Thursday, September 01, 2005


The biggest culture shock I've met with so far hasn't been with the Danes but with the other students. In the airport in Iceland it dawned on me with horror that the crowd of young people with popped collars waiting for the flight to Copenhagen were to be my classmates. I don't think I've ever gone to school with people who popped their collars before. There's scarcely a nerd in this whole crowd (except a few of us who are in hiding, I guess.) I'm trying to work on the concept that we're all in a strange place together and I can be friends with people with expensive highlighting jobs and Louis Vuitton handbags, really I can. It's just coming very hard.

I think one of the reasons I wanted to come here was the idea of hygge. The short translation is "cosiness", and we've had several lectures on it so far: Hot chocolate or tea around the fireplace is hygge, but having the TV or radio on is not. Beer in a cafe with lit candles on the table is hygge, but waiting for your train in the rain is not. Cats are always hygge. (I have to disagree with one part of this - I really think watching the Red Green Show as a family and making comments has to count as hygge, as does making bread and listening to Thistle & Shamrock on a Sunday afternoon or putting dinner on the table and listening to Prairie Home Companion on a Saturday night.)

I don't think my host family really holds much stock in this concept. During breakfast the radio is on playing the Backstreet Boys or Shania Twain. Dinner is a twenty-minute affair with little conversation. After dinner they both go to watch TV in the living room or in their bedrooms. Maybe it would be easier with more people in the family, but they can't really help that. What if when I'm 63 I'm like Jørgen with a dead wife and most of my kids moved out and a family life that consists of watching TV in seperate rooms in a house without hygge? It's a scary thought.

I think I'm going to buy a plant to put on the windowsill in my bedroom. I miss having something to take care of. The sill currently houses about five cacti. Surely cacti aren't very cozy? I wonder what I can get that will have flowers on it for the longest.


Anonymous said...

You have my sympathies about the popped collar crowd. They must be cool too though, since they sought out such a foreign place for them.

I like the idea of hygge. I would consider your ideas very hygge. I would like propose that watching Star Trek as a family is hygge, as is playing a family game of risk. It is a concept I will remember.

I also very much doubt you will ever be hygge-less.


Simon Helmore said...

There was actually a bit on the radio about Hygge and other good words that appear in other languages than English while I was driving up to Olin. It sounded very nice at the time, plus it was Danish and exciting. You can listen to the story here: (I feel that it's worth mentioning that in my early searches for the story, showed up as the 3rd result; oh, it's a dead link :( ).

I wish you and everyone much hygge.

sandy mnuskin said...

hey--nothing is as it seems i guess....i'm sure the danes aren't all as you imagine them...being cozy and hygge and drinking warm beverages by the glowing fire. but really---you're there for an experiance...and even though it may not be what you're still seeing how other people live, whether it be danes or even other americans. keep an open mind and buy a plant! miss you--Sandy