How To Pronounce "Hygge," The Cozy Lifestyle That'll Help You Survive Winter

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A co-worker once approached me with a list of beauty brand names and their correct pronunciations she’d found online. Being a beauty editor at the time, I thought, without a doubt, I was well versed in my vertical and knew how to say each word flawlessly. It turns out, I was (embarrassingly) mistaken. I can only speak for myself, but I can’t be the only one who comes up with pronunciations based on the spelling of a word alone. For example, who really knows how to pronounce “hygge” IRL besides, you know, Scandinavians?

My husband used to work for a Swedish company, and has traveled to Sweden a number of times. But, interestingly enough, when I approached him with the term “hygge” and asked for the correct pronunciation, all I got was a shrug in return. “When you find out, let me know,” he said. SMH.

For the past several months now, the word “hygge” has been popping up all over our social feeds. It’s not just a turn of phrase, though; it’s a lifestyle, one you’ll definitely want to adapt in your own home once you learn more about it. But, first things first, you have to talk the talk if you want to walk the walk.

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"Hygge" isn't pronounced how it's spelled, so forget everything you were taught about sounding things out.

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In first grade, I remember learning how to spell by sounding things out and writing the appropriate letters accordingly. Well, friends, I’m here to tell you firsthand that this technique is so, so wrong, because, little genius that I am, I’ve always just assumed I should do the opposite when it came to pronouncing words for the rest of my life, never taking into account the fact that not every word is English, and not all of our rules apply to the lingo of other countries. That being said, you’re probably going to look like an ass if you’re saying “hygge” like “hii-gee” like I was.

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I hope you’re ready for the combination of embarrassment and utter confusion you’re about to feel right now, because I’m about to defy everything you know about language. Here it goes: The correct way to pronounce “hygge” is “hoo-gah.”

Did your mouth drop? How about an eyebrow furrow? I mean, seriously, can you believe that!? There is a total of two letters that make sense in this entire enunciation. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to how Scandinavians decided any of this was OK. But once you find out the true meaning of hygge, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts again.  

Imagine the Pinterest-perfect winter — that's hygge.

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I wouldn’t say I’m the type of person who has an eye for design or anything, but when it comes to aesthetic and homey feels, I prefer comfy and relaxed to modern and showy. Especially in the wintertime, when the temperatures drop and the days are shorter, my number one priority is to have a stack of warm blankets at the ready, with a kitchen cabinet fully stocked with tea and hot chocolate for sipping. Hygge embodies this exact idea of coziness.

What started out as a simple concept quickly became a way of living for the Danish. As the lifestyle expanded to Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia, it was only a matter of time before Americans got word of this chicly mellow aesthetic that’s not only the quintessential definition of winter living, but is also incredibly picturesque.

According to the accessory brand SKAGEN's blog, hygge is a term that has not one, single translation, but rather, a word that represents a number of things like "contentment," "good feelings," and "a warm glow." Hygge is decor, it's a sense of fashion, but it's also the idea of being genuinely happy in the environment you create for yourself at home, and offering that same hospitality and warmth to loved ones.

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Above all, though, hygge is about making sure you feel good, no matter what time of year it is.

Unlike most trends that fall to the wayside in a matter of months, I don't expect hygge to lose its appeal anytime soon. In fact, there's something for everyone in the lifestyle, and I think we could all benefit from the bigger picture here.

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Hygge is not all candles and steamy cups of coffee topped with foam. It's a sense of being — a kind of calm approach to life that encourages us to switch gears from fast and furious to cool, calm, and collected, no matter the circumstance. Between the demands of meeting a certain GPA or getting that promotion, it's natural to grow accustomed to being on-the-go and alert at all times. But this way of life invites you to take a step back when necessary, and enjoy the moment for what it is.

There's a reason why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world, you know. It's because Danes make it a point to find joy in the little things. It's because they put health first, and indulgence at a close second. Don't you think it's high time you invested in a little hygge?

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