Finding Hygge in Copenhagen

Thanks to the crazy low prices of Norwegian Airlines we decided to start our new life in Paris by way of Scandinavia, ending in what was by far our favorite place of the lot – Copenhagen. If there’s one thing to take away from the Kingdom of Denmark and it’s awesome capital of København (other than Smørrebrød in your stomach) it is some good ole’ fashioned Hygge. It sounds like an exotic blend of coffee roast or some other warm beverage that’s the best part of waking up and actually that’s not too far from the truth.

A wonderful life lesson embodied in a single un-translatable word with a meaning of something akin to cheerfulcozygoodacceptingwarmsocialatmosphere (one word), hygge is probably the number one reason the Danish keep getting voted as some of the happiest humans on Earth every year. Though free healthcare, 52-weeks of paternity leave and free college tuition for all doesn’t hurt either.

Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’ (imagine the sound of an old cartoon car horn and you’ve pretty much got it), hygge was introduced to us by our wonderful Copenhagen Free Walking Tour guide Laura, who upon passing by the canals of Nyhavn said that if we wanted to experience the city like a local the best way to do so would be to buy a beer from a nearby grocery store and take a seat with some friends along the wooded quayside, relax, talk and watch all the tourists dine at the exorbitantly priced restaurants that line the street. That’s hygge, Laura told us.

How does one experience hygge? I’m no expert but it seems being warm helps. So does being in the company of people you’re so comfortable with that even the longest of silences doesn’t feel awkward. Eating Danish sausages. Anything and everything having to do with Christmas. Also, if you’re surrounded by candles you are probably all up in the hoog.

On her insightful blog the psychologist Alice Haddon might put it best by calling hygge “the complete absence of anything annoying, irritating or emotionally overwhelming, and the presence of and pleasure from comforting, gentle and soothing things.” For Laura the Tour Guide, it’s about hanging out with friends along the Nyhavn quayside. For me, I imagine swaying in a hammock with Mel on a sunny beach with nothing pressing to do other than take a nap is about as hygge as it gets.

If our time spent traveling is meant to be anything it is an encapsulation of our efforts to find hygge, and learning about it on our visit to Copenhagen seems like a befitting way to start.