I`s not just one word – it`s both a noun and a verb. In Norway it`s koselig (noun) and kose (verb), in Denmark hyggelig (noun) and hygge (verb) and I believe the Swedish words for it is mysigt (noun) and mys (verb).
So what is koselig/hyggelig/mysigt? What is that word that can`t be translated and which isn`t even the same word in the three Scandinavian countries? What is that word that defines us so much but which we can`t bring with us when we go abroad? We only pine for it when we`re somewhere else.
Some people would translate it into cosy, but that`s just wrong. A bed can be cosy but it doesn`t explain what koselig/hyggelig/mysigt is. So I`ll try with a picture:
This family here is using that one Scandinavian word you can`t really translate. When the autumn and winter gets darker (it`s pretty dark here already) and it`s cold outside, you make a fire in the fireplace, light up a lot of candles, make something hot to drink and possibly some cake or some waffles and then you just enjoy yourself. With your family and/or your friends.
You know immediately when you are having this cozy time. You can come into your friends` livingroom and you will immediate say…
“neimen, så koselig” (Norwegian)
“Nej, hvor hyggeligt” (Danish)
“Näh, hva mysigt” (my rotten version of Swedish)
… which basically means that you think looks cozy. It`s ingrained in us – we seek this atmosphere of kos/hygge/mysigt, especially in the winter. You don`t quarrel or discuss politics. It`s a time for just enjoying yourself in the company of other people.
A way to survive winter
I`m sure a lot of you have wondered how we Scandinavians survive our dark and cold winters. Why aren`t we sinking into deep depression from October till April? I`m fairly sure it`s because of the kos/hygge/mys. We seek each other`s company and we create our little warm heaven where we enjoy ourselves. That way winter is absolutely tolerable!
So if you want to feel a little Scandinavian tonight, close your curtains (you don`t want the sun to ruin everything), make some gløgg (cocoa or coffee will do – red wine too), invite friends/family and light as many candles you can – the fireplace too if you have one. Talk about nice topics only and feel the calmness enter your body.