Indiana University Overseas Study

Maddie Hineman - Copenhagen

hygge (n.)

A Danish word that every tourist in Copenhagen has heard. It’s a word that can’t be translated into English, rather a feeling–something you must experience. I’ve been in Copenhagen, Denmark for 4 weeks now and the three definitions below is what I’ve experienced and what I’ve noticed most about the Danish culture.

  1. The Danish concept of creating warmth, connection, and well-being.
  2. Presence. Committing spirit, pleasure, and warmth to ordinary rituals and gestures that comfort and make us feel rooted and generous.
  3. The appreciative method of giving and receiving that occurs while around the table for a shared meal, sheltered from the rain at the bus stop, or alone in bed with a hot water bottle and a good book.
Maddie and friend overlooking Copenhagen

On top of the Church of Our Savior

The past couple of weeks I’ve done some incredible things. I’ve seen the city from what I’ve been told are the three best views of Copenhagen, ran around the streets for the best ice cream, and ran through the beautiful gardens and parks. But what catches my attention the most are the people within this city and how they treat one another. The first night I went out in Copenhagen, it seemed almost impossible to go start conversation with the Danes. They sat in large groups and wouldn’t even make eye contact with us. Well, we just assumed that we were Americans and they didn’t want to talk to us–typical.

Nyhavn

A stroll down Nyhavn

But the next time I noticed this kind of behavior with the Danes was when a few of us took a walk down Nyhavn (New Harbor–the infamous Copenhagen picture we all know and love). We were just walking–wasn’t expecting to make conversation or meet new Danish friends. What we slowly realized was what they call hygge. And I’ve started to recognize it as the days pass by.

Paludan (one of my favorite cafes to work at)

Paludan (one of my favorite cafés to work at)

Now when I go to a cute, little cafe and see two Danes interacting and conversing, I see their full attention go towards the person(s) they are with. They don’t have their phones out or look around to see what other strangers are doing. They’re making eye contact, nodding their heads, and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. They’re making connections and living in the moment. People always say, “live in the moment,” but it has a whole new meaning here than in the States. With wi-fi being my only way to communicate, it’s been easy not to look at my phone during the day (given that I only have wi-fi at home). I want to bring this hygge feeling back home with me when I leave here in two weeks. Because of this, I’ve learned more about the people I’ve met while abroad and taken the time to enjoy my experiences with them and grow. It’s amazing what can happen when you put your phone down, stop worrying about others around you, and be present with the people you’re surrounded by.

The epitome of hygge. My entire floor and our RA enjoying a night in with some candlelit laughter and conversation.

The epitome of hygge. My entire floor and our RA enjoying a night in with some candlelit laughter and conversation.

Maddie Hineman

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