How to do the indoors like the Danes

Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world and the source of their happiness starts in the home. We've got a guide to embracing the great indoors — Danish-style.

Staying in feels less fun when it’s something you have to do. In Lockdown, every day feels like Tuesday, shmusday. Thankfully, our Nordic friends in Denmark can teach us a thing or two about thriving on the inside. Perhaps we should take a page from their book — a specific book, in fact: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well written by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world and Wiking thinks Hygge — "Hig-ee?" "High-guh?" — has something to do with it. (It's actually pronounced "who-gah," which we totally knew.) Hygge is a verb, a noun and an adjective, but mostly it's something you feel.

Hygge is a defining feature of Danish cultural identity, integrated into their DNA and daily life. It’s a slow Sunday morning with a warm cup of coffee, an afternoon snowday curled up with your favourite book and a candlelit evening laughing with friends. In the most un-hygge, uncertain time, we still think there’s room to let some hygge in. 

Make it (well) lit

The home is hygge headquarters and it’s crucial to get the light right. Lighting can make the messiest apartment look like an IKEA catalogue. In Denmark, 71 per cent of Danes (who have the biggest living space per capita in Europe, btw) say they experience the most hygge at home.

The easiest way to add hygge is not more square footage, it’s candles. Go to any café in Copenhagen and you’ll see candles burning at nine in the morning. According to the European Candle Association (yup, that’s a thing), Denmark burns more candles than anywhere in Europe. For instant-hygge, stick a taper candle into an empty wine bottle. 

Have a cuppa

Hot drinks are what Danes associate the most with hygge – even more than candles and fireplaces – and coffee is their hot drink of choice. So if you can’t get a wood-burning fireplace into your 20th floor condo, a hot cup of joe should do.

Denmark is the world’s fourth biggest coffee consumer. There is always time for a “kaffepause" or moment of “kaffehygge” (The Danes love compound words just as much as they love their coffee). For precious beans delivered to your front door, check out Pilot Coffee Roasters.

Bring out the board games

There is something so wonderfully nostalgic about huddling 'round a board game – a top item on most hygge-hitlists. The best part about board games is winning the time you spend with each other. It's easy to get lost in a night of Codenames or two days of Monopoly.

Embracing a sense of play is something that our over-achiever adult selves need. If you don't have a designated board game cupboard, reach out to a friend to drop one off, order online or, when in doubt, build a fort. 

Get baking

Danes are known for having a sweet tooth (Danish is one of the only languages to have a pastry named after it). Cake is practically a food group in Denmark, but there's one baked good that's stood the hygge test of time – bread.

We're not talking about Wonder Bread here, we're talking about the oven-fresh, staff-of-life that fills your home and your belly. "Some Danes talk about their dough as if it were their baby... sourdough is basically an edible Tamagotchi," says Wiking. Check out Foodism's no-nonsense bread recipe that requires minimal babysitting.  

Slow Down

Finally, if there's one thing the art of hygge can teach us, let it be to stop and smell the roses (or carbs). Time is something we often take for granted and while this pandemic has taken so much away, it has also given us a chance to reconnect with ourselves and, if we're lucky, our homes.

You don't have to discover gravity like Issac Newton did while he was in quarantine. You can just sit back, throw on your best-worst Hyggebukser (that pair of sweats you love but wouldn't wear in public) and stay home, stay hygge.