Hygge is a Danish word that is becoming more and more popular these days. According to this site, it means: “a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, everyday things more meaningful, beautiful or special.”
It’s quite similar to the Dutch words gezelligheid which can’t really be translated but it’s about a (positive) atmosphere a place, a person or a situation exudes. Apparently, the Swedish have something similar called mys, which has the same sentiment.
Of course, Northern Europeans should know how what to do when times get tough. Scandinavian winters, I’m told, are not the easiest, and here in the Netherlands the humid cold just creeps in everywhere.
At its core, hygge is all about creating small moments that matter, and by that, aren’t that different from ideas such as mindfulness.
But somehow, I can’t be bothered to hygge up my life. I’m not feeling particularly hygge-ly at this moment (if that’s not a word, then it is now). The weather is terrible, I have a cold and my head hurts as if someone hit me with a hammer.
My husband says that like most Polish people, I’m a fatalist. To use the glass analogy, a fatalist thinks the water in the glass is poisoned and there is nothing they can do about it. I’m not like that. I’m just annoyed that not everyone has a glass and why there isn’t enough water in everyone’s glasses. I guess you could call me an idealist. My husband says my high expectations make me unhappy but that’s another story.
What bothers me about hygge and similar concepts is that they have a certain fake-it-till-you-make-it quality. You’re not allowed to be miserable. You have to improve yourself and do something about your situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate good cup of tea or hot chocolate. Watching a TV series with my husband is one of my favorite things to do. These things are as hygge as you can get.
But I see nothing wrong with wanting winter to be over already. In fact, I think there is nothing wrong with wanting things to be over already.
I’m feeling grumpy, to be honest.
There is nothing like making someone feel grumpy than to tell someone to cheer up, which I feel is exactly what hygge is all about. Don’t be sad, just be more mindful, engage in some hygge and everything will be gezellig.
Right. I am not buying it.
In the book “Overwhelmed” Birgit Schulte describes her trip to Denmark to figure out what the happiest people in the world do right. She talks about a group of friends who meet every week for dinner. They get all the hygge going: they light candles, they prepare the table. They make everything look beautiful. And then they serve the food: spaghetti with ketchup.
Now I have nothing against spaghetti with ketchup but I think it should be seen for what it really is: a meal known as “I didn’t have the time to cook tonight.” Which is perfectly fine, of course! I just personally think this doesn’t make sense. I wouldn’t care about the candles. Hell, knowing how clumsy I am, I would have put the whole house on fire. I have nothing against food being served on paper plates and or a messy house. But I do care about the food. Moreover, if you prepare the table nicely, your guests’ expectations about the food will rise accordingly.
Spaghetti with ketchup is perfectly fine on plastic plates but a terrible disappointment when served on a nicely set table. My preference would be to pour all my creativity and most importantly, my energy and time, into making the important stuff, which is food.
The idea of gezelligheid is also problematic to an introvert like me because it includes other people by default. And people, especially during winter time, are not my favorite animals. Dragons, on the other hand, are perfectly acceptable company.
Mostly, my problem with hygge and similar concepts is that sometimes I like being miserable. Maybe it’s what’s left of my Polishness because we do love to complain and commiserate. When you ask a Polish person “How are you,” they will tell you the truth: their dog died, they got fired from their job. The real stuff. No “I’m fine, thank you.” No “Let’s set the table nicely and eat spaghetti with ketchup.” Just the truth: Winter is coming and the night is dark and full of terror.
Sometimes, all it takes to make things better is to look for the small moments that matter. Sometimes a little hygge can help make our days brighter. But sometimes, it just won’t change anything at all.