Danish hygge, Swedish lagom and Norwegian koselig are words that cannot be easily translated. However, all of them conceal the recipe for happiness.
Every year, Denmark, Norway and Sweden rank among the top ten countries in the World Happiness Report – a landmark survey of the countries with the happiest residents (in a report from 2017, Norway finally dethroned Denmark in the fight for 1st place). In this context, Scandinavia is commonly associated with not only being a welfare state, high comfort of living, and work-life balance, but also, since recently, with hygge.
The craze for hygge
Hygge is a word that has recently taken the world by storm – Collins dictionary recognized it as one of the words of 2016. It’s not only a noun, but also an adjective (hyggelig) and a verb (at hygge). Hygge is the base of the cultural identity of the Danes – courageous people who appreciate contact with others and look for comfort in
simplicity. Hygge is like a hot cup warming cold hands, sunlight piercing thorough tree leaves, a square of your favourite chocolate, crocheting classes or time spent with your friends and family.
To be koselig
On the other hand, Norwegians have a noun koselig and a verb kose. Although this word is similar to English cosy, its lexical and cultural meaning is much deeper. Every Norwegian will perceive koselig as different things – all of them, however, should make
us feel warm inside. It is easiest to imagine the interior of a warm hut, fire roaring in the fireplace, a table of delicious food and a glass of wine in hand – this is the Norwegian recipe for happiness.
Lagom – neither too little, nor too much
Moderation that brings satisfaction and happiness – that’s the philosophy practiced by Swedish people. The word lagom can be translated as “accurately” or “exactly how much you need” and can correspond to everything. Optimum in earnings, moderation in opinions, restraint in spending money, ability to say “stop” when serving food on the plate – all these things are lagom.
Whereas hygge or koselig can be experienced at a given moment (e.g. when reading an engrossing book or preparing dinner with friends), lagom is more about finding a stable life balance. A little bit of practice is needed if you want to enjoy all the things a new day brings – after all, not everyone was born in Sweden – but you can try to take an example of the Swedes.
I’ll buy happiness cheap
There is one thing that connects hygge, koselig and lagom – all of them underline that specific financial resources are not required to achieve happiness. Therefore, it’s even more surprising that nowadays this idea is expressed in monetary terms. For Danish people, hygge has little in common with spending money – contrary to other countries where the philosophy of “small pleasures” often comes down to just that. The trivialized and commercialized concept of hygge is limited to buying Scandinavian furniture, candles and woollen socks, whereas lagom has already become a new trend that
takes by storm the Internet; companies of various industries (from furniture to apparel) use this word to describe their products and collections. It is therefore worth keeping a cool head in the feverish search for happiness, and remembering that there is not necessarily one universal way to achieve it. However, it’s a good idea to take a look at Scandinavia and become inspired by the wisdom from the North that teaches about simplicity, modesty, and openness towards others… as well as pampering yourself from time to time. Let’s start today!