Category Archives: Cultural Analysis

Danish “hygge”

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Last night I saw a tv programme on Danish channel Dr2. It was a guy called Hugh something, a Brit, that was travelling around in Denmark and interviewing people, and talking about Danish culture. Very interesting. Nice guy, polite and socially intelligent. Not every person doing travel shows on tv have these qualities nowadays. But this one was a very pleasant and interesting programme.

I have noticed that the Danish concept of “hygge” has been getting a lot of attention many places lately. We have it in Norway as well. But as an adjective only, “hyggelig”, not as a noun. We have a synonym, though. “Kos”. But us Norwegians, we do enjoy visiting Denmark in our Summerholidays, because the Danes are so… laidback, informal, easy to approach, friendly, basically. (Although their language is very strange, and it is difficult to understand, even though Norwegian and Danish look almost identical in written form)!

Hygge… I have lived for some years having my base in Wales, UK, travelling around, living in British expat communities. So how can it be translated? Enjoyment, cosyness, having a great time…. no….

Hugh explained it last night as having to do with the atmosphere between people. That the energy between the participants in the social group, was relaxed, friendly and non competitive. Something to do with feeling equal to each other. Being focused on helping eachother and co operating, supporting eachother. He interviewed teenagers from UK, Switzerland and Luxembourg who were attending a Danish “Efterskole” (a kind of boarding school where teens if they want can spend a year when they are about 16 years old, two thirds of Danish teens go to an Efterskole, he said)… the teens from the other countries said they preferred to be in Denmark, as they felt one could be oneself and be accepted, there were not such harsh lines between friend groups, not as cliquey, groups where you feel they exclude you, were you feel unwelcome, you meet a cold shoulder…

Hygge.
“Nu skal vi rigtigt hygge”, the Danes say. Norwegians say
“Nå skal vi hygge oss skikkelig”… 🙂
So in Danish to hygge is a verb in itself, whilst in Norwegian we say we will hygge ourselves…
When we do this Scandinavian thing which doesn´t seem to have an English translation, we typically come together to share. Food, especially. Cake and coffee, sweets and snacks, for example. Singing together is also a big part of it, often. Or watching a film together. Listening to a cd. Talking and laughing. Sharing.

Dancing is hyggeligt as well, and alcohol is also often a part of the hygge. But I think there is a difference between hygge and “fest”, which is the Danish word for party.
Hygge is, Like Hugh said, more about the energy between the participants. In a more quiet way than a party. When we “hygger os” there is a feeling of wellbeing. It´s intimate somehow, I reckon. The focus is on the interaction. To listen to eachother, pay attention to eachother, for the sake of…enjoyment. As a feel good factor. To feel…part of eachother, one common energy, community…?

All human beings have a need to be seen and heard. Say the wise. So maybe that´s why it feels good. To share. One´s opinions, one´s experiences, give eachother advice, or tell jokes and harvest laughter, which in itself is a sign of common ground, understanding something together in the same way, in the same moment…
Is it something to do with giving eachother our presence? Undivided attention. Listening, giving eachother room. Acceptance. Being open. Showing trust.

I may be taking this hygge concept too far here now. It´s hard to tell, as I am only one person with my own filters to my perception, and also I´m an immigrant in Denmark, though I have now been here for 8 years soon, and come from Denmark´s old colony country, haha…

Norway and Denmark, when Norway wanted its freedom to be its own nation in 1905, they asked Denmark to give us a King… Which Denmark kindly did… so… and the Danish and Norwegian elite all sent their young to Copenhagen for their higher education…. so in many ways we are siblings… clear cultural differences I would say, but still. More things alike between us than differences.
We are always happy to meet a jovial Dane in Norway, and many Danes have told me they enjoy Norwegians for their honesty and not shying away from conflict… these are hefty generalizations, I underline that I don´t mean these to be stereotypical qualities. But the remarks still say something about a tendency, which is interesting as long as we remember generalizations can never be true, there are so many shades of green between orange and blue. 🙂

Hygge.
We light a lot of candles in Scandinavia. Especially in winter. It creates a warm, gentle, soft atmosphere. In other countries, I have read, candles are associated with funerals more than anything else. Isn´t it funny how our climate has such a profound effect on our cultural ways? Up here in the north, in the dark season people stay in their homes, and when outside we hurry from A to B as fast as we can, all leaning forwards against the strong ice cold winds, face turned towards the ground, we are hidden inside big coats, woolly hats and hoods…umbrellas…we hurry to where we have to go, and then we hurry back home again. All social activities happen inside somewhere, by invitation. Traditional parties open for everyone, and then in small groups of friends and family in homes.
I imagine that in warmer countries, people meet outdoors a lot more. They are relaxed, because it´s warm, they use the market place in the city centre and meet friends´ friends, they meet new people…
Whilst my theory is that in the cold winter up north, socializing needs to be more planned, we gather, get together, group ourselves around activities and products of hygge…

Again, I don´t mean to sound scientific about this. I´m just thinking out loud. Social anthropology is a very interesting subject, the knowledge of what man´s social activities mean… But this text is not claiming to be correct or true. It´s just my personal thoughts on the issue. Because why is hygge such a central word in Danish culture and non existant in the English language? In so many other areas, English has so many more nuances than the Scandinavian languages…

And from my 6 years of living with Brits, I also know they for sure value socializing, British humour is world famous for its sophistication and complexity, they all have “a local”, which is the neighbourhood pub they go to regularly, where they celebrate birthdays maybe, they have quiz nights once a week, and Friday nights is some places a set jam session for all the folk musicians who live near by… The pub is like a home away from home, I think. To many. Not all Brits perhaps. But a majority, I reckon is a fair statement.

I remember my local on the isle of Anglesey, off the north welsh coast, The Four Crosses in Menai Bridge, I remember it fondly. Every Friday came around 20 people, sheep farmers and youngsters and whatnot, guitars, pennywhistles, bodhran (the drum), singing… Pints of black foamy Guinnes, cigarettes, jokes and laughter, always a lot of laughter.
I was the pub champion on that table football. I won many pints of lager and snakebite, beating the lads at table football, and the more I drank, the better I played actually. Sounds untrue but. It´s just the way it is. 🙂

Anyways. I will talk more about my years with Brits in an other post later, no doubt.
When it comes to hygge, they know how to have a good time.
But I need to add that I used to miss my Norwegian friends when I lived over there. (I didn´t have Danish friends back then, that´s why it was just the Norwegian ones I missed). I missed how we talk openly about personal things. The hardships in life, our present life challenges. I missed being personal. When I tried talking about serious, personal issues with British “friends”, they shied away, laughed it off and changed the subject.
Now this is a very important cultural difference. Which Hugh also touched upon in his programme. He said that Danes seem to be open about melancholia, that it is okay to talk about what is difficult in one´s life, about grieving, sorrow, pain and loss. That Scandinavians see it as a natural part of life that should not be hidden or pushed aside…
He said that openness in general seems to be a central value in Danish culture. He interviewed a woman who was on a bicycle shaped as a sperm cell… ! It was her company car, she said, and showed him that inside the “sperm head” there was an ice cold oxygen tank full of donor sperm containers… Hugh said that 20.000 births around the world have happened due to Danish donors, and it is a popular nationality sperm because in Denmark donors are allowed to be anonymous…

Taboos…
Yes, us Norwegians too look upon the Danes as being open about sexuality more than we are in Norway. Also more tolerant towards the use of cannabis. The state here is less strict, we feel. And the church too is more informal, more … open … less rigid than in Norway. More tolerant towards homosexuality, and Denmark has had poets and composers like Grundtvig, who made the christian message more humanitarian… correct me if I´m wrong, not sure these are the right words, I have only just discovered this claim about why the Danish church is different from what I´m used to from Norway…

Everything is just more relaxed in Denmark than in Norway. Simply. People are more informal, even the news anchors on tv are! A funny comment is sought after and gives a high score. And one can be informal and funny with people from all walks of life, across bureaucratic counters, or with a policeman… No, not always. Not at all. This is not Disneyland. We too have corruption, obuse of power, authoritarian people who enjoy putting people down if they get the chance.
But to a higher degree than in most other countries, is there friendly communication between citizens, where the participants´ title or position is made to be unimportant, whilst one focuses on the common-ness of being human beings in proces of communication.
Yes for sure.

Hygge.
Get-together.
Bon fire intimacy.
Into me see.
Sharing openly, the personal emotional reality.

A favourite song of mine comes to mind…
Hope you dig this!
& I wish you a grand week, everybody.
Remember to hygge yourselves!

🙂

Quote from the song underneath:

“On my supersonic rocketship nobody needs to be hip, nobody needs to be out of sight. (…) Nobody has to travel second class, there´ll be equality, no suppression of minorities… well allright…”

🙂

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Not Big Bot Band

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It’s been a busy week, with no blogging time. Meetings in two ngos I’m a part of, and organizing a music workshop/talk. On top of that, it ended with Saturday being spent in a house in the countryside. Together with my husband’s bigband. They were having their annual big meeting, summing up the passed year’s activities etc. And a few of us life partners tagged along. The meeting was held in one of the musicians’ home. While the band held their meeting, the rest of us finished the preparations in the kitchen. Big delicious meal. We like good food.

My husband created the band 20 years ago. For students of pedagogics in a college university where he works as a music teacher. He is the conductor in the band, and he finds songs and makes arrangements/notes for all the different instruments. 18 members as we speak. Some of the members have been in the band for many many years. Others are new, some quit after a handful years. When they have played enough gigs, they go travelling together. Partners and kids are welcome to join them on their trips. They have been to Norway, Cuba, Florida, Spain… I have been on two trips with them.

But here now I just want to say something about Saturday. I want to point out how special that group is. When we meet we are always so happy to see eachother. As we have f.ex.spent a week in a house with a pool in Spain together last easter. We have shared so many fun experiences, many meals, and loads of evenings singing and playing guitar together, somewhere warm and lovely.

So we met, and hugged, and it felt just like we were back again to the last time we were hanging out together. Us in the kitchen caught up on eachother’s life events whilst chopping and stirring stuff, and then their meeting was finished and we were all to share the great meal in the renovated barn that they have turned into a party space. Oh do I fancy a barn like that! Long long wooden table, green sofa group in one corner, stereo, drums, keyboard, guitars, separate smoking area… plenty of dancefloor…

We sat down at the table, and everyone had brought their own favourite drinks, whilst the food was paid for by the band. We chatted away with the people we were seated next to. When food was finished, some went for a cigarette, people swapped seats, some tidied up in the kitchen…. things get organized without needing leadership, people just tend to help out and get things done. It’s a lot like in a family, really. 22 members big.

The evening developed as it normally does. A lot of laughter, a LOT of singing, everybody joining in, harmonizing endlessly, the guitars go between different players… hand drums appear… you dance for a while, you go sit with the smokers and share some laughs…you go sit next to someone new…
Very relaxed and easy, everyone daring to sing out loud,
everybody being polite and nice to each other.

Why is it so special, you might ask. This is like any other party. Well, to me it isn’t. Most of the people there, I don’t see regularly, only in the context of the band. We are not close everyday friends. We are very different people, too. Agewise we are from 20s to 60s. We have different interests snd ways about us, some of them I connect deeply with whilst others remain more distant…. and it’s fine, it’s part of the fascination for me. It’s a lot like family actually, just that we are all in it volunteerily, and we share this great big common interest; music.

Most of the people left around two that night, picked up by friends in cars, filling up to the rim, being brought back to town from this farmhouse in that little village. I stayed up until half past three, listening to cds, discussing the lyrics… I was just exhausted then, and was happy to spend the night there in their kids’ room. The last three partymembers stayed up until five!

A very typical Not Big Bot Band night, everybody jolly and merry after many hours of singing improvized harmonies together. No pressure, no stress, no harsh words, no drama. Just enjoyment of good food and drink, music, dancing and talks, in a totally relaxed manner where people feel they can be themselves and be accepted and appreciated as they are.

I’m hoping to bring the kids along to a couple of the band’s events this spring, one is a gospel concert where they play together with a gospel quoir, the other event is a carnival march with school and kindergarten children.

Yeah. Not Big Bot Band. A big deal in my life. One big happy musical friends-family. It doesn’t have to be blood ties to feel familiar. It is one of my favourite communities, that I belong to. I wish everyone in the world were connected to a group in this way. I’m sure it would make the world a happier and more jovial, peaceful place. Actually.

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Freedom of Expression

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You know, this blogging is all new to me. I have always written, filled notebook after notebook, since age of five, talking to myself in a way, gaining clarity from seeing my thoughts and feelings in writing. Only when I met my now husband, 8 years ago this coming spring, did I start to realize my poems and rants could be of value to others than myself.

I write in a very personal style, I guess you can call it. I am not educated in litterature science, so I can’t tell you if it fits in a genre or not. And I don’t care, actually, either. I write from my heart, and to me the focus is more on the content than on the form. (Although to play with form is good fun too).

One thing I have noticed within myself, though, after having started sharing so…  internationally here in this blog online… (I do it all the time on a smaller scale, on Facebook, but that’s not as long pieces, at the same depth as here… ) I have noticed an inner unrest about the question of sharing too much, about whether I cross the privacy barriers of people I write about. Not that I write about others a lot. No. I am conscious not to.

But I have told very openly the story around my soundhealer inauguration, and we were 32 people involved. I have verified with our teacher that the text is okay. And also with the person who gave me the healing session in trance. So it’s in the clear in that way. But I have still shared information that to some of my fellow students maybe feel is private…

I have also shared the story about my beloved Ellen’s death in very unusual amount of detail. It is a taboo subject, death. Death beds. I am very careful about going into details that may be misunderstood as not being respectful, or show too much of an other person’s feelings… but still. When I am so open hearted about my own feelings and thoughts, how do I know if I unawarely come to hurt someone’s feelings? Unless they tell me. And most people actually don’t tell a lot or very easily, about their feelings. At least not the ones I know… (the solution will be to ask them directly, I guess. Face to face. Which I find hard to do. But I will.)

I feel that it is very important with openness. The beat poets used to say “Make the private public!” and “Write your life!” I think these are good aims. When we word what is difficult, we lift taboos and can help eachother find solutions. So I don’t mean to apologise for my openness. I just hope that my sense for discretion and concern is good enough. And if someone gets hurt by my openness, then I hope they will reach out to me and let me know, so that I can adjust, edit, reshape the information given so it doesn’t feel too private for them.

You know, these terrible happenings in Europe over the drawing of the prophet Muhammed…

Of course we in the west can draw what we want. We don’t follow Islamic law. We won’t be beheaded or whipped for having gone against God’s wish of not making pictures of Muhammed.

What I don’t really get, is the need to draw Muhammed. When we know that someone will be very upset with a certain action, isn’t it plain kindness to refrain from triggering that pain?

Of course a free and open debate on politics is a democratic right. And religious institutions are big power factors actually, owning land, having money, telling the population whether to use contraceptives or not, how to understand homosexuuality, abortion…. their views on human sexuality, claiming they know God’s unloving judgment upon everybody that’s not heterosexual and married, having intercourse only as a sacrifice in order to make children…… (I wonder why did God give us the sense of sexual joy if we are not supposed to enjoy it?)

I think these are political issues. Human rights issues. Equality issues.

Hence, when religious leaders involve politics in their talks, claiming some people are better than other people…. then this subject matter will be debated, people will criticize what they feel is not just. Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha and the rest of them would applaud this. They all talked about Love. Kindness. Tolerance. Equality.

So yes. Political debate is a must, and religions are part of that arena.

But.

Can we really not discuss politics without breaking the holy rule of the opponent? Would we not get further if we showed respect, and told the opponent we would refrain from drawing Muhammed as we could see that it hurt him. Would that not be a better step towards helping the opponent listen to our message?

It would show empathy, respect and tolerance. The opponent would then possibly answer with showing us the same fine qualities. The parties would be able to hear eachother. Trust could start to build. This is called dialogue. Peaceful communication.

Instead we shout:

“WE HAVE THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION,

SO WE DO AS WE PLEASE AND YOU CAN’T STOP US!!”

How mature is this really? How ethical is it? To me it sounds like three-yearolds in a kindergarten. “Give me that bucket now, because my dad is stronger than your dad and he can throw you up on that roof over there!”

When I was younger (80s), (well every day previous to today I was younger but),

when I was in my teens, then… there was a concept at home there in Norway called “freedom under responsibility”…. one was for example free to go to the kiosk outside the school grounds, under the expectation that we would return for the next class… we were free to go to a disco, assuming we were responsible enough not to drink alcohol…

I think responsibility is a very central part of freedom. These two words are central in being an adult, a citizen functioning smoothly in social settings… without these two words, who will we be? Irresponsible and unfree…

How responsible is it to be drawing Muhammed, knowing that millions of people will get extremely upset by this? Is it really necessary to do that, in order to criticize politics and religion? Could one not draw a mullah instead? Or use Jesus and Buddha, talking to each other of how they wish Muhammed would come out of his drawer soon….. come on…. there is a million ways of using carichature, (and I am a great fan of that art form).

What good has those drawings done for the world? Oh it has shown the moslems who is the boss? That we dictate to them and they don’t dictate to us?

Charming.

Humanity is so disappointingly immature in so many ways. All these wars. And polluting earth. Making animals and plants distinct. Actually being cruel. To animals, to women, children, poor people, homosexuals, “other races” …… very immature.

And we can not actually claim that we do not know better!!! Can we?

All we need is love. Love. Love is all we need.

And the world is ruled by greed.

Freedom of Expression, used for hatred breed.

We need responsible  people of ethics, to lead..

Cruelty begets cruelty. Kindness begets kindness.

Let’s please hurry up into a higher level of consciousness.

Our irresponsible behaviour is making us unfree.

The moslems are our siblings, not our enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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