I’ve definitely fallen off the wagon in regards to blogging, as has Belle (who’s already home adapting to ‘freezing’ temperatures in Cleveland), but as my semester in Copenhagen winds down and everyone here starts to get sentimental and reflective, I thought I’d jump on that band wagon.
In two weeks I’ll be back in Dayton, with no clear idea of if or when I’ll return to Copenhagen, and I’m not sure I can really put into words what I’ve learned while abroad and how it will change my life in the states. But in true Danish fashion, undefinable concepts can make all the difference towards life happiness.
Denmark is the home of ‘hygge’, which I’ve mentioned before but never really appreciated until recently. Way back in January and February, when it was freezing here and only light 5 or 6 hours a day, I thought lighting a few candles was hyggeligt. But experiencing hygge is so much more than candles-it’s built into Danish culture and lifestyles as something important that all Danes make time for in their lives.
Hygge is largely about time-or, in the eyes of most Americans, wasting it. A hyggeligt time might be a winter night wrapped up in a blanket and reading your favorite book for hours on end without worrying about that paper due tomorrow. In the summer, it might be sitting outside, surrounded by friends and listening to music and just talking and catching up for hours on end. It could be a dinner out where you put away your phone, order your favorite meal, and talk with your friend or date without rushing to get to the next course or get the check to go home. Hygge is about setting away time for you-to do what makes you happy and keeps you sane without worrying about what you should be doing.
Americans, you’ve probably experienced hygge before-you just had no idea what it was or how important it really was to you. Getting lost in your favorite show on Netflix with your best friend can be hyggeligt, as can a homemade family dinner after a long, busy week. But the difference in other countries compared to Denmark is that no one recognizes hygge when it comes around, so they have no idea how much it is worth in life.
Americans are always on the move-anyone at CWRU or any university can attest to that. If you’re not studying or writing a paper or in class, you’re volunteering or grabbing a quick dinner with friends or working or doing something for your parents. When you have downtime, you feel out of place-I’ve definitely been that person. When I am sitting around at Case and not doing anything, I’m sure there’s something I should be doing-why not pick up an extra shift or start tutoring or study more or get started on research applications months in advance? There has to be something productive I should be doing.
Danes would disagree. The best time of the day for Danes are those moments when there’s nothing else to do-they make time for it in their daily routine because they recognize the worth of having nothing to do and enjoying it. Whether it’s with candles and family and blankets in the winter or relaxing with a beer on the lawn of Rosenborg Castle when
it’s warm, Danes understand the value of slowing down and just enjoying life for a little bit each week.
My conclusions? Hygge makes people happy.
It works for the Danes, why can’t it work for Americans too?
I’ve made several promises to myself as I think about leaving regarding making time for hygge when I go back to the States, and I thought over-stressed Americans might appreciate a big of Danish insight from the happiest country in the world.
- SLOW THE HECK DOWN. Powerwalking to the library won’t make you learn more once you get there. Impatiently flagging down a waiter because you finished dinner 2 minutes ago and still don’t have a check won’t ruin your night. Texting your project group while listening in class and editing a paper all at once may be impressive multitasking, but it’s not necessary. I promise, you’ll get it done.
- Make time for what you genuinely enjoy doing-no string’s attached. Don’t claim you love studying just so you can spend all day prepping for a math final. Go get hot chocolate and watch the Cleveland Polar Vortex for a while-snow can be pretty if you relax a bit. Read a book-for fun. GASP you can still do that if it’s not school related? Even watching a guilty-pleasure TV show on Netflix is hyggeligt if it makes you happy and you’re perfectly content doing it-Vampire Diaries, I’m looking at you.
- Have a meal European style. Most European cafes and restaurants don’t offer coffee to go or boxes for leftovers for a reason-when you get a cappuccino or a fancy baguette sandwich at a cafe in Paris, you’re meant to enjoy it. Go to your favorite restaurant and don’t rush through it-phones away, no time restrictions, nothing. Enjoy the food and
your company, people watch, and just enjoy having legitimate free time.
- Leave time in your weekly schedule to unwind. Take a yoga class. Take a nap. Call your mom. But whatever you do, scheduling yourself with back to back class and study sessions and work and planned social time probably stresses you out more than organizing your life. Sometimes, a little disorder is the best medicine.
- Enjoy every situation you find yourself in. I’ve found that one of my most hyggeligt times of the day is when I bike to and from class every day. Sure, I have to do it to get to class and go home, but I bike for an hour or so every day past major Danish landmarks in a quaint and cozy city that’s different every single day. That’s hyggeligt. I bet your walk to class or observing the people around you while waiting in line at Starbucks can be just as hyggelight if you let it.
- Light some candles. Ok, I know I said that candles don’t make a situation hyggeligt, but c’mon now. Candles make every setting a bit more cozy.
I can’t really see myself having much more time or content to blog about in the next two weeks with finals and getting ready to go home, so I thought this would be a nice sign off for me, with some good old-fashioned life lessons from the Danes. Now go take some time for hygge!