Henceforth 2016 will be known as the year the world went mad (Brexit, Harambe, Trump) it also seems it was the year the rest of the world discovered Denmark. January 2016 we realised that the Danes were an extremely happy Bunch. Officially the happiest bunch in the world. This isn’t anything new, they’ve been top of the charts as the happiest nation for 40 years. The rise of the Hygge-ster and obsession with all things Hygge is annoying and ridiculous as a) most of us can’t pronounce it and b) it’s a Norwegian word not Danish c) we are totally missing the point.
The term has become synonymous with excessive candles and tepid Starbucks Gingerbread Lattes when in actual face we are missing the point altogether. Trying to ‘get Hygge’ through the medium of blankets, slippers and candlelight misses the point entirely – Danish society is fundamentally different from ours.
One key difference is gender equality. Along with the other Scandinavian countries they have the smallest gender equality gap. They also have a fantastic schooling system, better work-life balance, fantastic childcare and a really solid national identity steeped in tradition, architecture and interior design. These are the things as a nation we are really craving in such a turbulent time – equality, togetherness and family.
The average Norwegians spend more than any other nation in the world on home decor, improvement and furnishing this isn’t a piece of flatpack furniture they picked up at IKEA. Their homes are significantly more affordable, their wages so much higher that they don’t need to implement a minimum wage, their living spaces are so well insulated they could probably survive another ice age! There are some key differences in our everyday fabric that just aren’t comparable for the majority.
The winter months for many is more about togetherness, family and really appreciating the little things. We won’t be able to find our ‘Hygge’ if all we are prepared to do is light a few candles and eat some cinnamon buns. The reality is there need to be some fundamental and significant changes in our attitude to life that would need to change for us to get that warm fuzzy feeling. We should be focussing on the deeper meaning.
My sincerest hope is that we don’t become a nation of fantastical Hygge-sters chasing the dream of a simpler, happier life through material possessions but that we truly make steps to change. We need better wealth distribution, equal pay, better childcare and mental health support. We need to draw our friends and family closer and offer kindness to complete strangers because if 2016 is anything to go by we have some tough, divisive and possibly unpleasant times ahead of us. To be better, to feel better and make life better for the future generations we should focus less on the inward facing, materialistic definition of Hygge and think more about what got the Danes to where they are now.