I found a short story today that was posted on Longreads about the dark side of hygge in Denmark. For all those who don’t know hygge is the Danish term that loosely translates as cozy. When you move there you are quickly introduced to it. The post describes it like this
A way of staging coziness: candles, coffee, cake, cuddling up inside the house to protect oneself from the dark and cold winters—or in the summertime when the dark is non-existent, we “hygge” in the yard with grill parties, cold drinks, sausages
It is a nice part of Danish culture, one of my favourites. The emphasis on being cozy goes with patio blankets and designer candles in student flats.
The dark side of hygge she argues is that it is used to keep people in line. You have to be happy and positive and stylish. You have to have nice candles and invite people over to eat baked goods. You can’t talk about anything bad or dark or scary. You must be happy.
The darker side of “hygge” is that it also serves as social control. If someone tries to get away from the “hygge,” he or she is drawn back into the circle of “hygge,” where rule number one is that you “hygge” and don’t do anything that will spoil the “hygge,” because if you spoil the “hygge,” things will turn “uhyggelig” (pronounced oo-HOOG-guh-lee!). “Uhyggelig” doesn’t mean uncozy – it means “scary.” So the other side of “hygge” is “scary.” Therefore Danes are really, really scared of stepping outside the realms of “hygge”.
It’s interesting that the opposite of hygge is scary. I also think that this is not a uniquely Danish phenomenon. Of all the downsides of Danish society I think this one is quite universal. It’s not an outright expression just like we don’t have a concept that refers specifically to an idea of cozy but it’s still a part of life in Canada. There are very few friends that I would talk about serious or dark topics with. I have many friends who keep everything light and fluffy at all times. The things they talk about are filtered like their Facebook feeds. They have no problems and nothing is ever bad. Why ruin the vibe by getting serious?