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‘Hygge is a waste of London’: Time Out’s Miriam Bouteba on the Danish cult of cosiness

‘Hygge is a waste of London’: Time Out’s Miriam Bouteba on the Danish cult of cosiness
Jens Larsson/flickr

By now you’re probably familiar with the concept of hygge. At least ten books plus countless magazine articles and blog posts have taken turns this year to spew out instructions on how to be/get/have/live hygge. And almost all of them make the same point: that the word doesn’t translate exactly into English, that the closest we can get to it are ‘cosiness’, ‘comfort’, ‘warm conviviality’. Well, I’m calling bullshit on that: the word does have an exact English translation, and that is ‘boring’.

Denmark is a great country and the Danes have given us many wonderful things: cinnamon buns, schnapps at weddings, hot new punk band Yung, Sarah Lund’s jumper. But the concept of hygge feels entirely alien in our busy, ever-changing city. If the how-to-be-hyggelig guides are to be believed then we ought to stay indoors in our cosy, perfectly put-together homes – complete with roaring fires and enough candles to commission another series of ‘London’s Burning’. Which is all well and good out there in the countryside, where people own actual houses and there are delightfully snug pubs which also have roaring fires (albeit alongside an inferior selection of artisanal gins). But hygge doesn’t really work quite as well in a city of poky flatshares – many without living rooms, never mind fireplaces – where there’s a strong chance that your bedroom was once a cupboard.

It’s also utterly unromantic. There’s nothing spontaneous about hygge. It reeks of giving up and settling in. It gives people an excuse to Netflix and literally chill. And with the temperature plummeting and ‘cuffing season’ about to begin, nobody needs the added justification of following a smug Scandi lifestyle trend to stay indoors under a pile of blankets. But the most offensive thing about hygge is this: it’s a waste of London.

Ask anyone what they like best about our city, and no one who hasn’t recently undergone a lobotomy will reply: ‘Staying in with my candles.’ London doesn’t happen indoors among disingenuously messed-up cushions and homemade breakfast buns. It’s out there in the teeth-chattering cold as you queue for a restaurant that will blow your tastebuds away. It’s in a club where you’ll dance all night, at a campy musical at a theatre above a pub which will make you cry, or an art show that will make you feel something – anything – other than cosy.

Cosy is safe and it’s dull. It means complacency and idleness. Nothing spectacular ever happened to someone when they were feeling cosy. Snuggly jumpers are all well and good, but Sara Lund didn’t sit around wearing hers in an artfully arranged apartment: that jumper was iconic because she was out wearing it in the bracing Danish cold, chasing crims.

London at its best is brilliant, bright and breathtaking in its newness. It comes complete with an inexhaustible to-do list: there’s always something new to see, to try, to eat. So put down that godawful guide to hygge, stop feeling all cosy, go out of the house and actually do something. Alternatively, leave the fun to us, grab yourself an extra blanket and go back to fygging sleep.

Outraged hygge lover? Read a Dane’s response: ‘Hygge is a part of London’.

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Comments

9 comments
Lene M
Lene M

I find this article highly offensive, rude and just plain pointless. It also shows the author's utter stupidity- she really hasn't got the concept of hygge at all. And frankly - to write a piece about something you clearly know nothing about and trying to pass yourself off as an expert is very uhyggeligt - scary.

But perhaps the problem here is that she hasn't got anybody to hygge with - and in that case it is all just a bit sad really

Debbie v
Debbie v

Pretty typically missed the point of Hygge! Unromantic??? Have you ever done it? I am German and we have our own version of Hygge and it is everything to us. But whatever we call it, it is basically a philosophy and for some, almost a religion. It is NOT a cult, but a way of life which helps us to pay attention to the smaller details in life. And trust me, you can Hygge in a one bedroom flat if you get the concept. You have to FEELl it and the writer obviously doesn't feel much at all. The spontaneity of Hygge comes from living it every day, not just setting it up when people come over to impress them! You do it for yourself and when YOU can feel it, your friends and family will be embraced by it too. Ignorant rubbish. Maybe a little less gin soaked and more in depth research might be better next time.

Christina R
Christina R

What the hell is this article? Rude, misinformed and pretty insulting. I'm a busy Dane living in London. The word "hygge" means a lot to me. It's not a cult, it's the complete opposite. The journalist in question clearly hasn't done her research, nor spoken to an actual Dane. "Reeks of giving up and settling in?" - Christ. You're wrong. Hygge is that little moment/glipse of happiness and contentment that keeps us going in the Londoner's busy life, a quick group hug with your housemates before rushing off to work, or making a pot of tea for your boyfriend after a long day. It doesn't have to be a group of Danish elves (nisser) sitting in a log cabin singing around the fire. There's nothing spontaneous about hygge? EH? Of course there is. We'll find some hygge in every part of London, even on a hectic night out when you take that 10 minute time out with your friend curled up in one of the nooks and crannies of one of the remaining London clubs. Stupid, weird, bitter sounding article. This isn't journalism.

Victoria B
Victoria B

You sound like you are very young and emotionally immature.

Ivan B
Ivan B

You must be single?

Aimee H
Aimee H

As a Londoner, I find this article rude and frankly, rubbish.


Clearly, as other commenters have pointed out, you have not understood what 'hygge' is all about. It is not at all encouraging people to stay in and be boring, in fact they could just as easily go to one of the places listed in TimeOut and have a hygge evening.


What happened to multi-cultural London? This city has a long legacy of enrichment from other cultures and has thrived on this. 


I am a Londoner who speaks other languages, who has lived abroad, and who has also lived in the north. People often judge Londoners harshly for being up themselves, unfriendly and having a superior attitude, looking down their noses at others as they sip an extremely overpriced cocktail. Sadly, I feel this article strongly reinforces that stereotype.


To me it seems that all you've done before writing this is read 'a few guides and magazine articles', as you poke fun at others for doing - but somehow you've missed the point entirely.


Frankly, although it would clearly be bad news for your employer, even if hygge did encourage staying in, so what? London is my home, it is a wonderful place, but it is also a place that can make people feel down, alone and broke. I don't see anything wrong with suggesting spending time in with your friends if you can't afford to queue up and go to that new mouthwatering restaurant. So many people that live here do not have the luxury of going out all the time, but because of ridiculous articles like this, feel bad about themselves and embarrassed if they haven't been to this new bar or restaurant, but all of their friends have. 


Just because you may be lucky enough to have access to this kind of lifestyle, please do not assume that everybody else does. This article is shortsighted and judgemental. The whole tone is sneering and superior, which really does show your lack of understanding of hygge.


Freddy C
Freddy C

Appreciate Hygge can only be translated in approximations - however the literal translation is not 'candles. lots and lots of candles'..! The idea extends further than 'cosy' and involves getting together with friends and family, enjoying living modestly, being stress-free and eating well, which I would argue is what most people in London are looking for after a hard day at work.


This article is either entirely missing the point or just another miserable attempt to s*** on every new trend that threatens the businesses featured in TimeOut's 'Things to Do' section.

Anders B
Anders B

Silly piece. Hygge is a much broader concept that can be practiced wherever you are. Why didn't you research the concept before writing this nonsense.

Best regards 

A Dane

C D
C D

There is a lot more to this lifestyle than sitting in your jumper. Of all cities London should definitely take some learnings from the Hygge concept. You'd be surprised how much happens when you actually stop making your life so busy of emptiness and start doing less to let your creativity and simple pleasures of life come through. Not seeking happiness outside. Of course that would mean people would spend a lot less money on all those bars, workshops and overpriced cafes you praise but only some people of London can actually afford... This attitude is probably why London scores so low on happiness too....