Is the secret to happiness contained in one Danish word?

Is the secret to happiness contained in one Danish word?

By Megan Hickey via PBS

One of the most commonly-used words in Denmark has no English translation. “Hygge,” pronounced hoo-ga, is often translated as “coziness.” But coziness paints only part of the picture.

Simply, hygge is about living in the moment. It’s about spending quality, peaceful time in a calm environment with no agenda. It’s about humor, warmth and making connections. It’s about spending time alone and spending time with family. And it vanishes the moment your to-do list gets involved. It even has its own adjective: hyggelig. As in, “This quiet cafe is so hyggelig.”

Hygge is not entirely foreign to Americans. Consider Johnny Cash’s description of paradise: “This morning, having coffee, with her.” That’s hygge.

But the fact that there’s no easy translation may tell us as much about the country behind the word as the word itself. Denmark boasts generous vacation and parental leave, along with high-quality health care and unemployment benefits. It is also one of the highest-ranked countries in terms of happiness and work-life balance. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines work-life balance according to time devoted to leisure and personal care and the percentage of employees that work long hours. (Denmark ranks first at 9.8 and the U.S. ranks eighth from last with a score of 5.3.)…

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