18 January 2017

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Danish word 'hygge' has recently been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). When all around us seems out of control, and we're dealing with political uncertainty and the constant 'noise' of our online lives, it seems only natural that many of us would seek an antidote.

The Danish philosophy of hygge — pronounced H(Y)OO-guh or HOOG-uh to rhyme with sugar — fits the bill perfectly. Described by the OED as a “quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”, it paints a picture of the world in which everything is calm and peaceful, and everyone is happy. There’s an emphasis on spending time with family and friends, of eating good, hearty food (especially cake), imbibing hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, mulled wine), reading great books and creating a snug home filled with candles and comfy textiles — a roaring fire helps, too.

Here in the UK, the concept is not necessarily an unfamiliar one — we’ve been practising this for centuries, even if we don’t have a specific word for it. Here are our top five examples of how the British do hygge.

1. Going to the pub

Who hasn’t felt a sense of hygge in the warm confines of an inn on a cold and stormy day? Is there anything better than hunkering down in a wing-backed chair by an open roaring fire, a pint of ale in hand, whiling away the hours reading the papers, playing a board game with loved ones or catching up with friends you haven’t seen in ages?

2. Heading out for a walk

Ah, that classic Sunday morning ritual - a leisurely stroll in the countryside, rugged up against the elements, with your four-legged companion by your side and the promise of a visit to the pub at the end of your walk. It's a quintessentially British hygge experience. Just don’t forget your wellies.

people walking

3. Enjoying a “full English”

There’s something peculiarly British — and hygge — about tucking into a hearty cooked breakfast. Somehow the food tastes better when you’ve got the time to linger over a bottomless cup of freshly brewed coffee or pot of breakfast tea, too. And if you’ve no real plans for the rest of the day, who cares? It’s all about living in the moment — and trying not to drip baked beans down your front. 

4. Feasting on a Sunday roast

It’s almost impossible to top the sense of comfort and well-being that ensues when you sit down to a traditional Sunday roast, while the rain pitter-patters against the misted-up windows and you know there’s nowhere else you need to be. It’s even better if you indulge in a bumper serving of sticky toffee pudding for afters. Well, why not?

roast chicken

5. Unwinding with a glass of wine

A cold winter’s day and a glass of mulled wine go together, hand in glove. And there’s joy to be had in the simple act of sharing a bottle of wine with friends, catching up on the latest gossip and letting the hours run away with you. Who says us Brits can’t do hygge?

  • The Little Book of Hygge

  • Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That's down to one thing: hygge.

    'Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight...'

    You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

    Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

    Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.

  • Buy the book

Related articles