Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Cows, colleges, and hygge

<s eating dinner at the LDC the other night when I mentioned, in a poorly articulated comment, that the Danish have a specific word for the art of being cozy. Hygge, the word I was looking for, is defined more specifically as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” I cannot think of a more perfect hypothetical union than that of Northfield, whose motto (for anyone who is still not familiar) is “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment,” and hygge. Anyways, something in that LDC conversation triggered a chain-thought in my mind, and at the end of said chain was the Danish art of being cozy. Yet in that LDC moment I could not remember the word “hygge.” And in attempting to do so, I released a combination of syllables from my mouth that surely would have offended any Dane sitting at that table.

This summer I watched one of those bite-sized Vice mini-documentaries on hygge and was immediately drawn to the concept. I live in Washington, D.C., and while watching the mini-doc in the heat of a soupy-humid summer day, I could barely imagine the cold of winter that is integral to hygge. Nevertheless, hygge still piqued my interest.

Meik Wiking, one of Denmark’s foremost hygge experts, explains that hygge is part of the Danish national identity. Wiking runs the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and wrote the wildly popular Little Book of Hygge. If you want to know about hygge, Wiking is your guy. Wiking points out that the emphases on understanding, togetherness, respect, happiness and good living of hygge are instrumental to Danish culture and bear many societal fruits.

Gastronomic indulgence is also integral to hygge. As evidence, in 2015, the Danish ate the second most candy per capita in the world, and by 2018, Denmark is expected to consume the most sweets per capita. Not that I doubted Wiking, but upon further research I found that per the United Nation’s 2017 World Happiness Report, Denmark is also the world’s second happiest country, trailing only Norway.

Obviously, there are other factors that contribute to Denmark’s strong national happiness, but the impact of hygge should not be understated. In response to a question on the merits of a link between an emphasis on hygge and contentment, Wiking contended that “studies show a clear link between gratitude and wellbeing.” And, as gratitude is fundamental to hygge, one can see that a link between hygge and happiness does indeed exist.

I am aware that this op-ed is not as hard-hitting as most, and vouching coziness and happiness is certainly not controversial. Nevertheless, I still believe that it is always important to stress the importance of respect, understanding, happiness, and even coziness, and hygge is a perfect conduit to do just that. So as winter approaches and the days get colder and shorter, I hope that we can all hunker down with a cup of hot chocolate and place a bit more of an emphasis on our own hygge.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *