All these show that preparations bring as much joy as the feast itself. Danish people can indulge in this spirit during the whole year, which can be called the “art of cosiness”. This is “hygge”. In Hungary, the intimate atmosphere is typical in the Advent season mainly. What is necessary for it? Warm lights, candles; delicious dishes, mostly sweets; hot drinks, having tea; a family or friendly gathering, good company, with whom you feel pleasant to be; comfortable soft clothes, warm woollen pullover, woollen socks, knitted scarf and last but not least: Christmas. The Danish “lykke” can be related to this partly. It does not have an exact Hungarian definition either, but could be defined as the feeling of the perfect happiness.
The Swedish “lagom” is about balance: to be in balance with yourself, with the surrounding world, keeping in mind the principle of moderation. Customers’ habits reflect this feeling of life trustworthily: to buy what and how much you need – considering environmental aspects and rejecting wasting. In addition, if you have a little time, you go out in a forest or do voluntary work. It can be perceived as a kind of anti-consumer attitude, in which creativity is essential. In practice, it is realised in Sweden for example that they have recently made experiments with the 6-hour workday, in the intention of employees’ balance and effectiveness.
We must mention the Finnish “sisu” that is a kind of philosophy of courage, which urges to action and endurance even in difficulties, instead of resignation and drafting. By all means, it is a motivating attitude to life. But does it make you happy? Perhaps there is something in it, or just a simple coincidence: according to the World Happiness Report 2018 ordered by the UNO, Finland is the happiest country in the world, considering many aspects (besides GDP, important components are the social network, the life expectancy, examination of the lack of corruption, etc.). It is followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Norway was the first in the list in 2017 and Denmark led in 2016.
Besides the World Happiness Report, several surveys on happiness and satisfaction have been made. For example the Better Life Indexe of the OECD countries, whose result comes from 11 indicators (instead of GDP based on dry economic facts), which show citizens’ satisfaction in a better way. The indicators are housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and the work-life balance, namely the balance of overtime and free time. If you look at the latest data, Norway, Denmark, Australia and Sweden excel. According to these examinations, Hungary has a lot to make up for if you want to meet more balanced and less frustrated people in the streets, shops and buses.
Is it a commonplace, or do northern peoples really know something? Is it easier for them to be happy, because they live in welfare states? There is demand for the Scandinavian philosophy in Hungary too, as the crowded Ikea stores show banally, where we do not go only for buying furniture, and while sitting on Ektorp sofas or eating Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce – despite the crowd – we search for the northern feeling of life. Albeit, the key of it is a type of minimalism, when you do not huddle up objects around yourself, but try to esteem the tiny things and the joy of the moment, either a good company or a mug of cocoa. It sounds simple, some kind of a caprice, but certain values like social and environmental responsibility or the slow movement appear behind this thought.
Translated by Zita Aknai
- Meik Wiking: Hygge – A dán életérzés, amely boldoggá tesz. Budapest. Kossuth, 2017
- Kovács Kitti: A lagom az új hygge? – A svéd boldogságrecept nyomában. In: Mindset Pszichológia. 2017.10.29.
- Kovács Kitti: Van-e benned sisu? – Pozitív életszemlélet finn módra. In: Mindset Pszichológia. 2018.04.08.