Au Pair Host Parent Word for the Year: Hygge

by cv harquail on January 2, 2015

Last New Year many of use chose a few ‘words of the year’ to help keep us focused on our values and goals as host parents (and people!).

Micro-affirmations like “3 Words“, Core Desired Feelings , and even just a parenting mantra help us make small changes in our habits that, over time, can help us grow. They offer slight yet meaningful direction that’s useful in any situation.


As I was reading the onslaught of New Year’s Resolution-related posts I came across the word that I’ll be using to help shape both my teaching and my home & family-making:


Hygge is a Danish term for the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment all rolled into one concept.

~ Helen Dyrbye in “Xenophobe’s Guide to the Danes.”

“In other languages the word for hygge or coziness is more a physical thing, and hygge is more a mental thing,” explains Lotte Hansen, a library science student from Aalborg, Denmark …

“It’s like a feeling, and it’s big at Christmastime. The candles, the food, being with your family.” “It’s not only Christmas, though,” she adds, noting hygge is a pervasive, year-round spirit. “It’s like a mood you have. We can see hygge in many things, in many situations.”

This flexibility of hygge is a major reason why English words like “cozy” don’t do it justice. “Coziness relates to physical surroundings — a jersey can be cozy, or a warm bed — whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behavior toward each other…”

(Any Danish Au Pairs out there who want to join in with more detail???)

Hygge for you, Hygge for me

What I like about the concept of Hygge (and related extensions of the word) is that it captures what I’d like my home to feel like to my family and to our friends. Even with my undergraduate business students, I’d like my classroom to evoke the kind of warmth and sense of community that would support students in taking more risks with their teams and their projects. 

It’s also a concept that, when we aim to create it, we help both others and ourselves. A nice bonus for a new years re-orientation, no?

What are you doing to shape your new year?

Any particular words or goals? We’d love to know…


See also:

New Year Review: Reset Au Pair Expectations for 2012

You might enjoy the challenge of Creating a Family Word-for-the-Year. Ideas & how-to here: What Will Your Family Word-of-the-Year Be?
Or Developing a Parenting Mantra.

Image by Heather Katsoulis on Flickr




Taking a Computer Lunch January 4, 2015 at 10:46 am

I have found that 14 1/2 years of hosting APs has changed me – I’m a pretty direct and brusque person, albeit a generous one. One AP (from Sweden) taught me to be gracious and more considerate, because her first question when I came in the door was not “May I have the weekend off?” but “How was your day?” She thanked me for making dinner (and said she always thanked her own parents, too). Her generosity of spirit taught me to be more generous. When I ask my APs how their days were, I am not seeking information about how my kids behaved or what they did, but am trying to assess how my AP is doing. Is she unmotivated to leave her room? (could be a sign of depression or homesickness) Has she made a group of friends with whom to do things in the 6 1/2 hours she has off in the middle of the day? I also pay attention to what she enjoys doing, where she likes to eat – it makes it easier when I want to buy a gift certificate or a little something as a reward for going above and beyond.

I am no saint as a HM. Passive aggressive behavior, lip-service, and pouting drive me nuts. I am clear to my APs that they are doing a job, and I reinforce it verbally frequently. I expect it to be done without constant reminders and show my brusque side when it is not done.

Former-Danish-Aupair January 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Former Danish au pair here:
Hygge is for me as a Danish person in mid 20’s: When the surroundings and your mood makes you heart-warmth and relaxed, fences down, no worries at all.. Often happens when spontaneous activities happen, you can’t pressure hygge into yourself, your guests or to a planned event.. (though you can put in some “props” to help it on it’s way – but it’s up to the individuels to let the ´magic` happen )
Hygge can for me be when I sit by myself in my couch with a warm cozy blanket around me, cup of coffee, candle light in the windows, with a good book.
It’s when I’m surrounded with people I love, family, friends, new friends, where I can be myself, and we all just enjoy the moment and value the good talks, and the warm feeling we get inside.
It’s when I build snow castles and have a good snow fight with the children I care for, again the feeling of love and laughter, uncomplicated situation where we easily forget when the next paper is due and that I really should do some laundry instead.
It’s when I bake, when I go for a walk with someone.
Hygge is what YOU make it!
But stress, bad moods, overthinking/planning etc. does not belong in the term of Hygge..

happyhostmom January 5, 2015 at 2:10 pm

It’s amazing how you defined a feeling that I often have and have thought of as contentment. My closest feeling would be sitting on the couch with my family on a winter Sunday, all cuddled up with my kids under blankets, drinking coffee and watching a movie together, or being out to dinner with my husband and sharing a great meal with some close friends we feel really comfortable with. What a great word! For me, this year I am borrowing a mantra from a Yoga class I took the day after New Years. Breathe in what serves you, breathe out what doesn’t, as in breathe in calmness, patience and out stress and negativity. I am taking it further to apply to take in what serves you and your family and out with what doesn’t, as in taking in more fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods, and out with more of the processed foods. I think all of my goals can be related back to this one phrase, including doing more yoga. Happy New Year everyone.

Mimi January 7, 2015 at 10:47 am

My words for this year are going to be Patience and Flexibility. I’ve lost some of my HM mojo and trying to be supermom with a new baby and work challenges is stressing me out. So as Arnold Glasgow said, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.” In 2015 for me, that means if you can’t wait for the egg to hatch, have a PBJ!

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