I'm writing this blog after a bracing autumn family walk: I’m sitting next to the fire; I’ve donned a pair of felt slippers; and I’m wearing a jumper inspired by the fisherman of Skagen. That’s right readers, I’m doing my best to channel hygge (hew-geh), the Danish concept of cosiness and conviviality that promotes wellbeing.
Last week hygge was named as third in the top three words of the year by the Collins Dictionary, being beaten only by Brexit and Trumpism. The negativity which has come to be associated with these two terms means that for the purposes of this blog I’ll focus on the one in third place.
Hygge has entered our lexicon largely because it’s been commandeered by writers (nine books are out this autumn) and British marketers.
The overuse is now all a bit predictable and it’s not just confined to consumer brand campaigns. Last week I spotted a workplace management company offering to inject hygge into the most sterile corporate environments to boost employee productivity. And the concept is even being used by one operator in the Private Rented Sector. We’ve almost reached ‘peak hygge’ and we haven’t even seen the Christmas ad campaigns for the major high street retailers yet...
The socio-economic impact of hygge is difficult to measure, but clearly the concept is a hugely profitable vehicle for Scandinavian exports in the worlds of design and fashion. It’s also been cited as one of a number of reasons why Denmark tops liveability, wellbeing and happiness indices.
David Cameron when in Downing Street launched a so-called happiness index which was designed to be a barometer of Britain’s wellbeing other than GDP. Mocked by cynics as a distraction to the real business of government, the results were first reported by the ONS in 2012 with the average Briton reporting life satisfaction of 7.4 out of 10. The ONS continues to track the results and it will be interesting to see whether the May administration associates itself with this research. We could be waiting a while to find out.
So as I reach for another cinnamon bun, one thing I’m sure of is that hygge’s inclusion in the Collins Dictionary is a triumph of marketing and cultural exchange.
Matt Sutton is an Associate Director at Camargue