try to avoid plastic. It is not perfect, you can still see plastic thrown away on the streets, but I have a hunch that isn’t always from the locals, but from foreigners visiting.


10. Be humble

If there was something that I wasn’t able to see in Denmark that was people looking down on others. Their attitude is a very humble and relaxed one, you can ask anyone for help and they will do their best to do it. Even on the busy streets of the city, the people rushing would never be aggressive or angry. Hippies and businessmen all together in the same pub, sometimes even at the same table, living in harmony.

11. Comfort comes first

Many of us give up comfort in order to look good, but this is not very hygge, so you won’t see this often in Denmark. For them, it is important to feel good, to be able to enjoy present, to ride the bike, to get from one place to another, therefore most of their looks are composed of very quality, natural fabrics as wool and cotton. Black pants and neutral colors for the sweaters, they are not trying to stand out using clothes but rather their presence. Clearly, the harsh weather was one of the factors, but it’s very reassuring to see that they don’t care about how one is dressed. Yet this doesn’t mean that their style is a sloppy one, far from it, all of their clothes scream quality and fit them beautifully, but it a laid back manner.

12. Gorgeous women

Whoever said that the Barbie doll look is a goal impossible to reach, clearly has never been to Denmark. Tall, with gorgeous features and with a slim figure, most of the women that I’ve seen in Copenhagen look as if they were taken off the runway. With childish features and a very warm and pleasant attitude, it’s hard not to love them, without even knowing them.

Perhaps it was because I visited the US and right after returning I left for Copenhagen that the impact was big. There is no comparison between the two places, it is as if they are from 2 different worlds. Even if the weather will never determine me to move there, I have to say that I understand why they are protecting their hygge and why they don’t want globalization to change their lifestyle.

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