What We Can Learn From The Danish, Hygge Style

 

In my opinion one part of the process for achieving FI or FIRE is crafting your life around certain values, rituals and habits. All with the in the moment and end goal of maximizing human effectiveness, health, connectedness and freedom! In terms of achieving this I think we can adopt many lessons from the Danish. Yes, the people of Denmark have a number of customs, practices and systems in place that allow them to live a pretty awesome life of meaning, family, work and pleasure. Let’s see what we can learn from them and apply to our own lives.

 

Hygge (Pronounced Hooga)

Hygge is the Danish concept and practice of creating a warm connected environment for people. It has been defined as:

“a complete absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”

Now that Winter has arrived, it is a nice time to practice the art of Hygge, pronounced Hooga. It is defined as an appreciative way of living. It involves giving and receiving around a shared meal, sheltered from the elements, cozying up with a good book. Gaining pleasure and warmth from ordinary rituals that make us feel rooted and generous. In a lot of ways I think we could learn a lot from the concept of Hygge in terms of creating a life of True Wealth. It is about people, taking care of ourselves and each other, creating space for for comfort and contemplation.  

UN World Happiness Report

Denmark consistently ranks high and even number one at times on the UN’s World Happiness Report. Yes there is such a thing. Someone decided at some point to try and measure happiness instead of simply looking at Gross Domestic Product figures. For example, the US has a continually rising GDP figure, but there is absolutely no rise in American’s happiness and life satisfaction in general. There are a few theories about why Danish people are so happy. Here are some reasons they cite:
  1. Less Economic Inequality: The Danish do not have a huge gap between the rich and the poorer. Countries with huge disparities between rich and poor score lower on happiness, more crime, and all kinds of other social ills. The US for example has an ever expanding gap, making it hard for many to even begin to enter the lower middle class. Meanwhile many middle class people are struggling to stay there and the upper 5% have skyrocketing assets, net worths and incomes. Not the case in Denmark and they shun flashiness as a culture. They do not like when others flash wealth.
  2. Healthcare not tied to Employment: In Denmark, healthcare is provided to all and not tied to employment. In the US, people deal with some of the most expensive healthcare in the world and is by no means the best. Many do not actually take the leap to FIRE (even though they have saved enough) in fear of healthcare issues. This is a shame and holds our economy back.
  3. Social Bonds and Work/Life Balance: The Danish have no stigma about leaving work on time to go tend to family, health or personal interests. In certain industries and segments of the US there is a culture of over work. Work all the time at the expense of health, family, relationships and personal interests. This is actually quite insane.

A USED COUCH

Earlier in the year we were doing a bit of Spring Cleaning around our house. Part of this was spurned on by the purchase of a nice USED couch (Thank you brother and sister in law). We saved big money buying used, no retail costs, taxes or shipping! Money Vikings are huge proponents of buying used in general, especially used furniture. The couch acquisition led to a cascade of events moving old couches into the garage, moving furniture around, finding places that had not been vacuumed since a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. This evolved into full fledged cleaning time. Free workout too! Part of the domino effect of all the movement of furniture led to me losing my computer desk to another purpose. We needed the table I was using in the kitchen for more counter space. After I lost my desk, I started to fantasize about a new fancy writing and art desk area. As a blogger, writer and visual artist, my work space is important to me. So, I started searching online on craigslist first for a new desk. I started at craigslist just like any self respecting financial blogger would do. As the time and search went on, I did not find what I was looking for, so I heard the siren call of the IKEA website calling my name. I logged on and was instantly teleported into perfectly appointed rooms straight out of a Scandinavian fantasy. I was in love. Great job marketers! I found picture after picture of the perfect working set up, with beautiful lighting, well appointed plants, some beautifully framed art and the latest colors. Marketing genius towards a guy like me. I was hooked like on a drug. I knew inside any kind of purchase like this was not going to help me achieve F.I.R.E., but hey I would look good while stuck in the rat race for longer! Just kidding! I realize IKEA is pretty good value for what one buys, but still, I wanted to resist spending a few hundred bucks if at all possible. I went as far as to go to IKEA. The place was absolutely packed! I got stuck in the maze and received a good workout trying to get to the desks. They must put desks at the end because they sell so well. You are forced to walk through the whole setup and be enticed by item after item. I arrived at the desks. I thought long and hard about spending hundreds of dollars. Then it struck me. In our garage buried under stuff was an old IKEA desk I had bought USED many years ago. What if I…?

PICKLED HERRINGS

I escaped IKEA by making 2 small purchases: a jar of pickled herrings and a hot dog. No afternoon with little allen wrenches and flipping through pages of construction instructions for me. I realized I had an old desk in the garage, but it was dirty. What if spent my time giving a really nice cleaning and making it look like new? So I did. I spent a lot of time getting this old desk looking great, and it worked. No spending hundreds of dollars plus taxes.

 

LESSONS LEARNED

ONE: Buying used is a very powerful wealth building trick. We become so desensitized to the retail prices of things that we forget what a deep discount can be realized through buying used! TWO: Take a deep hard look around at what you have. When you feel you need something, you may already have it if you take a look around and go through what you already have. I have discovered this several times over the years. I initially thought I needed to go buy something without realizing I had something that serve the purpose just as well. THREE: Get organized. How often do we fall victim to not being organized with our stuff and our life. Getting our financial life organized leads to more efficiency and wealth, just as getting our physical life organized. Added bonus when we get our physical life organized is a growing pile of stuff for a garage sale to make a little extra money. FOUR: Learn from the Scandinavians. We are the Money Vikings, so we take some cues from Scandinavian culture! Simplicity in life and design. The simple comforts, etc. can lead to more contentment and happiness. There is a term for the Scandinavian lifestyle called Hygee. There are some great books about this. The basic component is celebrating the simple pleasures each day that bring us happiness and warmth. Who could ask for more.

WAYS TO PRACTICE HYGGE

Back to Hygge! Here are some ways to practice this culture of comfort and True Wealth!
  1. Turn off the phone. We are too connected to digital media, social media, etc. Spend some time with a good real book, a fire, a blanket, etc.
  2. Wear comfortable clothes.
  3. Enjoy a warm drink
  4. Walk in nature
  5. Create a pleasant environment with nice lighting
  6. Spend quality time with family and friends playing a game
The nice thing for someone on the journey to FI is that it is all mostly free and creates a sense of wealth instantly. I hope to incorporate as many Danish practices of living into my life as possible. Heck, they are some of the happiest people on planet Earth and we are The Money Vikings!

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