COPENHAGEN & HYGGE
This year for the holidays I found my self in Copenhagen, Denmark!
Although most of the museums and other community centers were closed due to the pandemic, I learned some very important lessons about community from just walking around the city center.
Even in the 20 degree weather, pretty much everyone in the city has a bike for transportation or a cargo bike for larger items. In fact, having a car is not common for many people who live in Denmark.
I noticed that pedestrians and bikers follow the streetlights and crossing signals extremely closely. COMPLETELY opposite of New York City.. If you cross before your signal, you will politely be informed of how to act next time by citizens in the street.
My general takeaway was that the city has a major focus on sustainability, quality over quantity, community and happiness.
The 2020 World Happiness Report rated the top 3 happiest countries as all Scandinavian countries:
This is when I learned the word "hygge" (pronounced HUE-GAH).
Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. This word has connections to a few Scandinavian countries such as Norway, but is centralized in Denmark.
Hygge is about the small things that happen in life, that contribute to you & your communities happiness and wellness. This can include, but is not limited to: skincare, bundling up with your favorite book around a fire, getting together with your friends for a picnic, making an effort to help the environment, etc.
It is noted that perhaps hygge has become such an important part of Danish culture, as they are unburdened with the country's free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. It's easy to understand that they may have more time to focus on what increases their quality of life than many other countries.
HOWEVER - on the contrary, as a way of life, hygge is very bourgeois, focusing on material wealth through homemade, rustic items. Because of this, many Danes are very un-trusting of other people unless they run inside the same circle of friends of theirs.
Denmark is known for their strict immigration policies. They have long stated that they are "accepting of others, but do not want to become a multi-cultural country" and are often not very accepting of other life practices. This is not realistic or a modern way of thinking, and is one of the many negative realities of modern Danish culture.
There are some negative and positive lessons to be learned from Danish culture. The focus on sustainability was very impactful for me, but I also valued learning about hygge and some of the pressing injustices that are extremely prevalent in Denmark.