The concept of hygge has been really popular, lately.
If you have never heard about it though, let me explain you a little bit. Hygge – according to the Cambridge dictionary – is “a Danish word for a quality of cosiness (= feeling warm, comfortable, and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking, or spending time at home with your family”.
Last winter, the concept became hugely popular because of two books: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well and Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness. These two books became best-sellers and created a real movement. As a matter of fact, if you search on Amazon now, you can find lots of other books with the word “hygge” in it.
Such popularity meant that the word hygge was more or less everywhere, this past winter. I have read a lot of blog posts about it – I have the feeling that all the bloggers I follow have written about it, at least once. There have been quite a few articles on lifestyle and fashion magazines. I can’t count the number of YouTube videos about “how to make your house more hygge” or “how to bring the concept of hygge into your life”.
That’s all great, let me tell you. Who doesn’t love a bit of coziness into his or her life? I love lighting candles in winter, when it is dark and cold outside. I love baking cakes to be had with cinnamon tea. Curling up on the sofa with a good book in my hands is probably one of the things I love most in life. But I found a bit strange that we Italians need the advice of foreigners to enjoy life.
Arent’s we the ones who invented the concept of la bella vita, after all?
Italy has a lot of flaws and we can’t count the number of problems we have to face on a daily basis. But we sure know how to enjoy life and that’s one of the things I am most thankful of. I am happy to be Italian because I have been raised with a strong sense of family and been taught to savor the moments and take things slow, enjoying the little things in life.
As I just said, we Italians have lots of faults and surely I don’t want to teach you anything about life, but I thought I’d list some things that we do – just like Danish people who light candles to brighten their dark winters and sip tea by the fire – that may help you enjoy life a bit more.
And it’s impossible not to start with food.
I know, we Italians may seem obsessed with food, with all our rules and traditions, but actually food is one of the most important things in life and it deserves to be highly respected. Food is not just something you need to fill your stomach, food is the fuel for your body and your energy and the better it is, the better you will feel. You must give the right importance to the food you eat.
If you are Italian and especially if you live in a small town, you develop a very strong relationship with food. If you live in the countryside, it is very likely that your family has a vegetable garden and therefore you see your food grow and know that it’s not normal to eat strawberries in January or tomatoes in December. There’s a time for everything and, if you wait, you’ll be able to enjoy the tastiest fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, if you are a kid living close to his or her grandparents, you sure know how you should go to the market to buy groceries, speaking with the vendors to see what they suggest, taking your time to choose well. And probably you know how to make homemade pasta because your grandmother did it at least a hundred times in front of you and – even if you are a lazy kid as I was – this will stick into your mind.
What is also important is the fact that you learn to take the time to eat. No breakfast in the car while driving at work – you stop at a cafè, if you don’t have time to have breakfast at home. No lunch in front of the computer, but a shared meal with your colleagues either in a canteen or a restaurant – or at home with your family, if you are really lucky. No separate meals in the family for dinner and no dinner on the couch in front of the tv. Eating is an important moment, which should be shared. And food should be properly cooked, in your kitchen, with love and care.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t go to McDonald’s – going there is the secret dream of Italian kids – or that we never have takeaway food or we would never eat a sandwich on the go. What is important, in my opinion, is that we are aware that food makes our life better.
My American friends always told me that I have very simple taste because I don’t like complex food. That’s probably due to the fact that I know that I don’t need more than a ripe tomato, some basil leaves, and a good mozzarella to have a perfect dish. Why looking for complex – and sometimes fake – flavors, when nature gives you such perfection?
What comes next is to take things slow.
One of the things I love about being Italian is that I take things slow. Don’t misunderstand me: I am the most punctual person on earth and I never miss an appointment nor a deadline, but when I say that I take things slow I mean that I know how to enjoy the moment – pure mindfulness style.
What does that mean?
Well, for example, to go for a walk for the pure sake of it. Fare una passeggiata, as we say in Italian, for no other reason than to go for a walk. Not to exercise, not to walk the dog, not to go somewhere specific. Just to walk around. Ages ago, an uncle of mine got questioned by the cops in a residential San Francisco neighborhood because he was walking around in the evening “in a suspicious way”. He was just doing what he was used to: a walk after dinner, in a slow, casual way. (Just for your information: for years, the USA for my family was the place where fare una passeggiata was forbidden).
Enjoying the sunshine on a bench. If you come to Italy, especially in little villages and provincial towns, you will surely spot a group of old ladies or men sitting on a bench and chatting the afternoon away. This is quite true for young people too – or at least it was, as I spent most of my teenage years sitting on a bench with my friends doing absolutely nothing but being together.
Having an aperitivo. I always mention the aperitivo when speaking of nice Italian habits, but I really believe it is a habit which really means to enjoy life. It’s like time stops and you sit at a table, one glass of wine in your hands, with some snacks in front of you and someone to chat with. No pressure, no hurry. And if you are alone, you can always have your aperitivo at the counter and chat with the bar owner who, in most cases, will treat you like a regular even if you’ve been there only once or twice.
Spending time with your family. We know that we may be a bit too attached to our families, but isn’t is a precious time the one you can spend with your grandparents and parents and relatives? They can be stressful, incredibly stressful, but will also gift you with memories that will last a lifetime.
These are just some of the things that make the Italian lifestyle special. I hope you’ll find them inspiring and maybe help you improve your quality of life – if you feel you need it.
But let me ask you a question, now. What is one Italian habit you’d like to incorporate in your life? Let me know in the comments below!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!