Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Life: Finding Hygge - 5 Tips For Cynical Londoners

Hygge (pron. "hoo-gah") is definitely this autumn's buzzword. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this pronunciation-challenge on the internet and in the real world. The Danes may be au fait with this concept, relying it on for years gone by to get them through the cold, dark winter months and to make them, despite six-month winters and worse weather than the UK, the happiest nation in the world according to years of UN studies.

When I first read about Hygge I was sceptical. Was it just a new way to sell me things I don't need? A ploy to make me finally light my £60 Diptyque candle? Or just small talk of cosy blankets, cable knits and bowls of steaming soup but without any substance that I could usefully bring to my own life? Against a backdrop of the uncertain later days of 2016, the darkening nights and my social interaction consisting mostly of WhatsApp, could Hygge, in any small way, help me?

Hygge tips for londoners

At Stylist Live I attended the Helen Russell's talk about living more "Danishly" which inspired her book, The Year Of Living Danishly. Having visited Denmark in the summer, I fell in love with the Danes' friendly, laid back attitudes, how a Danish man laughed at my suggestion of chaining up my borrowed bike and how even the children at Legoland seemed more pleasant than their UK counterparts.

Helen shared her insights into a life as Brit in Denmark - how Danes finish work at 3pm, leave their babies sleeping outside cafes and cycle in groups wearing matching Lycra. Now, London isn't rural Juttland and in the social, political and professional spheres the UK is very different to our not-so-far-away Scandinavian neighbour. But, as a cynical, winter-hating Londoner, I now think I can bring some much-needed Hygee into my life this winter even without leaving work at 3pm or wearing any Lycra (matching or otherwise).

Five Hygge-boosting resolutions for the cynical:

1. Treat yourself - Danes live life without denial. I will stop saving half of my wardrobe "for best", start using my Mac lipsticks and if I really want a steaming take-out cup of hot chocolate I'll have one. If our pastries were as good as they are in Denmark, I'd have one of those too. Oh, and I'll light that £60 candle while I'm at it.

2. Be kinder - Hygge is all about being kinder to ourselves, so I'll let myself have one chocolate without it turning into an oh-fuck-it-might-as-well-eat-the-whole-box-and-then-a-family-sized-bag-of-crisps-too. Spread kindness to others, Londoners are thought of as being hard-hearted (because we mostly are!) but holding open a door here, smiling at a stranger there, putting your change in the coffee shop tip jar - little things add up.

3. Play - Danes prioritise play at all ages. As an adult it's easy to forget to play when life often feels a bit "work hard / slump in a heap". I'm definitely signing up for a circus skills class and if active play isn't for you then break out the board games (Drink Shop & Do have a good supply as well as cake) because it's harder to moan about tube strikes and house prices while trying to get a triple word score in Scrabble.

4. Home aesthetics - Danes love their interior design and spent time and money making their homes just so. A beautiful home is a happy home - pleasing design releases dopamine in the brain's reward centre, exercise releases it too but working on your home aesthetic is less sweaty. I'm resolving to finally get a frame for my Chanel poster, to put my pictures on the walls and to clear out the crap one rainy afternoon to make my studio flat feel cosy rather than cramped.

5. Connect - it's easy to feel lonely despite being surrounded by people but at least we have the constant buzz of WhatsApp group chat notifications ("Hen Do!" "Wedding Chat" "Birthday Drinks!") to keep us sane. Or not. For me, the key to "Hygge"is about making connections with others, not cosily watching Netflix under a blanket and saying "look how Hygge I am!". Make a date to actually see your friends, whether it be a quick coffee catch-up, a post work drink (or six) or y'know, just invite them round to your Danishly beautiful home for a good old-fashioned chat and maybe a board game while you're at it.



  1. Oh I love this and the little anecdotes from your trip to Denmark. I really hope to visit at some point! I've actually never heard of Hygge but I LOVE the idea of it - finding pleasure in the simple things is definitely what we need to do to make the darker Winter days better!

  2. I love this concept. Love it.
    But £60 for a candle? Don't be silly!

  3. I don't normally listen to it, but the weekend women's hour had a discussion about it last week (Lauren Laverne presents it)- they had a Danish person on there, and it was very interesting indeed- more of a concept and not really with a direct translation. I think the work/life balance was one thing I took away from it.


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