They know a thing or two, the Danes.
They know how to make good TV for a start. Any of you out there who fancy a bit of intelligent, slightly offbeat European drama with a line of black in it as dark as a miner’s armpit, then Danish national broadcaster DR are your go-to guys.
Okay, sometimes you want to shout
For god’s sake, just put the light on rather than stumbling towards the armed psychopath waiting in that pitch black abattoir
And the same actors turn up in different shows – one minute as a politician, the next as a drunk homeless guy – so there’s a constant, disjointed feeling of deja vu, but what can you expect from a country where the population is below 6 million? (London’s is a bit over 8.5 million, which gives you some perspective.)
I’m no linguist, but by the time you’ve watched several of these programmes – reading the subtitles while Nordic vowels flow into you like ink into blotting paper – you’ll become convinced you can speak the language like a native.
Then there’s Hans Christian Anderson, of course, he of Little Mermaid fame, the heroine who is perhaps the epitome of self mortification in the name of love. You can’t help but wonder if she might have had some influence on the Scandi-noir girls who come after (like Sara Lund and Saga Noren from the above shows), adept as they are at doing the right thing despite the personal cost.
Lego, Danish pastries, the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”), conductor and comedy pianist Victor Borge, film director and obscurist misery-monger Lars von Trier (Dogville, Breaking the Waves) author Peter Hoeg (Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow) and poet Benny Andersen.
I haven’t brought you to Wednesday Word Tangle – the fabled W4W – for any of this. I’ve brought you here for one, single Danish word –
Pronounced something like hooga, hygge isn’t just a word or a concept – it’s a national mindset.
Think of it.
You live in a small country, culturally impressive – and the happiest place to live in the world – but with no great power, influence or empire to swing around to impress the big hitters on the global stage.
What you do have is a lot of fish, ice, snow and some days in winter in which the sun only rises above the horizon for seven hours.
And this, friends is where hygge comes in. Because it means a sense of cosy intimacy. Think curling up somewhere warm – by an open fire, under a duvet – reading a good book, candles burning, your most cherished loved one by your side and eating something delicious.
Let’s take a leaf out of the Book of the Danes and accept HYGGE into our lives.
A little something for those of you who’d like to get hygge-ish with Viking Alexander Dreymon.
Thanks to Kat, founder of W4W.