Monday, October 10, 2011

Unplugged in Denmark

Written by Sage

We are very excited to have quite a few new writers joining us here at Unplugged Sunday! We are an ever-growing community of people from around the world who enjoy taking a step back, slowing down and connecting.


“Hygge” (pronounced something along the lines of “hooga”) is a highly regarded part of Danish culture.  It's difficult to explain hygge, but it often involves food, friends, family, and lots of white candles.  It's more of a vibe than a thing, but it's often translated to English as “cosiness.”  

One of my favorite “hyggeligt” Danish experiences was spent with a group of girls on a cold, damp Sunday drinking mulled cider and learning to knit socks. If you can imagine that warm, bonding feeling, then you understand hygge.  

In the US, I usually spent my weekends dealing with chores and projects that I didn't have time or energy for during the week.  Before I knew it, I'd be sitting in traffic, staring down another work week, freaking out about everything I hadn't gotten to.

But Denmark is more laid back.  Our work week is 37.5 hours.  We have comp time and 30 days of paid vacation, so I only work ten and a half months of the year, which means I don't have to decide between traveling or enjoying a peaceful week at home.  There's plenty of time for both!  

Last winter, I spent 16 days in Thailand visiting Buddhist temples and learning Thai cooking, and I still had enough time to visit Rome, Tuscany, the Norwegian Fjords, and enjoy some quiet time at home.

Naturally, the weekend vibe here is also laid back, a lot of time is spent with family and friends, mostly at home, though cafés can also have quite a hyggelight atmosphere, especially in the winter when it's dark about 18 hours of the day, tiny tea lights provide most of the light, and hot cocoa seems like a cup of nirvana.

Shopping is not a national pastime.  Most shops close by 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoon and don't open again until Monday, except for the first Sunday of the month when they open shortly to give everyone a chance to spend their paychecks (we're paid on the first of the month).  

I moved here alone and so despite a strong expat community and the amazing travel opportunities, I inevitably spend some weekends alone.  Sometimes I'm slightly envious of those who are here with their partners, but mostly, I enjoy the simplicity and slow pace of this life...

Homemade blueberry muffins, tea, and an English book!

Sometimes, I need a break from rundstykker med skiver ost (bread rolls with cheese).  Danish bakeries are wonderful, but from time to time, I can't stop craving what I can't buy.  Scarcity does strange things to a palate.  Once, I came very close to spending 20 quid on a box of Lucky Charms from the UK, I barely touched the things when I lived stateside.    

I enjoy biking alone with my camera. Cars and fuel are very expensive in Denmark... gas is around $8/gallon and the tax to register a car is 180% of the car's value, so it costs more to register the car than to buy the car.  Due to a lot of red tape, I haven't been unable to convert my US license to a Danish license, so I ride my bike regardless of the weather.  On the upside, European city bikes are elegant and retro :)

I'm hard pressed to find anything that warms my heart and fills me with more love and compassion than watching Opie being lazy in the sun.  He's like a big, soft teddy bear that purrs!

I find such accomplishment in tailoring things I find at the secondhand shops. A few relaxing hours at the ironing board and sewing machine, a little hand stitching, and this Laura Ashley skirt is upcycled and perfect.

Even though it makes me wistful for New England, I try to savor every second of this changing season.  Riding my bike through the foggy morning streets, surrounded by beautiful colors is just a new kind of magic for where I am now.  And really, where I am now is what's most important.

Hygge is most traditionally experienced with friends and family, but it's also alive and well in solitude.  And its one of the things I'll bring with me wherever I go from here.


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