The rest of the world has had a fascination with all things Nordic for a while now, but 2016’s hygge hype saw interest skyrocket as an attractive Scandi lifestyle concept met with an ever-growing cultural obsession with image-centric social media platforms.
It also placed the Nordic countries – rated as some of the happiest countries in the world – firmly in our sights as nations to look up to; if we follow Nordic lifestyle tips, will we become happy, healthy and beautiful too?
So Nordic concepts are now regularly popping into our vocabulary/awareness – some are more well-known than others, some are due to become the next Nordic buzzword any day now. Here’s a quick guide to the Nordic buzzwords you need to know.
Danish concept and British obsession. Pronounced ‘hue-guh’, hygge escaped Denmark a few years ago and fell into the hands of the British who have now murdered it with excessive hashtagging and trying to attribute hygge qualities to every Instagram post containing an IKEA tealight and personalised mug.
Hygge doesn’t have a literal translation but roughly means ‘cosiness and contentment’.
Something typically hygge is sitting in front of a toasty fire with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate, with a comfy blanket wrapped around you, while a storm rages outside your window. There will be candles, maybe some cake or soup, and a few loved ones.
Hygge is a moment/feeling in a moment, as opposed to our next Nordic buzzword…
Swiftly following the hygge craze that took 2016/7 by storm, Lagom is a Swedish word which translates approximately as ‘just the right amount’. Lagom is about balance and minimalism – a way of living which involves being content with having not too little and not too much. Lagom can be seen in scandi interior design with its simplicity, style and functionality. (Also shhh but it’s much less fun that the indulgent hygge).
Not content with rubbing their hygge feels in our faces, the Danes have decided to make lykke a thing as well. Pronounced ‘look-ah’, it’s a far easier concept to understand than hygge, and really just translates as ‘happiness’. Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world and they want everyone to know it, which is why books on how to be more lykke – the ‘Danish art of being happy’ – are popping up in a Waterstones near you just asking to be bought and placed on your coffee table.
The Norwegian concept of friluftsliv works as an antidote to too much hygge – friluftsliv translates approximately as ‘free air life’. This apparently is a wholesome way of living and communing with nature and the outside world – encapsulating camping, walking/hiking, sleeping under the stars and being outside as much as you can. It’s a rejection of the technology/screen-led society that we see ourselves in now and is a nice way of getting some fresh air and country-living inside ya. Yay Norway.
Sisu is a Finnish concept/life philosophy that broady translates as ‘determination’ and ‘resilience’. However, Sisu transcends mere ‘grit’ – it’s an integral part of Finnish culture and a characteristic that the Finns pride themselves on as a nation. It’s how Finland copes with temperatures of -30℃, not seeing the sun for 6 months of the year, and constantly seeing family members naked in saunas – sisu means enduring tough situations with courage and strength of will.
Döstädning is the latest Scandi fad due to hit Britain, just in time to coincide with our own traditions of cathartic January house-sorting and spring-cleaning. Döstädning is ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’. It’s not as morbid as it sounds, and it’s actually quite practical – it basically revolves around asking yourself ‘will this bring happiness after my death?’ when sorting out your apartment/house. If this is something that your loved ones will benefit from when sorting out your stuff post your death, then keep it (or just give it to them now); if no one will benefit, chuck. It’s a practical and unsentimental approach to getting your home in order. Apparently Swedes do this a few times a year, which explains a lot about why scandinavian interior design is so minimalist and immaculate.
So this one may not be a Nordic buzzword right now, but it should be. Kalsarikännit is a Finnish word to describe the ‘feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear with no intention of going out’. Well done Finland, I think you just beat everyone else on here.