2016 was the year when the world learned how to get cosy the Danish way with ’hygge’. In recent months, ’lagom’ has been the word on everyone’s lips as the Swedes have insisted that there is more to happiness than lighting candles and snuggling up under a blanket.
Roughly translating as ‘not too little, not too much, but just enough’, lagom is a word that in many ways encapsulates the mindset behind the country up north that has made equality, sustainability and style its hallmarks. But where to start with living lagom?
Go back to black
No need to take that literally, as lagom embraces all colours and patterns – but finding your favourite basics that go with everything and last a long time makes your wardrobe more sustainable and flexible, and you won’t need to replace it all to pick up on a new trend you like. Well-fitting denims, quality leggings and comfortable geometrical-style tops will work forever and can be combined in endless ways.
Park the car
Whether you opt to cycle to work in order to build light exercise into your daily routine or get the bus to show appreciation for public transport, most Swedes agree that driving solo is not the way to go. Sitting still in a carbon-emitting machine while others do the same, separately? Not very lagom. If you must drive, why not start a carpool?
Learn to fika
Fika – enjoying coffee and buns or biscuits, ideally in a cosy and calm environment – is a real institution in Swedish culture, both in the home and at work. In the case of the latter, it provides an opportunity to take regular breaks, proven to contribute to both increased productivity and happiness, and at home, it’s a chance to check in with the present moment or a dear friend. Whether you like to bake or not, going offline, brewing some strong coffee and lighting a few candles will brighten up your day. And make it a habit. Trust me – it’s so worth it.
Head for the woods
The seaside works just as well, and for urbanites, the park will do. Swedes have a love of and respect for nature beyond what I’ve experienced anywhere else, perhaps linked to the appreciation of light and sunshine after long, dark winters. It goes without saying that fresh air is good for you, so the trick is to make getting out habitual. Throw some picnics together, go foraging, get an allotment to grow your own vegetables or pick up an outdoor exercise class. Or why not make the most of the back-to-basics interior design trend and spend your weekends flea market hopping?
Stop – and listen
It may sound like a vague description of the term, but I often say that lagom is a lot about pausing, taking a step back and checking in, be it with yourself, your friends or your colleagues. Sweden is known for a deeply ingrained consensus culture, which insists that everyone must get a say in order for the ‘just right’ solution to be found, and I’m convinced that a bit of perspective goes a long way at home as well. It can be in line with the ‘Count to 10’ campaign, which encourages you to stop and count to ten before you decide to buy (or refrain from buying) something, or in something as simple as the division of the house chores. Have you really considered your partner’s perspective? Egalitarian couples are happy couples, so research – and Sweden – says.
If living lagom sounds appealing, why not buy a little fika reading? Lagom: The Swedish Art Of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne contains ideas for living more simply and is available here now.
Linnea Dunne was born and raised in Sweden, where she started her writing career as a columnist at the local newspaper aged 15. She left for Ireland a few years later and eventually moved to London, where she studied Creative Writing and Political Communications. She now lives in Dublin with her husband and two half-Swedish kids, trying to achieve that lagom balance against all odds.