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I couldn’t give a fygge about hygge

PUBLISHED: 09:27 27 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:20 27 January 2018

Relaxing near a fireplace with a hot drink - since when did having a nice time need a marketing term attached to it?

Relaxing near a fireplace with a hot drink - since when did having a nice time need a marketing term attached to it?


The Scandinavians have hijacked having a nice time by calling it hygge or lagom and suggesting they were the first to realise that open fires and hot chocolate are smashing. It’s time to fight back with some lethargic help from the Netherlands.

In 2016, it was all about hygge, the Danish word that defies literal translation and pronunciation but which seemed to suggest that people in Denmark were the first people to truly appreciate having a cup of tea in bed.

Hygge, in its loosest translation, appears to mean liking nice things, which the rest of the world has been doing without making a fuss about it since creation. It’s about attaching a marketing tool to a concept which is so startlingly obvious that it would make a cat laugh: doing nice things makes you feel nice, which is nice.

Of course, there’s much more to it than that: for a start, you need to be smug while you do nice things – for this purpose, I post pictures of my breakfast on Instagram (@staciastella, thanks for asking) which show the homemade blueberry pancakes and the blackcurrant herbal tea but hide the Diet Coke and the Take a Break magazine with its headline of “My Ninja Kitten Left Me For Dead”.

Hygge suddenly meant that buying yourself a pair of pyjamas was an act of “self-care”, looking at some falling leaves was proof you were having a digital detox – which we told everyone about on Twitter – and having a fire was illegal unless you sat next to it wearing a pair of hand-knitted socks. It was so stressful making sure we were relaxed *enough*.

As we collectively tired of Hygge, the Swedish took up the challenge to enjoy nice things and tell everyone about it with its concept of lagom, which is all about living a balanced life (eating doughnuts while walking, drinking heavily but then getting enough sleep – I think that’s the gist of it) and banging on about how good it feels not to live an ‘excessive’ life. The lagom ideal can be summed up by the Swedes’ love of skimmed milk: the beige poster boy for dairy.

I was gifted a book – one of those small ones that makes a bookcase look untidy and is therefore super un-Hygge – about lagom for Christmas and, in a nutshell, it seems to mean “enough is as good as a feast” which makes me think no one in Sweden has ever been to a really good finger buffet at a wedding.

It also means being moderate in your politics, views and personality. Yawn. Next.

Step forward a country that isn’t characterised by common ethno-cultural North Germanic heritage and mutually intelligible languages (if you’re Scandinavian): the Netherlands, where we send our young people to smoke relaxants, who have muscled in with their own buzz-word, niksen.

Hygge and lagom always appeared to involve quite a lot of effort – simply housing all the books about them would involve building an extension for a library – because before you can bask in flickering candlelight eating warm-from-the-oven cardamom buns with a cup of proper hot chocolate you have to buy the candle, make the buns and boil the milk, all of which is time you could have been spending in the noble pursuit of niksen.

Forget clean eating, gluten, grain and sugar-shunning for no reason, eulogising about the joy of bone broth, spiralising any vegetable you can lay your hands on, using avocado instead of icing, tongue raking with Ayurvedic tongue scraping, trailing round organic markets for supplies and being a vapid babbling nonsense-monger banging on about your passion for “wellness” (mindfulness’s more hateful cousin). Forget the skimmed milk and being boring: niksen is here to help – it’s about doing absolutely nothing whatsoever.

To be more accurate, it means “doing something without purpose, like staring out of the window” – finally, a lifestyle trend I can aspire to.

I don’t give a fig about hygge, lagom can jog on, but niksen sounds like a goer: you can even do it when you’re asleep or staring slack-jawed at the TV, which as a TV reviewer means I am niksenning things out of the park all day long. You’re doing it right now. See? You and I are WINNING at 2018 already.

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