Life in Scandinavia includes a specialty that is catching on internationally. In Norwegian we call it kos or hygge.
It can be translated with comfort, pleasure, indulgence or relaxation.
First of all: the vocabulary
You need this vocabulary, and it is not really hard. It is mainly two reflexive verbs (if you know basic French, you already know reflexive verbs; je m’appelle Odd – I call myself Odd).
Å hygge seg.
De hygger seg.
Å kose (seg).
De koser seg.
Adverbs and adjectives
We use these words in various contexts and settings:
Et hyggelig møte – a pleasant meeting
En koselig sofa – a comfortable sofa En kos – a kiss or a hug
De hygget seg på hytta – They relaxed in the cabin
Gjestene hygget seg – The guests had a good time
Kosedyr – teddy bear
Ha det koselig – Have a good time
Hyggetid – a comfortable moment
Kosekveld - a relaxed family evening
When dropping off my girls at the kindergarten, I'm not allowed to leave without a kos. This means I get a kiss on my cheek, and give one in return.
Get the setting right
Hygge is typically an autumn and winter phenomenon.
If you’ve lived in Norway more than a year, you know how the days grow shorter towards the winter, and longer towards the summer. Northern Norway of course experiences midnight sun in Summer and the sun does not rise at all during winter.
So, during the long, dark winter nights, we light some candles and hygger oss.
Here is how to hygge seg:
In order to get the setting right, you need some basic requirements. Dim down the lighting, and light some candles.
Skru ned lyset og tenn noen stearinlys
Get a fire going in the fireplace if you happen to have one.
Fyr opp i peisen
Get some cushions and blankets and put it on your sofa.
Hent fram puter og pledd
Some Scandinavians like to put on some music to increase the kos. There are lots of alternatives for kosemusikk.
My recommendation for kosemusikk, you ask? Thomas Dybdahl!
Just don’t get carried away. A kosekveld is not a party!
Kos includes hot drinks
While the setting is important, it is nearly impossible to hygge seg without the appropriate drinks or snacks.
This is where I get opinionated.
Not all drinks and snacks fit the kos. Warm drinks are preferable. Bring forth your largest cups.
Kaffe – Coffee
Te – Tea
Kakao – Hot chocolate
Gløgg – Hot mulled wine (only allowed in December!)
Not into hot drinks, you say? You can get a glass of red wine.
If none of the above tickle your fancy, but you happen to have some chocolate muffins or cake ready to be served, you can pour a tall glass of cold milk! Yeah, that’s right!
However, some drinks are not koselig. While I love a good beer (Ladegaard is my favorite), you cannot hygge deg with a beer.
As I said, I get opinionated on this topic…
No screens allowed
Bringing up the blue light from your smartphone is a sure way to kill the kos. Although, judging from Instagram #hyggetid, it looks like some moments have survived.
If you must share your instamoment or snap it, do not distract yourself with checking for likes and responses. Put your phone away.
Hygge is about the old school conversation.
Den gode samtalen
Don’t worry. Hygge is the opposite of worries and stress.
In addition to that, don’t let you mind wander to work, your todo list, or other stressing topics. Planning or strategizing is a no go. Same with competitiveness.
If you alone, it is fully possible to hygge seg. Just cuddle up in your sofa with a good novel.
Les en god bok
However, if you’re having friends over for some hyggetid, it might be a good idea to play a board or card game.
Spill et brettspill eller spill kort
Most activities that support the feeling of tranquillity are allowed. You can go for a walk, watch the stars or the ocean (if you live near the coast).
If you’re not having too many guests, you can prepare the dinner together, as an activity.
Lag middag sammen
What to wear?
Although we do not put so much emphasis on dress code in Norway, there is something to be said on the topic of koseklær.
Avoid formal clothes. It is not possible to hygge seg with your tie on, or high heels. Kos means to relax. If you’re at home or at hytta, put on your favorite sweatpants.
Final advice: Dress down and relax.
What is your experience of kos and hygge? Tell me in the comments field below.