The idea of Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) reminds me a bit of the “spirit of Christmas”. We’re non-religious Jews who celebrate it all. But you know that warm and cozy feeling you have on Christmas morning? That’s like Hygge.
Friends of ours moved from Los Angeles to Denmark a few years back. Scarlet went to pre-school with their daughter, and while pregnant with their fourth child, the Refs moved to Copenhagen, where we visited with them about two-and-a-half years ago.
Our trip to Copenhagen, Denmark
Kristie Neilson Refs is an American ex-pat and former SAHM, now living and working in Copenhagen with her babies and Danish husband. You can follow along with her Instagram, @thelittlevikings here!
Polite As Fudge: Can you explain how the Danish people live “hygge”?
Kristie Nielson Refs: Hygge is the feeling of togetherness, coziness, peace, and calm. Coming together and having good feelings with those you love. Doesn’t have to be a big deal, just small moments.
Polite As Fudge: What was it like moving from Los Angeles, with barely any winter at all, to Copenhagen, Denmark and experiencing winter at it’s fullest?
Kristie Nielson Refs: Well, I was ready for a break from the heat, and I don’t mind the cold so much. The winter here isn’t too bad, actually. More like Atlanta than Minneapolis, thankfully. The hard part is the grey skies and early darkness in the winter – sometimes as early as 3:30!!
Polite As Fudge: What are your favorite things about raising your four young children in Denmark?
Kristie Nielson Refs: There is a feeling of trust here. There is very little if any, crime against children, which is a palpable relief. Children are encouraged to be children and learn through playing. They go on lots of outings with their classes in all kinds of weather – they bundle up and take public transportation to the zoo, museums, parks, playgrounds and more.
Polite As Fudge: What is it like hearing your children, three of whom were born in the states, speak both Danish and English?
Kristie Nielson Refs: Astounding! They amaze me! I’m still struggling to learn the language, but they are fully fluent and transition seamlessly between the two.
Polite As Fudge: What has changed in your life and what has remained the same living in Denmark? What has surprised you the most?
Kristie Nielson Refs: Um, well, everything has changed – LOL! My home, the culture, the language, driving, working – it’s all the same, but different, like Alice Through the Looking Glass 😉 I’ve had a lot of surprises, both good and not-so-good. The people, and women, in particular, have been much more friendly and welcoming than I had heard they would be. That was a lovely surprise! There are so many American ex-pats here as well, so it’s nice to have that taste of home. The health care system is another lovely surprise! The culture and language barrier have been more of a hurdle than anticipated. Things are less “convenient” here. It’s a big city in an old country, so small one-lane inner-city streets, few parking lots, few cars in general and lots and lots of bikes!! Stores close early and are still widely closed on weekends, which requires planning ahead 😉
Polite As Fudge: What’s the mom community like?
Kristie Nielson Refs: Much has been said about the Danish way of parenting. In my opinion, there is very little discipline. You’d never see a parent roll their eyes about a kid’s behavior or show frustration or complain. They just take it in their stride! Makes it hard to relate – LOL!!! Children are ADORED here, which is so lovely and inspiring.
Kristie suggested cozying up with this book for more info on living Hygge.