Why are Norwegians so happy? In a word: ‘koselig’

Updated 12:00 PM EDT, Mon July 1, 2019
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Go to your happy place. Go on, close your eyes and picture it. Take a deep breath and hold it in your mind’s eye for a long, joyful moment.

Already, you feel more relaxed, less stressed, happier. And you aren’t even physically there.

My happy place looks and feels a lot like the common motifs many share: It’s both in nature and insulated from it, like a cabin in the woods. I’m sitting by the golden light of a fireplace in a stuffed chair, under a blanket, with a warm beverage and engrossing book in hand. Music is playing, but it’s slow and quiet. Family and friends are there, too. We’ll play an unhurried card or board game and share funny stories. We’ll eat a delicious meal together. It’s snowing or raining, and we watch the weather unfold, go out in it and then enjoy coming back inside again. I don’t need any other distractions in my happy place. I have everything I need to be fully connected and blissed out.

The kind of experience I’m describing is something of a national pastime in Norway. They even have a word that snugly wraps all these ideas up: “koselig.” The concept is undoubtedly connected to the fact that cold, nature-embracing countries such as Norway, Finland and Denmark have each recently led the list of the happiest countries in the world.

You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced “koosh-lee”), as “coziness,” but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There’s no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish “mys,” the Dutch “gezelligheid” and the most well-known of these, the Danish “hygge.”