The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking- Summary and Review

"The Little Book of Hygge - The Danish Way to Live Well" has been in my book list from quite some time. So yesterday, I read it. It's a book with too many pictures, so it just takes couple of hours to finish it. The author of the book, Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Denmark. Denmark has topped the World Happiness Report as the happiest country many times.

The Little Book of Hygge
The Little Book of Hygge



So, what's Hygge? It comes from Norwegian language and literally means "well being".
But for Danes, Hygge is much more than that.
It's not just coziness or the happiness after meeting your old friends or just mere contentment or just feeling safe and warm. It's probably a combination of all these.

Hygge factor is a performance indicator in social gatherings.
Hygge is used as a verb and as part of many compound words.
There are some words in other countries that come close to Hygge like - gezelleheid in Netherlands, koselig in Norway, Hominess in Canada, gemutlichkeit in Germany.

What's Hygge in your language?
"We give the things we see – things that matter – names."

And it's pronounced as Hoo-ga.

Denmark is a very cold country and they see darkness from October to March. They have free health care and free university. Bikes can be parked without locking them - as the fear of theft is non-existent. Most of the Hygge contributors are dependent on these factors.

Light : Warm light

Candles or living lights as Danes call it are central in all the homes. They consume the highest number of candles compared to any other country. They celebrate a "Light Party" on May 4th in the remembrance of the withdrawal of German troops from Denmark in World War.

Lamps of low temperature unlike the harsh lights placed at strategic positions in houses give a cozy feeling. These exquisite lamps are designed especially for this purpose - to emit a diffused warm light.

Golden hour photography is the best for the memories - The one hour after sunrise and the one hour just before sunset.


Work-Life Balance: We often reserve weekends to spend time with family. But the Danes are known for their work-life balance and spending time with family every day instead of catching up with them on weekends.

"Work later than 5.30, and the office is a morgue. Work at the weekend, and the Danes think you are mad. The idea is that families have time to play and eat together at the end of the day, every day."

Socialize: Meet friends, family or colleagues a minimum of once a week.
Do not dominate the other in conversation. Do not brag about yourself. Meet as equals and talk out.
Introverts feel included too as they don't have to fill the gaps with awkward conversations or small talk.
Help each other even if the other person is the host. Prepare food collectively along with the host in their kitchen - Diversity of food and the host doesn't feel drained at the dinner table.

"The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people."

A Hygge group is generally of less number of people - about three or four- for maximum higgeness.

"Start a new tradition with your friends or family"
Board games or any kind of celebrations - to knit the group together for years.

Food and Drink:

"Something sinful is an integral component of the hygge ritual."

Food: cake,sweet,pastries,

DIY: There's more happiness when you cook/bake something alone or with family/friends than to buy something. The process is more enjoyable and memorable than the output itself even if it tastes bad.

Hot drinks : Coffee, tea, mulled wine

Comfort/slow food: Food that's prepared with slow cooking.

Start a food club with friends or family. Cook together - bring your own ingredients.


Casual and minimal yet stylish.


"Link purchases with good experiences."
Buying a new item after ticking off something will link the item forever with memories.

Hyggekrog - a cozy nook.
Windowsill with pillows,blankets,cozy light, coffee and a book. Doesn't have to be by the window, any sweet spot in your home will do.

Candles, wooden items, vintage items, blankets and cushions, hyggekrog, fireplace, ceramic items, books, nature(flowers or plants) and different textures of things you would love to feel by running your fingers across.

Hygge Emergency Kit-candles, chocolate, tea/coffee, favorite book, movie/series, pantry party leftovers, socks, favorite letters written to you, warm jumper,journal that has the hygge moments documented, blanket, paper and pen to write a letter, music, photo album. 


Company, casualness,nature,present moment.
Cabins are a great way to get together.
Couches are a great for having informal conversations at work place.

 Hygee All Year Around:

(This is based on Denmark)

January - Movie night with snacks and talking more than watching the movie itself.
February - Ski trip
March - Country/culture theme -at vacation or home. For example, Spain: speak or leave notes in Spanish, celebrate Spanish festivals etc.
April- Hike and cook on open fire.
May- Rustic weekend cabin and board games for rainy days.
June- Elderflower lemonade and summer solstice (sun sets at 11 PM in Denmark)
July-Summer picnic and potluck.
August -Meteor shower-star gazing and a time to learn mythology.
September-Mushroom foraging.
November-Soup party - bring your own ingredients.
December-Pancake puffs

Hygge on the cheap:

"Hygge is humble and slow. It is choosing rustic over new, simple over posh and ambience over excitement. In many ways, hygge might be the Danish cousin to slow and simple living."

Simplicity, modesty, functionality.

"You cannot hygge if you are in a hurry or stressed out, and the art of creating intimacy cannot be bought by anything but time, interest and engagement in the people around you."

Less/no consumerism.

Board games,pantry party -bring your own ingredients and containers, TV night, mini library in shared spaces, boules, fire,outdoor movies, swap party(exchange things which you don't need with others), sleigh, play.

Hygge places: 

I'm gonna skip this, it's about the Hygee places in Copenhagen. Find Hygge places in your city.


Christmas is filled with lights and is a race to relax in Denmark.

Risalamande - a dish with hidden almond. People keep eating more and more to find it and the one who got it pretends as if they didn't get it.


Pick your own farms,barbeque and croquette,community garden,picnic by beach, cargo bike(bike with a box).

Cycling - economic, environment friendly, exercise and happiness.

Five Dimensions of Hygge:

Taste, sound, smell,feel(rustic wood buildings), see(slow).

Hygge and Happiness:

Apart from the great government welfare, Denmark stands out because of the Social support, free time: work life balance, culture and language that stress over Hyggeness.

Savor, Gratitude, Being in the moment, Indulgence, Nostalgia.

"And let’s face it, this is where most of our lives will play out. Not on cold, January days, but every day. Once a year – or more, if we are lucky – we may find ourselves on a beach in some exotic country and we may find both hygge and happiness on these distant shores. But hygge is about making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best: ‘Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasure that occur every day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.’


The book reminds you to stop and smell the roses, the importance of slow living, the things that make life worth living and the movie Amelie.

I felt that the book could have been just a couple of blog posts. It gets repetitive at many pages.
Many Hygge factors are exclusive to Denmark - cold climate and a great welfare system. Other factors seem intuitive - togetherness, simplicity etc.  I expected a lot of unique insights into the Danish way of living before reading this book.

Nevertheless, the book nudged me to find the Hygge equivalents in my own city and life, to make memories before it's too late and to live life instead of rushing through it always.

Rating : 3/5



PS: I am planning to post book reviews as a different section on Mondays.


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