The secret to happiness is, apparently, hygge. Hi-what? More like Who-what. It's pronounced Hoo-Gur, and it's a Danish word that has no equivalent in the English language. (FYI: Denmark is the happiest country in the world.) Hygge means getting cosy, chillaxing, taking time out, creating a warm, sociable atmosphere that is comfortable and uncluttered and generally chilling like a villain. It's about embracing the simple little moments of pleasure in life. Hygge is not about multi-tasking, worrying about e-mails or wondering if you're #eatingclean. As I work on this story, I've decided to go make myself a cup of warm peppermint tea. Ahh... I feel 50 per cent more Hygge already. Over the past year, the Hygge way of life has been embraced by many outside Denmark and the Scandinavian countries, and the word "Hygge" made the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 Word of the Year shortlist. It all means that in a crazy, crazy world, there is still room for a little bit of warm, cosy happiness.
We ask the folks from atomi, the multi-brand store which brings in Scandinavian-inflected designer furniture and lifestyle items from Japan, what Hygge is and whether we all need more Hygge in our lives. Andrew Tan, who set up the store in 2009 with his Japanese wife, tells us, "Yes, I Hygge! That's why we started atomi, our sanctuary of life, style and comfort, to hyyge." Who better to talk to about Hygge?
8 DAYS: What is Hygge? It's a lifestyle phenomenon that’s really taken off in recent months.
Andrew Tan: Hygge is about creating a sanctuary, a shelter, both physically and psychologically, for oneself and everyone around us. Hygge encompasses its own universe of meaning, and introduces life and warmth into our lifestyle. This phenomenon is taking off here because in a city state like Singapore, we are too caught up with the relentless pursuit of efficiency, effectiveness, and monetary gains. Scandinavians preserve their national identities, traditions and arts and crafts well. Thus, a growing number of Singaporeans are yearning for the understated comfort, warmth, and well-being that Hygge embodies, communicates, and enhances. Danes love natural materials with honesty, and wood is their preferred and favourite choice, often in its most natural unvarnished state, to allow it to keep growing and evolving.
Do you Hygge?
Yes, I do! That's why we started atomi, our sanctuary of life, style and comfort, to hyyge. Hygge is the art of living well, creating and preserving the places we inhabit. It's about creating a sense of belonging, security and living, anywhere and everywhere. It involves indulging our five senses, listening to the rhythm of our daily activities, and enjoying the smallest and finest routine of our lives. From sipping a cup of tea alone, to taking a walk in the park breathing in the fresh air, it’s the simplicity of daily routine that brings out the comfort and intimacy of life. The products carried by atomi allows its users to Hygge, whether at home, whilst on the road or at work.
Is Hygge only for cold countries, where the concept of snuggling under a warm blanket makes sense?
Hygge is more than just snuggling under a warm blanket. That is just one form of Hygge. Hygge is about pampering oneself and loved ones. The Danes lead a life of eating well and in moderation, making sure every meal is served on nice plates and bowls, with proper table linen and cutlery. Hygge is all about paying attention to details, and living well daily instead of just on special occasions, regardless of season or climate.
Do you think Singaporeans need Hygge?
Yes, we certainly need Hygge. It represents a sense of belonging, authenticity and togetherness. And the art of life is to constantly be open to the rest of the world, while enjoying daily life to the fullest. Singaporeans must stay open and connected to the global stage and yet stay sane by practising Hygge. We are a little red dot with immense pressure from internal and external forces. In order to be happy, we must be able to accept the limitations and constraints of life, and make the best of any situation through moderation and compromise.
How can we apply Hygge to interior décor and home living?
Hygge is about privacy and togetherness, from the touch of a well-designed dining chair supporting the user, hugging his back, and lulling him into a state of comfort and relaxation to an inviting sofa which allows us to retreat into our space. With Hygge, the mobility and flexibility of furniture items is key so that they can be easily rearranged to ensure comfort and style. Denmark shares many similarities with Singapore. Both are small countries surrounded by water. Our close proximity to nature, community and family and friends means that Singaporeans can and should incorporate Hygge into our lifestyles.