After four months of gallivanting across Europe, I have unfortunately come face to face with reality: I must return back to my home university. It’s not that I didn’t miss my friends at Elon, or that I won’t be excited to fall back into my routine… But one aspect of my trip abroad holds me back each time I take a step forward towards fully transitioning back into my American bubble. It wasn’t the beaches of Barcelona or the pubs of Dublin; neither the canals of Amsterdam nor the alleyways of Riga linger in my mind. Quite simply, the only thing impeding me from jumping in a car and driving down to NC lies at the heart of Danish culture – the reason why Denmark currently stands as the world’s happiest country. My friends, let me introduce you to the concept of hygge.
Hygge (hooga) cannot be translated into a concrete meaning or definition. Rather, it captures a feeling and sense of being. Hygge is sitting around the dinner table with family and friends while the candles wane into the night; it’s cuddling up with your sister and laughing about how silly mom and dad are; it’s catching up at Starbucks with an old friend; it’s sharing a kiss with your boyfriend as the ball drops in Times Square; it’s reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with your dog snuggled beside you. This term translates most closely to our understanding of “coziness”. From my experiences in Denmark, I pin hygge as the complete absence of any emotional or mental toll which hinders one’s happiness. The challenge I wrestle with now resides as trying to turn hygge into an export to pack into my luggage for my college return.
Yet how can I emulate the Danish art that is hygge? The Danes embrace this elevated coziness as a lifestyle; homes relish in eternal candlelight as the winter approaches, bakeries and cafes seat customers within arm’s length of one another, restaurants offer fleece blankets and furs as night’s air settles in, and people absorb the hygge created which then allows them to pay it forward. As contradictory as this may sound, Danes boast contentment with life’s situations and their placements on earth. My host mom would always say to me that “things could be worse, Kelly.”
And things could always be worse. Even on days where every little mishap yields a domino effect of mini catastrophe’s, we all still own the privilege of waking up the next morning to a new slate. At college where everything seems like a big deal, we sometimes (most of the time) lose sight of the small pieces of light that make our lives worth it. Superficiality always makes itself apparent and prevalent across college campuses whether in the form of trying to decide which frat party to make an appearance at or which dress to wear at spring formal. I seem to lose my priorities in my constant “go go go” lifestyle while unknowingly wearing thin the threads of my relationships. In Copenhagen, my host parents took the time to understand my passions, even going as far as to sitting me down and asking me to truly reflect on my future as a potential writer.
In my world as a curious and chaotic twentysomething, I struggle to find time for my loved ones and even myself. However, one of hygge’s rules demands that you make space in your schedule for that sacred and precious time spent without the imposing demands of society. I’ve learned that relationships, both external and internal, only flourish when tended to with genuine TLC. This doesn’t mean getting drunk with your girlfriends and then waking up hungover, nor does it involve bashing Kim Kardashian’s latest life decision (always guilty). I’ll remind myself that with a little hygge, I’ll stay grounded.
Featured Image via Barbara Ines.