A Dane Explains Hygge

I’m not even sure how or where to begin. It never even crossed my mind to write a post on this topic but after seeing countless – and I do mean COUNTLESS – of foreigners get it wrong, but think they’ve got it right, I feel compelled to correct the mistakes, and who is more qualified to do that than a true native Dane? So what is hygge? How is it pronounced? And most importantly: how is it practised?


Most people pretty much nail the definition which, in all fairness, is not hard to do since it’s only one Google search away. From the Oxford disctionary *clears throat*:

Definition of HYGGE

Simple, right? Then why do foreigners so easily get it wrong, practically? My guess is that just because something can be defined in a simple fashion doesn’t mean that it is simple. Another example of that is a word like health. Technically easy to define but practically very complex. I’ve never had to think about it since hygge is embedded into Danish culture and it’s always been a phrase we use. Everyone knows what it means so no-one ever felt the need to define what exactly it is – that is before foreigners began to show interest.


Hoo-ga or hue-gah or… *sigh* PLEASE LET MY HEAD EXPLODE! This is originally what sparked my need to set things right and correct the oh-so-many mistakes I’ve seen from countless of bloggers. When I went to rant about it to my future husband he laughed and called it Danesplaining. Did he invent a new word? I think he did! And I love it. It covers everything I felt right in that moment. Being lectured about Danish culture from foreigners who don’t even get it right. I felt so tired and annoyed. Danesplaining. Brillant. So how is hygge pronounced? You see, the biggest problem the English language has is that it doesn’t have the Danish Y sound that is necessary to pronounce it in the first place.  It simply doesn’t exist and can therefore be difficult to wrap your tongue around. I know first hand because I’m the one who tried getting a real Y sound out of Mr English and even then it has an English twang. The next minor thing that some foreigners – especially considering the gruesome, teeth grinding and jaw clenching examples above – have trouble pronounciating is the ending: E – or ə phonetically speaking – which most of all resembles the Danish Ø sound. Funnily enough Mr English never had this problem. But bear that in mind if you think that hygge is ending in a ga-sound because it doesn’t and oh-my-God-my-ears-are-bleeding!

Due to how the languages are different the phonetic way of writing it becomes different, too. Allow me to demonstrate:

Danish dictionary: /hygə/

English dictionary: /hʊɡ.ə/

See what I mean? And even then the pronounciation is wrong. Whether it’s pronounced in UK or US voice, it doesn’t matter. It’s wrong. Frustrating, right? So how IS it pronounced then? Believe it or not – and even though it took me a while! – there is a youtube video where it’s pronounced correctly:


The last two major pet peeves of mine that I’ve seen around various blogs is the invention of the word hygging and the falsified perception of how hygge is practised. I’m only going to say this once so listen closely: HYGGING IS NOT A THING! It’s not even gramatically correct! We have: hygge, hyggelig/hyggeligt, and then we have the tailored put-together words like familiehygge (family hygge), råhygge (when something is extra hyggeligt) or hyggespreder (one who spreads hygge around them).

So how do you practise hygge? It sounds almost as if people think it’s a lifestyle we choose – is it, I’m not sure? I see it more as a necessity when living up north where it’s cold, dark and rainy 9/12 months. I suppose you can call it compensation for the fact that our wheather is fucking depressing and we try to suck vitamin D out of live candles instead of a sun that is almost abscent. Jokes aside, I truly don’t see it as a lifestyle choice. It’s more of a culture ting than anything else and perhaps a bi-product of living in one of the safest small corners of the world which brings me to the biggest false perceptions foreigners have of what hygge truly is. I’ve seen lists of “Autumn hygge ideas”, “How to live a hygge life” etc. and the things on those lists makes me wonder if foreigners think that hygge is special activities? Take this example: grow a garden. I’m sorry to say but that’s just called gardening. Read a book is another example and again, no, that’s just called reading. See where I’m going? It must be annoying for the bloggers of the world but you cannot list a bunch of things and call it hygge. Hygge is a feeling not an activity. It is not self-care either. Self-care is self-care and meditation is meditation. It is NOT hygge! 

Let me give you an example: a couple sitting and watching a movie on Netflix two evenings in a row. One evening it is really hyggeligt, the next it’s not. Same activity but not the same feeling! It is not the activity – which is why lists are useless and PLEASE STOP MAKING THEM! – but a state of being in that moment. The feeling of happiness and contentedness. Obviously you cannot feel happy and content all of the time. If you do you’re a total weirdo! But being able to enjoy those hours of being happy, cozy and content is what a part of the Danish culture is all about. 

How do I do it? If I want a hyggelig evening while reading or watching a film I usually put on my wollen socks, fire up some candles, grab a blanket and enjoy a cup of hot tea or chocolate. It creates a hyggelig atmosphere but by the end of the day it’s my state of mind that determines whether it will actually be hyggeligt or not. If I’m sad, worried or annoyed no amount of candle lights, wollen socks or hot chocolate will make it so. Being happy and content. That’s what it’s all about.



Let’s connect!

Woman in grey sweater with blonde hair holding a small bowl of candy. Text on top in black and teal saying: A DANE EXPLAINS. HOW TO PRACTISE HYGGE.

What did you think hygge was?
Did I help to clarify the term for you?
Leave your thoughts and comments down below.


24 thoughts on “A Dane Explains Hygge

  1. annaelleliz

    I’m so glad I read this! I’ve heard of hygge, but was under the impression it was some type of self-care thing you could do (I mean I could see why people think that though).

    I love the clarification of not being an activity, but more so a state of being in that moment (which is probably where the self-care idea comes into play).


    1. You’re welcome. I get why foreigners would think it was self-care but as a Dane it is so obviously wrong. It was hard to put into words, though, because I never really had to think about it before. That’s just how we live our life, you know.
      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. Meals and Mile Markers

    That’s so interesting! Especially because when the video pronounced it, I thought that it was super simple and even possible for me to put it on paper properly. Which makes me think that my American brain thinks I’m doing it right although I really am not actually saying it correctly 😂


    1. Haha. I’ve heard native English speakers come very close but I also know that native speakers pick up on nuances that foreigners don’t (for obvious reasons).
      A for effort, though, and thanks for stopping by.


      1. Meals and Mile Markers

        That’s why I assume I’m “tone deaf” right now. I teach ESL so I know how often someone really thinks they’re saying it right, but aren’t even close! I think that might be where I’m fitting in right now 🙃

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I have something similar coming out in December to do with how to get the Hygge feeling. I have the pronunciation down as Hoo-ga or Hoo-go, just so people stop referring to it in stupid ways like Hi-Ga. But feel free to correct me (or scold me) if I’m wrong!


    1. Thank you.

      Oh. I suppose the problem is that it’s not something you acquire. I am sure that even people who’ve never heard the word before know the feeling (just without knowing the word for it).
      Oo, yeah no, sorry sweety, but that pronounciation is exactly what I want people to stop doing. It’s so wrong. Oo in English is like a Danish U, and hygge is spelt with a Danish Y which is a sound you don’t have.
      On a side note, hygge is only with capital H if it’s the first word of the sentence. There’s also something with the grammar that I won’t correct because it’s pointless unless you actually know a bit of Danish.
      I guess I wanted foreigners to stop the Danesplaining but I guess that isn’t happening. Oh well, a Dane can dream.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! When I was in Copenhagen few years ago someone told me that hygge is the absence of everything unpleasant. It is definitely personal what hygge means to individuals, but it is a wonderful concept for taking time for yourself, family and friends and enjoying life.


    1. Thank you for stopping by.
      I definitely think it can be interpreted in different ways because we’re all different. I’ve never heard that explanation before and I can’t say that I find it wrong. It’s just another way of seeing it I suppose. But my point stands in that it is a feeling and not an acitivity which was one of my biggest pet peeves in regards to other bloggers.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. martinemussies

    Ah, great! I read some books and articles on “Hygge” as the untranslatable really fascinates me. This explains it pretty well and it is nice that you add the uselessness of list-making. In Dutch, we have a similar word, I think, which is “gezellig”. Maybe I should write about that, one day? 🙂 Best, Martine

    Liked by 1 person

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