Husband, kids, Movies / TV / Netflix, relationships, teenage years, Uncategorized

Danish Hygge Vs Swedish Mysa

It’s become popular in the English-speaking world to reference the Danish word “Hygge,” a somewhat untranslatable word as far as we English speakers go – a word that does not have a direct single word translation in our language. A mystery, perhaps, why we never thought to have our own word for such an activity, a desire to latch on to a Danish ideal that just seems to perfectly make sense to one’s pursuit of happiness.

Hygge or Hyggeligt: A moment that is especially cozy, charming, pleasant, or special. Appreciating the present, acknowledgement of the moment. “The Art of creating intimacy.”

Hygge is a way of surviving the cold, boring, winter months. I like to think it came about as a sanity-saver. Noticing the little things; appreciating a warm bed or the beauty of a roaring fire. Savoring your coffee in the early morning before the kids wake up, enjoying time talking with your family over dinner or playing in the snow. Contemplating the sunset or taking time to watch the leaves fall from the trees in Autumn. Contentedness that is good for the spirit.

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I took a moment while taking pictures for this post, to acknowledge and appreciate the feeling of warmth as I stepped into a stream of sunlight.

Now, I love the Danes, I do… But they are not unique in the concept of hygge. I understand, first of all that the Norwegians share the same word “hygge,” so we can’t give ALL the credit to the Danes… at least not without me knowing the exact previous linguistic histories (who got what from whom whenever whoever owned who…. You know what I mean.) I’ve read that the Danish derived from the Norwegian word in the 1800s, but I haven’t had much time to research that – apologies. I also understand that there are similar Dutch and German words gezelligheid and geműtlichkeit, respectively. I do not know enough about these words; however, to explain the intricacies of their meanings.

But their Scandinavian sister, Sweden, also has a word with a similar concept: Mysa. Mysa is not quite the same, but is related to coziness as well, it can also be thought of as enjoying oneself or making oneself comfortable. There is a “tradition” called Fredagsmys, which is Friday’s “mys” – or relaxing on a Friday, spending time with friends or family. Cuddling, watching movies – whatever you enjoy doing to decompress at the end of the week. That along with Lördagsgodis (Saturday’s candy – scoops of candy from the grocer’s in paper bags) prove that the Swedes sure know how to weekend! Haha.

Mysa or Mysig: Getting comfortable and enjoying oneself, especially at home. Being content and cozy.

While hygge relates to any activity or part of your day, mysa relates more to the home. So, okay – they aren’t exactly the same concept – even though Google translate will tell you Danish hygge = Swedish mys.

For further clarification to mysa is a verb, whereas hygge is more of a noun. Hyggelig and mysig means the state of hygge/mysa; and to put action to hygge (make it a verb) you’d say “hygge sig.”

Another unstranslateable Swedish word I love is “Lagom.” It is not directly related to either of the words in this discussion, but I do think it goes hand in hand with the overall Swedish contentment model.

Lagom: Not too little, not too much. Just right.

I no longer live through the dark winters of Scandinavia, but as many of you know I moved from sunny Australia to Northeast Wisconsin mid-winter last year. That, along with me being in my mid-thirties, I think it’s time for me to put a renewed focus on being hyggelig and mysig.

This Autumn and Winter I’m going to spend time in my warm bed on cold mornings, drink my tea out of my favorite mugs with lots of cream, I’m going to play in the snow with my kids this year – then snuggle my husband in front of the fireplace and drink hot chocolate. I’m going to take time to write and catch up with friends. I’m going to soak in the tub and read a good book or ten. I’m going to appreciate every morning that I wake up, even if a child of mine knocks on my bedroom door a tad earlier than they should.

I used to love sitting in my parent’s living room in Sweden during winter when we had seven candles in each window (electric so they were on 24/7) and real candles flickering through my father’s Orefors crystal.

Hot chocolate with a King Leo peppermint stick was a staple every winter, watching Karl Bertil Jonsson’s Christmas Eve was something I watched every season from age 3 to my early 20s. I have it still, somewhere (my parents converted the old copied-from-TV-VHS to a DVD at some point), as well as the book. This year I will sit with my kids and watch, read, and explain it to them. I will find some King Leos, I will make cardamom cookies, cardamom braid bread, and Lussekatter again this year (I usually do – but I skipped the last two years…) I will convince my children to love julmust, haha.

For now; however, it is Friday. The children are in school for a few more hours and the husband is at work. I’m going to make myself some honey lavender tea, grab a couple Belgian waffle biscuits, and get cozy in my bed to savor them.

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What makes you hygge sig/mysa?

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31 thoughts on “Danish Hygge Vs Swedish Mysa”

  1. I love the concept of all these words, and am so glad you shared them with us! (Thanks for the clarifications/distinctions, too!). They remind me of when I used to live in Minnesota, surrounded by lots of Swedish/Norwegian-heritage culture, where these concepts were alive and well. The winters were frigid, but that didn’t stop everyone from going out and living life no matter how far below freezing it was – but afterward, you had the joy and satisfaction of curling up in the coziness of your own home, or surrounded by friends at one of theirs, and enjoying some warm food, good fellowship, and probably some hot chocolate as well! 🙂

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    1. Exactly, there’s just something about when you get to come in from the cold and wrap up in a cozy blanket by a fire or I’m a room full of nice spicy smelling candles and drink something warm…. ahhhhhh. I’m in Wisconsin now so there is also a fair bit of Scandinavian descent here… now that I have more friends in the area, hopefully the winter fellowship will happen often this year 🙂

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  2. I had no idea that you are Scandinavian!! I love all of these snuggly ideas. I had not heard of Fredagsmys, but I love that idea…that’s my favourite thing to do with Friday evenings in winter!!

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    1. I’m half Swedish, a bit on both sides 🙂 (Ericson and Johnson) with still living second cousins etc in Sweden. I also lived there for a few years as a teenager and graduated from high school there. My husband thinks I’m nuts because I prefer cold weather (fall and winter) but hate a cold house… he just doesn’t seem to understand, you burrow up and get warm in winter! Why make it harder on yourself by setting the thermostat to freezing??? (Like he likes to do lol)

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  3. OMG! You simply cannot know how much I enjoyed reading this. Not only am I half Swedish (the Good Half), but I have been compulsively reading the Karl Ove Knausgaard tomes. Double whammy of wonderful comfort. Going to embrace both hyggelig and mysig. So laggom!!!

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  4. I loved this post! I am 7/8 Swedish and 1/8 German. Both of my parents have carried on Swedish traditions for holidays even though they are the fifth generation removed. We light our Swedish ljuskrona on Christmas, bake our Swedish kringles (cardamom bread), eat Swedish sausage and meatballs for dinner, and whip up the krem for dessert. Anyway, thanks for enlightening me with the meanings of hygge and mys! And, I completely agree: the mid-thirties are a time where people start to reflect and concentrate on what is needed or important. For many “hygge” and “mys” would be just what we need.

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    1. And leave risgrynsgrot out for Tomte on Christmas Eve?? Lol I still do that because I think it’s charming and want my kids to have a fun slightly different memory than just cookies… of course we leave cookies and a carrot or two anyway 😉 I love that my daughter simply adores Swedish pancakes and Swedish waffles! I definitely enjoy trying to keep certain traditions alive and well in my home 🙂

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      1. I had to ask my mother what risgrynsgrot is. And, NO! We don’t leave it out. 😀 We LOVE “rice pudding”. We have that at Christmas and Thanksgiving here. Traditions are wonderful!!!

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      2. I’m lazy and usually just buy a small single serve of rice pudding and leave that out haha I keep telling myself I’ll make the good stuff all nice and warm with cardamom or cinnamon one of these years LOL

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  5. I think it says a lot about the English language that we don’t have words for concepts like this… We’re so prone to moaning, we don’t have a word for ‘comfortable and just right’, haha. However, I love the words and the concepts they promote, I love the mindfulness and gratitude that goes with just referencing something being cozy, just right, and content.

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  6. Is it bad that I really can’t think of anything that makes me truly hygge? I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was completely relaxed and content enough to say “This moment is perfect”. I just feel perpetually worried about one thing or another.

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    1. I’d imagine there’s a lot of people like that, hygge is something you might have to work at/focus on until it becomes more like second nature. Especially if you feel you want to change your thought processes and attitude… hygge is something I would hope could give one a sense of calm, peace, and happiness… at least on occasion, if one could focus on being grateful and appreciate the little things in life

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