What is Hygge?

What is Hygge?

By Liv Buli

What is Hygge?

Hygge (hyyyy-geh) is so hot right now

Particularly, it seems, during cold winter months. And here’s the thing about hygge - it doesn’t have a direct translation to English. It’s really a (danish) cultural idea that describes a feeling of comfort, coziness, and most importantly contentedness all in one. 

So it’s perhaps not surprising that many aspire to achieve this vibe, but it’s also only the tip of the iceberg - we’ve put together this list of 9 terms and expressions that will help you live your best Scandi life.

Koselig (Coo-sha-ley

This is the Norwegian (and better IMO) version of hygge. I remember following my contractor around our job site in the Catskills explaining that I aspired to clean lines and minimalism, but that it still HAD to feel koselig. He looked at me like I was insane. 

Similar to hygge, this expression doesn’t really have a direct translation to English. Lot’s of things, moments, and ideas can be koselig - it’s whatever makes you feel content and cozy. For me, it is curling up on the sofa with a nice warm blanket after a long day on skis, but yours can be entirely different.

Hytte (hyyyy-ta)

Norwegians loooooove their cabins - there are close to half a million of them dotted around the Norwegian mountains and countryside, and unless the owner is obnoxious they are pretty low-key little houses, often with thatched roofs and wood paneling galore. While most cabins now have “fancy” amenities like running water and electricity, even the modern hytte is simple, a place to escape your day-to-day, and get closer to nature.

Catskills Blue House AirbnbCome stay at our hytte in The Catskills. 

Hei Hei! (hai hai

This is how to greet passersby on the hiking trail and ski tracks. I’ll never forget my husband’s first cross-country ski trip, his brave attempts to just plunge down the hills and somehow stay upright on two tiny sticks, poles flailing, yelling “hei hei” to everyone he saw – while grinning from ear to ear of course. 

(Note that social interaction of this manner is ONLY acceptable on the trail. Otherwise do not attempt in public for fear of scorn. It’s cold out here and we’re all just trying to get home. ;))

Tusen Takk (tuhs-enn tahk

In Norway we don’t just say thank you once, we say it a thousand times. It’s extra nice that way. 

Ut på tur, aldri sur! (oot poh toor, ahl-dree soor)

This expression means that when out on a trek or hike, you should never be grumpy. Hah! When your legs are wobbly and you’re only halfway across the range with a heavy pack on your back, that can be easier said than done. 

David pulling our daughters on a sled in Oslo.

Ut på tur, aldri sur! My husband, David, pulling our daughters on a sled over the holidays in Oslo.

Ingen skam å snu (ing-ehn scohm oh snoo)

Thank god we have this expression, which means there is no shame in turning back. Despite cold and dark winters, Norwegians spend most of their time, you guessed it, outdoors! But we have a strict policy of being sensible about long treks and treacherous weather. 

If you find yourself tired, or uncertain of the path forward, the best (and completely acceptable) option is always turn around and go back where you came from. The last thing you want to have to do is build yourself a snow cave as shelter for the night - which we all learn how to do in elementary school by the way. 

Also, always bring a snack.

Lusekofte (luh-seh kofta)

You know that meticulously stitched, black and white knitwear Scandinavians are famous for? This traditional wool sweater dates back a few centuries and is linked to the very Norwegian idea that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If you have to dress warm, it doesn’t hurt to look good.

Helt Texas! (hell-t teck-sass

Yes that’s right. Norwegians describe something that’s gone off the rails as being completely Texas. And note that Norwegians love to party, so this happens quite often. Now, take from that what you will Texans, but I’d take it as a compliment.

Ha det bra! (hah deh brah)

Last, but not least – I love how Norwegians say goodbye. Directly translated it simply means “have it good.” Like you can’t imagine any other way to have it.


1 comment

  • What a snuggly post. I feel like this is all the Norwegian I will ever need to know? Now to buy a fancy, perfect blanket. Thanks for the tips!

    Ali C. on

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