You've heard of hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness, which evokes chunky wool scarves, hot chocolate and the rather flammable scenario of fireside chats while swathed in cashmere. The word derives from a 16th-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning "to comfort", and which sounds like it, too. But it wasn't until 2016 that hygge hit the big time: at least six books were published about it in the US alone. Since then, as the news has become ever more insane, the race has been on for the next big ethnographic lifestyle trend to soothe our jangled nerves. Here are some of the candidates.
From Sweden came lagom, which means "everything in moderation". But no one wants to hear boring advice like that. We'd prefer to improve ourselves by spending money. And so the world moved on to Greece, and meraki, which, as far as any non-Greek speakers can gather, means something to do with taking care in your work, and exerting a certain brio in all endeavours. The link was tenuous at best, but Amazon loved this idea and promptly launched the Meraki clothing line of "thoughtfully designed" separates.
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Japan offers up ikigai, or "reason for being" – the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. There is no word in Japanese for "retirement", in the sense of giving up work for good. That's because very few people do, which is why nonagenarians tend to the tomatoes in the vegetable garden next door to my house. At first glance this might sound like a capitalist fever dream, but actually Japan is among the least capitalist societies I've ever encountered, in that money often seems incidental to the pride taken in performing a task. The etiquette around how payment is made – rarely with a credit card, preferably with crisp, unfolded cash, and always with a bow – emphasises that, in a financial transaction, both parties are deserving of respect. "The customer is always right" doesn't really fly here; ikigai offers one theory as to why that is.
If you'd prefer a life philosophy which involves less hard work, may I suggest the Scottish concept of còsagach, which suggests an existence in sync with the surroundings. The problem with this one, in addition to not being easily pronounceable, is that it might not be real. According to Visit Scotland, the Scottish tourism authority, còsagach means "snug, sheltered, cosy" in Gaelic, but some experts beg to differ. One professor told The Guardian that it sounded like a derivative of a word which means "a wee nook or hole such as very small creatures might live in". Is it just me, or does that sound rather … damp?
The Finns might have the final word on how to live. That word is kalsarikänni, and it means "drinking at home, alone, in your underwear". Turns out this one really is a joke, and was publicity for a book released earlier this year called Päntsdrunk, by Finnish writer Miska Rantanen. But it got me thinking about what the Australian version of hygge might be. We need a word which conjures a quintessential national pastime, one synonymous with calm contentment. How about lying in a banana chair in the backyard, sweating off SPF 50+, occasionally lifting a finger to swat away a fly? Let's call it Daryl-ing. We'll be the envy of the world.
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