Prague is not all sugar-dusted spires and Christmas markets throughout the winter months; come mid-January grey is both a weather forecast and a state of mind. One group of Prague expats knows just how to beat the winter doldrums—by practicing the Danish art of “hygge” (pronounced “hoogah”).
Hygge, which has been making the media rounds these days as a kind of pop-culture philosophy for our fast-paced times, is all about taking time to enjoy ritual ambience, typically with family and friends nearby. Nothing particularly Danish about that, though if you really want to take it to the next level, hot beverages, knitwear, and flickering candlelight help.
Prague-based Dane Peter Bach Lauritzen defines hygge as a satisfying blend of “tradition” and “good feelings.” And while Denmark is certainly a world leader in its outward enthusiasm for all things “hyggelige,” Bach Lauritzen believes that it is an exportable idea, roughly comparable to the Czech pohoda, or comfort.
“Weather can also be connected,” says Bach Lauritzen, “Coming into your house after a walk outside in the cold, settling down in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and chatting or reading, whilst sharing what you read.”
Mr. Bach Lauritzen likes to experience hygge in Prague with, “Hot chocolate at Bella Vida café at Malostranské nábřeží, after a walk along the river in the cold weather. It’s a bit like sitting in your aunt’s living room. It works best when it is dark outside.”
Valdemar Bruun Brandborg of the Danish Embassy agrees that hygge is a feeling that stems from “An aura in the atmosphere around you.” He adds, “You can also find it alone, when you give yourself time for it.”
His idea of the perfect hygge, Prague-style? “The Christmas market and lights in Prague make the atmosphere hyggelige.” Christmas-related hygge even has a special name: Julehygge.
But what what happens when all the holiday hoopla comes to an end? Mr. Bruun Brandborg’s colleague at the embassy, Julia Sif Nadal, suggests mood lighting. “There is a Czech company that sells hyggelige lamps called Lamplab,” she says. Here you can buy incandescent bulbs produced in Denmark by the Danlamp company.
A few other local vendors can help set the scene for hygge at home: Old Town Danish bakery Mansson, Copenhagen transplant Tiger, a budget design store opened here in 2015, and Kama, a Czech company that specializes in the kind of knitted sportswear you might see on detective Sarah Lund of the Danish cop show “Forbrydelsen.”
Ultimately, Ms. Sif Nadal also turns to Prague cafés for her hygge fix. “I love to go to Café Misto for weekend breakfast. There is such a nice atmosphere. Or Vypálené koťátko, a very nice place where people come to paint ceramics, talk, drink coffee…it’s a kind of a family café.”
Family is a recurring motif in the practice of hygge, says Mr. Bach Lauritzen: “Good night reading for kids is a perfect example of hygge, known all over the world.” Frequenting the same pub on a regular basis and cooking homemade meals for friends and family also fall under Mr. Bach Lauritzen’s definition of the phenomenon.
As great practicioners of these activities, especially the pub-going part, Mr. Bruun Brandborg’s believes that Czechs are just as hyggelige as Danes. “They just don’t have the word for it yet,” he says.