Friday, 25 May 2018

A Norse, A Norse, My Kingdom For...

A Norse! The new IKEA mattress, Steph and Gary's weekend in Copenhagen and the return of The Bridge to the TV has got me thinking about Scandinavia again. I borrowed this book from Liz recently [she'd asked for it for Christmas in 2016, and I'd not had the chance to read it properly]
According to the author, Signe Johansen, "Hygge [pronounced hue-gah] is the Danish/Norwegian concept of cosiness, kinship and conviviality. If mindfulness is about self, and looking inward, hygge is about being sociable and looking outward - taking pleasure in simple things, fellowship with kith and kin"
This idea appeals to me. Signe starts by pointing out all the tired clich├ęs - Abba, Ikea, blonde people, the Muppets' Swedish chef, and meatballs...but goes on to talk about how the Nordic people have embraced their environment learned to make the most of life.
The book is over 200 pages of densely packed ideas, I shall try and condense them into a brief[ish] review. Here's How to Hygge at a Glance
  • She begins with Nature and the Seasons - it is important to get outside as much as you can, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine [and wrap up well if it is winter!] Outdoors is preferable to the gym, be active, reconnect with nature and wildlife.
  • Self sufficiency is important, learn a few useful skills and use them. e.g. how to make a fire, paint a room, bake bread, cook a meal, mend a tear, chop an onion...
  • Fika, the daily act of collective restoration at work is a great practice. The Swedish coffee break, when everyone stops work and enjoys a drink and a cake - slowing down, and celebrating life together. Similar to the German tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen.
  • But don't feel guilty about food - eat a little of what you fancy, keep food simple, focus on healthy nourishing food. Savour your meals, eat slowly. And focus on economy of effort [as Ms Conran once said, "Life's to short to stuff a mushroom"]
  • Beauty starts in the home - aim for minimalist yet warm and cosy. Choose natural materials and timeless designs
  • Being kind isn't just about self, 'me-time' and solitude. Spend time with others, be sociable, take pleasure in enjoying simple things together.
  • Above all, all are welcome to share the hygge
All good advice. The book is beautifully illustrated - lots of calming greys and blues - and half the pages are devoted to tasty looking recipes; main courses, salads, cakes, desserts, drinks. Quite a few are flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg...
I enjoyed this book, and found myself agreeing with many of her comments. 
I'm a little confused as to why the Nordic races have high suicide rates, if life is that cosy- and wonder why so many of their crime dramas are quite dark in tone. But on the whole, I like the principles of appreciating nature, practising self sufficiency, economy of effort, eating good food, and enjoying fellowship. I'd certainly recommend borrowing this from the library, and rate it *****
Two final comments- she says she doesn't like crunching raw kale, but discovered that if you massage it with a little oil, it wilts and becomes delicious. Liz made us her winter salad, [pictured] and I have to agree with that.,
Second thing- if a Dane runs around in a crazy fashion, has he gone hygge-mygge?


  1. It’s not actually correct that Scandinavian countries have relatively high suicide rates; compared to other OCED countries they are at the lower end, including Norway which has a lower rate than Sweden and Denmark. They frequently appear at the top of happiness surveys and they have relatively lower rates of violent crime and recidivism. I’m sure the concept of hygge (thanks for clarifying the pronunciation!) has something to with it but their social and family policies along with lower rates of inequality also play a role.

  2. Thanks for this correction Philip - it seems that they DID have high suicide rates back in the 50s, but the figures have changed since then [even though the idea persists] But you must agree that they DO have some rather bleak crime dramas on TV - just compare their The Bridge, The Killing and Wallander with our Midsomer Murders or Rosemary and Thyme!

  3. Maybe they hadn't quite discovered their hygge back in the 50s and that's why the suicide rates were high?

    Thank you for the book review. I shall look for it in the library.

  4. A friend and I are fans of Icelandic dramas and authors - and they too are quite dark! But we laugh because one author in particular has killed off more people in her books than I think have been murdered in all of Iceland in the last century and a half! :-) I think they get all the anger out in their literature!
    I actually rather like the Swedish concept of Lagom (hope I've spelled that correctly) - as I understand it it is contentment based on things being "enough". You aren't always striving for more or stressing about someone getting ahead of you - if you have enough of whatever) then you can be content.

  5. Yes that is true! There was Ingmar Bergman too.


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!