lit­tle lux­u­ries


Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Living - by Neale Whi­taker Neale Whi­taker is ed­i­tor-in-chief of Vogue Liv­ing.

The Danes, ap­par­ently, are the hap­pi­est peo­ple in the world, and they will tell you it’s all down to hygge. It’s a word I guar­an­tee you will be hear­ing again and again… and then some. Let’s start with the pro­nun­ci­a­tion. It’s “hoo-gah”. And that’s the easy bit; defin­ing hygge is the tricky part. It’s var­i­ously trans­lated as “cosy”, “snug” – even “fun” – but it’s far more than the sum of its parts. It’s the warm glow that comes from ev­ery­day rit­u­als, like the smell of fresh-baked bread, pat­ting the dog, din­ner with friends. Above all, it’s an at­ti­tude – a na­tional ob­ses­sion even.

But it seems if you re­ally want to un­der­stand hygge, ask a Brit. The UK has gone hyggelig (that’s the ad­jec­tive) crazy in the past 12 months. Nine books on the sub­ject were pub­lished in the UK in 2016 and Bri­tish stores are re­plete with snug­gle­some blan­kets, fake-fur throws and can­dles, can­dles, can­dles.

It strikes me that when Mary Don­ald­son mar­ried into the Dan­ish royal fam­ily, mastering the lan­guage and pro­to­col wasn’t her only chal­lenge. She had to get to grips with the com­plex­i­ties of hygge, an elu­sive cockle-warm­ing that equals steam­ing mugs of co­coa and heart-shaped cook­ies at its most be­nign, and a strange form of na­tional Val­ium at the other ex­treme.

Copen­hagen-based Aus­tralian writer Jeni Porter says: “Hygge is the best way to fight the gloom of a long Dan­ish win­ter, but it’s more about peo­ple mak­ing a con­scious ef­fort to have a good time to­gether. It’s res­onat­ing be­cause peo­ple are seek­ing a more au­then­tic way of liv­ing as a path to a greater sense of well­be­ing.”

Anne Weisz Mortensen, the Dan­ish­born mar­ket­ing man­ager for lo­cal fur­ni­ture re­tailer Cult, agrees: “It’s en­joy­ing the sim­ple things. Hygge is an in­te­gral part of Dan­ish cul­ture, but in Aus­tralia this could be a morn­ing cof­fee rit­ual or ad­mir­ing the ocean view at the beach.”

So hygge can travel. It tran­scends sea­sons and hemi­spheres. The books of Syd­ney stylist Ja­son Grant, for ex­am­ple, with their em­brace of laid-back, sur­fie hip­s­ter­dom, rep­re­sent a cu­ri­ously Aussie form of hygge. Sub­sti­tute Hava­ianas for knit­ted socks.

Be warned, how­ever. Check­ing emails and Face­book are dis­tinctly uhygge (that’s un-hygge to you and me), and let’s not men­tion the lack of toasted marsh­mal­lows in those dark Dan­ish TV crime se­ries. It’s com­pli­cated.

COM­FORT AND JOY Rev­el­ling in sim­ple plea­sures such as fam­ily meals, break­fast in bed, a cosy nook and aro­matic can­dles are at the heart of hygge.

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