Hygge: The Case For and Against

Jill Holtz

January 24, 2017


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Have you heard of ‘hygge’? Doubtless you have: this year, at least nine books are available on the concept, and you’ve probably seen it all over Instagram and Pinterest too. So, whether you love the idea or loathe it, it won’t have escaped your attention. Here are two people with very different feelings towards hygge, but who do you think is right? And do you think this way of life is something you can adopt with children?

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If by some miracle, the whole hygge phenomenon has passed you by and you’re not familiar with it at all, then hygge (pronounced hoo-geh) comes from Denmark and it’s all about taking pleasure in the small ordinary moments that are special or meaningful during the day.

For example, being cosy with your family or lighting a candle or making a coffee and enjoying it with friends. All about creating happiness and contentment and keeping things simple too.

The Case Against Hygge

“Hygge is a classic example of people falling for a load of marketing fluff” by Andrew Brookes, journalist

If you listen carefully you’ll hear the sound of a bandwagon creaking under the pressure. It’s the hygge bandwagon, and someone really needs to pop its tyres and end this nonsense now.

It’s a classic example of people falling for a load of marketing fluff. And in some respects you have to take your hat off to the people peddling books about this: they’ve clearly landed on a clever money-spinner.

It’s dubious whether, for a start, we should allow ourselves to get caught up in a cult that no-one in this country can either pronounce or define. A word that looks and sounds exotic is a convenient cover for the banality that lies underneath.

Read any of the countless articles, blogs or columns about hygge and you’ll see that most settle for the imperfect translation into English of ‘cosiness’. That’s not quite right. It’s really about a calm togetherness and the enjoyment of simple pleasures.

But ‘calm’ and ‘simple’ aren’t particularly commercial and ‘cosiness’ is elastic enough to be used and abused by brands who have pound signs in their eyes. For them, cosy means that you need to buy candles, coffee tables, blankets, cushions and all manner of tat in order to embrace the hygge feeling.

It’s the perfect craze for people needing to flog overpriced soft furnishings and chintzy dross. If you want all of that in your house, you shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind a Danish word to justify your crimes against interior design.


Even if you accept the commercial definition, it doesn’t make it any better. One man’s cosy is another man’s clutter. Do you really want your room crammed up to the eyeballs with cushions and candles? Surely this is a hazard if you’re surrounded by little ones too? And if you’re in the process of selling your home then de-cluttering is the way to go.

This is all about being

  • smug – “look at me and all my great possessions”
  • lazy “I’m just going to stay here under this blanket” and
  • anti-social “I’m not coming out, I’m fine at home with my nice stuff”.

Hygge is a Danish import, which probably helps it to gain kudos in some quarters. We liked the pastries, the knitwear-clad detectives, bacon and Sandi Toksvig so why not the lifestyle?

Except, do we really want to live like we’re actually in Denmark? It’s cold and dull and depressing. The stats bear that out – only Icelanders use more anti-depressants in the EU. If the ‘hygge’ life were so amazing, then why aren’t the Danes a little happier with their lot?


You might also enjoy reading: Why Decluttering Is Good For Your Mind

The Case For Hygge


“Let’s not begrudge a little hygge-ish cheer this winter” by Flora McCormick, lifestyle blogger.

2016 was a dark, dark year my friends. Referenda, elections and deaths of more icons than I have the heart to list here have left us feeling divided and downtrodden. So why would anyone begrudge us a hygge-ish glimmer of comfort this winter?

Sure, hygge has been weighed, wrapped and delivered to us from every possible angle. But is it really as bad as some people like to make out? I don’t think so.

At its core, hygge is a way of living. For all that I love those fluffy pillows, flickering candles and super-soft socks, it’s not about stuff. What better sentiment to teach our children? You’re able to enjoy life for it’s simpler pleasures rather than focusing on activities that distract you from what truly matters.

Instead, hygge is about seeing the world in a particular way. It’s about sharing experiences, coming together, and taking some time out to reflect and recharge your own batteries too. It’s about savouring the moment, taking pleasure from the little things, and spending our precious free time with our nearest and dearest.

At its core, hygge is a walk for the joy of walking, or reading Roald Dahl to our sons and daughters and loving every minute of it. It’s about buying coffee for our friends to spend some proper time together, or hunkering down to watch a movie as a family.

The little things.

Ultimately, it’s about knowing when to retreat to care for yourself as an individual, then radiating all that warmth outwards to contribute towards more caring community overall.

So what could possibly be so wrong with buying yourself a knitted throw to curl up beneath after a hard week at work? Why should you be made to feel guilty for treating yourself to a scented candle or string of fairy lights that the kids would love? Hygge couldn’t be further from ‘chintz’ and clutter, and in fact the Danes are renowned for their minimalistic, functional homes.

Perhaps those anti-depressants are working like a charm, as despite living in enveloping darkness for 5 months of the year, the latest OECD World Happiness Report puts Denmark in the number 1 spot. Again. Which begs the question: couldn’t we learn a thing or two from the way Danes value their homes and happiness? (And by the way – anti-depressant consumption is up by over 80% on average across the EU… so let’s not criticise our Danish friends for taking care of themselves as well).


Instead, let’s take the time be kind to ourselves and each other, foster a culture of togetherness, and know when to take a bit of time out for ourselves. Get your hygge on with a tray of cinnamon pastries for the office and a bubbly bath for yourself, and you’ll find that the world doesn’t seem like such a bad place after all.

So, will I be jumping on the hygge bandwagon this year? You bet I will! And there’s a space for you too if you fancy joining me for a walk in the forest, a roast dinner and a glass of wine beside the fire…


You might also enjoy reading: How to Be a Better Parent & Look After Yourself for the Kids Sake

Where do you stand on the matter? Is hygge a load of marketing fluff, or a glimmer of comfort this winter? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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