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Hygge: (/ˈhjuːɡə/ HEW-gə or /ˈhuːɡə/ Heu-gə)

That feeling you get when you are overcome with an overwhelming sense of comfort, happiness, and contentment all in one.
Author Miek Wiking (pronounced: Viking… how appropriate for a Dane, right?), describes hygge as an acknowledgment of a special feeling or moment, embodied by cozy, charming or warm feeling.

My personal hygge

I think of hygge when I remember an evening sitting inside a dimly lit French restaurant in Denver during a snowstorm with a cup of hot cocoa in my hands – no rush, nowhere to go; just watching the snow fall under the streetlights. Mood, warm drink, safe and cozy = Perfect hygge.

Sounds easy, right?

While on the surface, this should be easy to define and identify; however, it is more nuanced and can get complicated, which is why Wiking, CEO and researcher at the Happiness Research Institute (yes, it’s a real thing) in Denmark devoted an entire book to the feeling. Hygge is so much a part of the culture in Denmark that I officially declare The Little Book of Hygge required reading before visiting to get a deeper understanding of what motivates the daily lives of the Danes.

Why is everyone dressed so smart and casual?
Why are there candles everywhere?
Why are social gatherings small and intimate?
Because it makes the event hyggeligt (yes, it’s a verb, noun, and adjective)!

Hygge in action

Could this BE any more hygge?

JC, how is this travel related?

We look at mostly travel-related books on our site, and on the surface, this might not seem to fit the standard book review you find here. However, it ties in perfectly with finding travel motivation and cultural research: There may be no better motivation than being inspired by a cultural phenomenon or event.
Case in point: Read Victor Hugo’s The Sun Also Rises, and you may find yourself researching flights to see the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
In this case, my wife first read The Little Book of Hygge and identified so much with the term and idea of being more hygge that we booked flights and hotels within a week.

Wiking explains how hygge can define an entire country’s state of mind and does a great job of helping the reader get into that hygge mindset. So much so that I have a lit candle on my desk right now as I write this… In August.

So, whether you need motivation on deciding where to travel next or you want to understand the culture to which you are traveling for a better, more immersive experience I highly recommend seeking out books that relate to how people live or their way of thinking to really get into the right mindset.
For The Little Book of Hygge, I would say that no trip to Denmark would be complete without first reading this guide – it will take your experience from awesome, to hyggeligt. 🙂

Stay tuned for notes on how I made my upcoming trip to Copenhagen TopHygge.

How do you plan to get the most from a new culture?

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