Photo: Daniel Rasmussen
Photo: Daniel Rasmussen


Hygge – defining the undefinable

Coffee breaks? Candlelight? Being a nice person? What exactly defines hygge? The answer it seems, can be as tricky as the question.

Selling products to new markets is a tricky task at the best of times, but selling a concept is another matter altogether. It helps however, if it’s part of the “national DNA” and something as pleasant as hygge.

Ask any marketer and the chances are they will tell you that the best form of promotion is word of mouth – and the Danes love to talk hygge.Photo: Rasmus Flindt Pedersen

“It’s not a new movement or a trend, but it just feels that it’s the right kind of message for the world right now. We’re exporting Danish values and virtues,”says VisitDenmark’s Louise Ramsing Jensen. “More and more, we’re seeing that people are interested in learning and hearing more about hygge and wondering how they can incorporate it into their lives and of course we wish for people to experience it first-hand.

Documentary on the way

A new documentary coming out in the spring called Finding Hygge should help spread the message, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

The seeds for the film, produced by American production company 12 Stars Media were sown in 2016. During a trip to Copenhagen they noticed major cultural differences between Denmark and the United States. The pace of life appeared much slower and more relaxed. How Danes spent their time together was a marked difference from Americans. They learned the Danish word "hygge", which explained some of the cultural differences.

One of the challenges in spreading the message behind the hygge concept is getting people to actually understand just how wide that message is.

“Hygge has a very long tail if you like – many of the talks and panels at SXSW for example, talk about the empowerment of women, equal rights, openness and togetherness – these are all elements that are real Danish values and  a great part of hygge as well. In most parts of the world, you don’t necessarily see the same equality and approach to life that we do in Denmark. It’s really important to note that hygge is so much more than cozy fireplaces and candlelight” Jensen adds. 

Message is spreading

According to her, not even the Danes themselves were ready for the explosion of interest in the concept over the past couple of years, largely because it is something they’ve been taking it for granted themselves for much longer anyway.

The message is certainly spreading and having celebrities like Mads Refslund and Trine Hahnemann on hand at SXSW will go a long way to help. Meanwhile, for the editors of dictionaries the world over, the search goes on to find the best definition!

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