Finding “Hygge” while on a Fulbright

I set off on my third Fulbright adventure, this time as a Fulbright Specialist heading to Oslo, Norway. While working on various nursing curriculum strategies, conducting leadership development workshops and giving talks on evidence-based practice to improve health care, I started noticing something else. There was the essence of  “hygge” all around me. As a newcom er to Norway, I wondered, could I gain some of this cultural experience while I was here?

 

at left: Enjoying Fulbright celebration in Oslo with retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Kenneth J. Braithwaite, U.S. ambassador to Norway. He is a strong supporter of nurses and nurse practitioners!

 

If you don’t know anything about “hygge,” it is a term used primarily in Scandinavian countries (but it is spreading to the U.S.) that describes a mindset or state of being. Originally derived from Danish (Oslo sits almost right across the sea from Copenhagen), hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a word used when acknowledging a feeling or a moment,  that is cozy, warm, contented, comforting, special or charming. To be “hyggeligt” doesn’t take extraordinary events or activities; hygge can occur, and often does, in day-to-day activities or experiences. What hygge definitely is not is a thing or something you buy (there are no “hygge foods” or “hygge furniture” for sale) and you sure don’t need a class on becoming hyggeligt (although I am sure someone in North America will offer one sooner or later – sigh).

What it took for me to become more culturally-integrated with my Norwegian (and other Scandinavian) colleagues was my taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and slowing my mind, activities, and spirit down a notch or two. Case in point, busy American at work in the office (type, write, read, type, write, read, repeat) – you get the picture. Suddenly the faculty all gather for lunch – together – all take time to come out of their offices and break bread as a group. Not just a few buddies, all of them, and, of course, I am invited. Bowls of fruit or sweets are placed on the table. Everyone gets settled and no one gobbles down their lunch getting ready to spurt back to their paper, lecture, meeting or whatever (oh, except me the first time we did this as I had no idea how to settle down). Everyone focuses, not on work issues, but pleasant conversations of last night’s good concert, the new restaurant reviews, plans for family gatherings and the like. It is just a cozy, relaxed, good-feeling lunch – a little bit of hygge at work. Oh, remember to save room for late afternoon snack time when everyone will gather again for a brief relaxing moment together with cake or sweets and, of course, kaffe.

One of the wonderful opportunities provided by a Fulbright experience is the chance to get to know professional acquaintances on a deeper level as people. I was the happy recipient of many meals prepared by my new friends at their homes. And, of course, the hygge continues. Everyone loves candles – lots of them – and they come out for every meal. Setting a beautiful table, preparing meals from scratch, vases of fresh flowers, enjoying hours of conversation, all are standard hygge experiences when invited to a friend’s house. How relaxing! With a furry seat cover or a knitted throw to cover yourself with on the balcony after dinner…how cozy!

 

at right: Catching a little of the “hygge” spirit (yes: cake, candles, coffee, flowers)

 

 

When in need of a contented, comforting experience never downplay the impact of a good kaffe (A.K.A. coffee) – and in Norway kaffe is a big deal! Wonderful kaffe machines in every office and kaffes all over the town. Whether it’s the typical start your day kaffe, mid-morning break kaffe, mid-afternoon pick up kaffe, and post dinner delight kaffee – kaffe is a simple way to hygge it with friends and co-workers. No wonder Norway is the second leading nation for consuming coffee.  But please, china cups are preferred as they are extremely green-friendly here.

I tried to give you a little feel for my entry into hyggeligt but, to me, this also included the contented, comfortable feeling you get being with new friends from around the world. Each of my Fulbright experiences has allowed me the opportunity to develop creative ideas in research and clinical practice, share educational approaches, learn a different way of thinking and forge closer bonds. I include here each of the Fulbright pathways for faculty and students. I, myself, have had the Scholar (Scotland), Administrator (France) and now the Specialist (Norway).   In a nutshell – Fulbright is life-changing! Check out their website (www.us.fulbrightonline.org for students or www.cies.org for faculty scholars) and their Twitter account @FulbrightAssoc. You can also find many of my Fulbright experiences @DMorrisonBeedy as well. I’d love to write more but guess who just got invited for cake and kaffe? After all, it is afternoon in Oslo.

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