Hygge – An Example Of Hospitality Across Cultures

22 May, 2017
The Oxford Dictionary defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers”. But throughout your studies at EHL, you encounter people from all over the world, and each person brings with them their own idea of hospitality, shaped by culture and upbringing. One Danish way of looking at hospitality is hygge (pronounced hue-guh), a simple word and potential lifestyle describing extraordinary coziness and conviviality. 

Hygge has made a recent transition into popular culture, and was thus shortlisted for Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary in 2016. At least six books were written that year on the concept, the most famous being "The Little Book of Hygge" by Meik Wiking who describes hygge as "humble and slow."

He also shares:

"Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home."

hygge-body-image-3.jpg

People around the world embrace hygge, whether as a deco-trend, exercise in mindfulness or way of life. For those who were bypassed by the trend last year, here is an attempt at explaining it: Hygge is a way of treasuring every moment, no matter how mundane, and of celebrating the small things in life. Candlelight moments are hygge, as are dinners with friends and family and woolen socks. The hygge high season is Christmas, of course, when Danes combat the "darkness of winter" with mulled wine and oversized scarves.

hygge-body-image-4.jpg

However, hygge is happening year-round, as demonstrated by BuzzFeed author Marie Telling. She recently wrote an article on how to integrate hygge into daily life and described it as a form of escapism, a way to take a break from the stress and worries of everyday life. If the article is to be believed, it is easy to integrate hygge elements into our daily routine if only we take the time. And the Danish would for sure know, after all, they are frequently named the happiest people in the world! 

hygge-body-image-2.jpg

While hygge is sometimes described as a lifestyle, it also provides an interesting insight into the cultural mindset of Denmark. Based on the concept of hygge, we can deduct that Danish hospitality places a strong emphasis on finding coziness and happiness in simplicity, on looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary. The importance is on atmosphere and moments, rather than physical things.

A Bachelor student shares

"From personal experience, I have learned that the concept of hospitality varies greatly across cultures. For example, when visiting a friend’s family in Vietnam, I received presents from my hosts upon my departure. This came as a big surprise to me, as I was accustomed to bringing gifts to show my appreciation at being welcomed, not receiving them. But this goes to show that there is much to learn about different countries’ and cultures’ attitudes and values and how they shape hospitality."

hygge-body-image-1.jpg

Hygge is but one example of different cultures having different views and beliefs about hospitality. For hospitality students and future hospitality professionals, it is of course highly beneficial to observe and experience different kinds of hospitality. The first step of offering great hospitality is to understand its multiple forms. But at the same time, Hygge is also an opportunity to learn how to make your life a little bit cozier and mind fuller.

 Author: Emilie Suter, Bachelor Student

Learn more about EHL programs