Sunday, August 6, 2017

Review of "The Little Book of Hygge" by Meik Wiking

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) - the Danish art of living well - has become quite trendy these days. To find out what it's all about I read 'The Little Book of Hygge' by Meik Wiking (pronounced Mike Viking). Wiking is the CEO of 'The Happiness Research Institute' - a Danish think tank that studies satisfaction, happiness, and the quality of life.

In a nutshell, hygge is a feeling of well-being that can be engendered by pleasant surroundings, tasty food, and good company.....or whatever else makes you feel safe and content. As Wiking describes it, hygge is 'an atmosphere, an experience' - what we feel when we're with people we love in a warm and comfortable place.

Things that promote hygge are called 'hyggelig.' For instance, the following would be hyggelig: a small group of friends sitting around a fireplace in a cabin, wearing big jumpers (sweaters) and wooly socks, drinking malt wine. It would be even more hyggelig if a storm was raging outside. LOL

Danish people strive to have all their life experiences be as hyggelig as possible. They try to have hyggelig homes; go to hyggeling restaurants; entertain hyggelig visitors; play hyggelig games; work at hyggelig jobs; go on hyggelig trips; etc.


A lot of creating hygge is common sense, but - if you want some pointers - Wiking provides a guide:

- Use lots of candles. The Danes place candles everywhere - in bedrooms living rooms, bathrooms, classrooms, boardrooms, etc.

- Place dim lighting in strategic locations. Wiking recommends light fixtures designed by Poul Henningsen, whose lamps provide soft, diffuse light.

- Create a feeling of togetherness with friends and relatives; togetherness is 'like a hug without touching.'

- Maintain a healthy work-life balance. Spend a lot of time with your family.

- Socilaize with friends and colleagues.

- Good food. Danish people like meat and potatoes.....and they love sweets - especially cake. A traditional feature of Danish children's birthday parties is 'Cakeman' - a pastry in the shape of a large gingerbread man, decorated with flags, sweets, and candles.

In the book, Wiking includes recipes for a few of his favorite Danish dishes. One is called Skipperlabskovs (Skipper Stew), which is brisket sitting in potato mash - served wtih pickled beets and rye bread.

- Hot beverages. Danes love coffee. If you watch Danish TV series, the characters are always making coffee, drinking coffee, and offering each other coffee.....(like tea in British TV series....LOL)

- Comfortable clothing. For professional wear, Danish men like a T-shirt or sweater under a blazer, usually in black or gray. Danes don't favor three-piece-suits. For casual wear, Danes like a comfortable jumper.....with leggings for girls or skinny jeans for boys. And Danes LOVE scarves.

- Casual hairdos. Danish hairstyles are 'wake up and go'.....or maybe a loose bun for women.

- Comfortable furnishings. Danes enjoy interior decorating, and their decor often includes wood furniture, vintage items, and an open fireplace and/or a wood-burning stove.

- Blankets and cushions. Necessary for snuggling up and getting cozy.


After providing this overview of hygge, Wiking goes on to talk about how to be hyggelig outside the home; during every month of the year - from January to December; and during every season of the year. Wiking also describes various hyggelig experiences he's had with his friends, and writes about his happiness research.

Wiking's suggestions for hyggelig pastimes include things like: spend a weekend in a cabin; have a cooking party with your friends; go out on a rowboat and bring a picnic basket; put couches in your office; have a movie night - with popcorn; go to a hyggelig restaurant and order pickled herring and schnapps; buy confections at a bakery; enjoy exhibitions of Christmas lights; have smorrebrod (an open sandwich on rye bread) with beer or schnapps; read a good book; and so on.

You can probably think up hundreds of 'hyggelig' activities yourself. For example, here's one: invite a couple of friends over; watch Netlfix; bring in Mexican food; drink sangria....and later on - have chocolate eclairs for dessert. If you have some hygge suggestions, feel free to comment below.

Wiking sums up his treatise on hygge by noting that a complete hygge experience includes 'taste, sound, smell, and texture.'
- Hyggelig tastes are familiar and sweet.
= Hyggelig sounds might be: the crackling of burning wood; the pitter patter of raindrops; and trees waving in the breeze.
- Hyggelig smells could be aromas that trigger fond memories.
- Hyggeling textures might be wooden surfaces; smooth ceramic cups; and reindeer fur.

I feel like I gained a pretty good understanding of hygge from Wiking's book. However, Wiking's numerous suggestions for 'hyggelig experiences' got very repetitive.....and after awhile, it seemed like a lot of padding to have enough words for an entire book.

Still, if you're curious about hygge, this is a good crash course.

Rating: 3 stars

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