The concept of hygge has been around for a couple of winters now, it gained popularity during the pandemic and the lockdowns and it's still going strong today. But what exactly is hygge, and can anyone be a part of this Nordic lifestyle, including the French?
Is there a French Hygge Style?
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Mais oui! The answer is yes! And you'd be surprised how much French culture you can find in the Hygge aesthetic and philosophy!
What is Hygge?
The Scandinavian countries are some of the happiest countries in the world for some years now, and I believe Hygge might be the reason (or at least one of the reasons!).
Hygge is a Norwegian and Danish concept describing a feeling of contentment or mood of comfort, a state of mind of coziness. It focuses on the small joys of life, natural elements, and informal time together in a calm, quiet location.
Hygge Pronunciation & Translation
This is something that everyone asks! Difficult to explain and confusing to pronounce, the word hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) was one of the finalists of the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 Word of the Year. Here's their Hygge definition.
You can listen to the pronunciation here, and it sounds SO French to me!
Translating this word to different languages is difficult. Although there isn't an exact word, in English (or French) some phrases get close. In English, it is cozy, like to create a cozy space, to create a space that feels cozy or where you can feel good.
When it comes to translating the word to French, a couple of phrases come to mind, like être à la cool, être en mode pépère, or être à l’aise (meaning someone who is relaxed and comfortably installed in life). It’s difficult to find a word that completely encompasses the meaning of hygge. I think the closest is le cocooning.
The French word pantouflard is sometimes another translation meaning a homebody or someone who likes to stay at home and just be (but it also has certain negative connotations and can also mean a couch potato).
While it might be hard to find a perfect translation, it is pretty easy to follow the philosophy!
Origins of Hygge
The Hygge philosophy gained momentum in 2016-17 but tends to make a reappearance every year during the winter months. The word hygge comes from the Norwegian word meaning ‘wellbeing’. It first appeared in Danish literature in the 19th century and since then has been believed to be of Danish origin.
But Hygge is so much more than just that. It is comfort and calm, the intimacy of being together with friends, family, and loved ones, and the concept of cocooning. It’s lively, you feel warm, it’s simple.
Hygge design is about creating an atmosphere to cocoon. Creating a Hygge home or space where you want to curl up with a good book, a cup of tea, and just be.
Here is my guide to winter with a Hygge attitude à la française!
When does the hygge season begin?
For the Danes, the hygge season peaks during Christmas. With the long winters in the Scandinavian countries, the Hygge lifestyle is a great way to brighten things up and bring some warmth to everyday life.
The holidays make for a perfect time to come together and create happy memories to make the winter pass faster. With scented candles and fires roaring in the hearth, the Nordic countryside comes to life with color and warmth.
How to live a hygge lifestyle (à la française)!
There’s more than one way to Hygge, and this guide is just a starting point to embracing the Hygge lifestyle.
Spend quality time
It is pretty easy to bring home the stress of everyday life but to truly embrace Hygge, you need to be mindful about the time you spend and who you spend it with.
Togetherness is the core concept of Hygge – spending quality time with friends, family, or loved ones. The French also prioritize family and friends. They feel that meaningful connections and spending time together are the keys to happiness
Social interactions don’t need to include fancy soirées. Keep the group small and intimate, and focus on being present in the moment. One of the best ways is to eat together – not only do you enjoy the conversation but also focus on the simple joys. Throw in some comfort food and you some nice wine and you are there!
Hygge is all about continuous comfort, and in order to achieve that, you need to dress for the part. This is the time to don those warm fuzzy socks, chunky cable knits, and fluffy blankets. The cozier you feel, the more Hygge it will be.
It's widely known that the French have a penchant for dressing with formality. They prioritize elegance and sophistication, even over comfort. However, behind closed doors, every French woman has her ultimate go-to cozy knitwear ensemble for those much-needed moments of relaxation. Forget about plain cotton sweatshirts or hoodies – French women will forever opt for the luxurious allure of cashmere or mohair knits.
[P.S. You don't have to break the bank to where cashmere! Brands like Quince have amazing cashmere at incredible prices!]
If winter where you live is not as harsh that shouldn’t stop you from being Hygge. If chunky knits are not suitable, look for softer and lighter versions of sweaters that bring the optimal amount of warmth.
A big part of the Hygge lifestyle focuses on general well-being. This includes eating well, having a healthy work-life balance, avoiding multitasking, spending regular time without technology, and having gratitude.
In French culture, self-care is not just a concept but a way of life. The French embrace self-care effortlessly, embodying the joyful spirit of living each day. By taking care of themselves, they show respect to others. It seamlessly integrates into their lifestyle.
Enjoy hot chocolate and steaming mugs of tea (or a regular cup of coffee if that is your thing), and indulge in cinnamon rolls and almond cakes. Anything that will create a warm space inside and outside the body.
Curate a playlist
There is nothing that music can’t change. So if you’re looking to transform your home into a cozy cocoon, I suggest you start by curating a special playlist. Certain tunes are better than others in invoking a hygge atmosphere.
Think of relaxing songs and soft sounds that help you unwind. Seek out tunes that work well for you and let them play in the background.
Start a Candle Collection
The Danes are big on bringing warmth into their lives. And it’s a bonus if it also includes comforting scents. Hygge without candles is no hygge at all!
Candles are an absolute must-have for any French apartment. They add that je ne sais quoi, creating an enchanting ambiance. Trust me, no home is truly complete without them!
French women have an innate ability to create a delightful atmosphere and candles are always on hand.
Use the scents that blend in with the season, like pumpkin spice, cinnamon, clove, cedar, or any woody perfume. These fragrances are associated with feelings of warmth and will strengthen the holiday spirit.
Candlelight is also not too bright and helps to create an intimate atmosphere.
The Hygge Home Decor
Embracing nature is another big part of the Hygge lifestyle. Since winters can be harsh and cold, the Danes love to bring the great outdoors into their living spaces. Bringing the greenery inside with houseplants is the first step in embracing nature – think of spider plants or ferns that liven up the spaces.
Despite having an impressive list of parks and gardens dotted all over the city, Paris doesn't have as many green spaces when compared to other European cities. And certain arrondissements are more devoid of green space than others. This became especially noticeable to many Parisians, confined to small areas of the city during the pandemic.
However, Parisians have found one solution – they adorn their homes with plants and flowers, transforming their living spaces into vibrant urban jungles. The trend of creating these leafy havens is on the rise among Parisians, bringing a touch of nature to the heart of the city.
Softening your interiors is key to Hygge decor. Hygge design includes warm tapestries, rugs (think faux fur), cushions, a throw pillow or two, blankets, and a roaring fire (you can also stream a roaring fire while snuggling on the couch).
Hygge is an art of living, an art of letting go and being satisfied with the things you have. It is a concept that can be practiced no matter where you live, especially if you have long winters and if nightfall begins at 4 p.m. This precious way of living is sure to chase away the darkness, so why not get into this Hygge lifestyle too?
Further reading on Hygge:
- The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
- Hygge: The Secrets of the Hygge art towards a Stress-Free and Happier Life
- Hygge: Unlock the Danish Art of Coziness and Happiness
So, how will you try embracing hygge this winter? How do you see French Hygge Style relating to “regular” Hygge? Do tell!
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I am married to a French man, lived in France for 3 years, and have been to Paris more than 50 times. I am always a tourist so the information, tip, and tricks I share are created to help you!