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6 brilliant ways to survive winter like a Scandinavian

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Megan Murray
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Hygge was just the beginning…

It’s no secret that Scandinavians get it right. And when we say ‘it’, we mean, well, pretty much everything. 

Nordic countries are often revered for their exceptionally high quality of life. From a desirably healthy work/life balance (a Dane for example, will hardly ever work overtime and some Swedes are only contracted to work six hours a day), to their exceptional style and interior design skills, we’re pretty envious of their way of life.

Especially now, because one thing Scandinavians are particularly famed for, is their ability to absolutely boss winter. 

Yep, while the rest of us are shivering, struggling to keep our gloves in a pair and moaning in typical British fashion about our hatred for drizzle, those stylish Northern European folk are keeping deliciously cosy. And if the explosion of hygge has taught us anything, it’s they’ve got the right idea. 

You’ll be doing it like a Dane in no time

Part of the secret, we think, is that instead of ruefully counting down the days until spring, Scandinavians have learned to embrace this season for all that it is. 

Of course, hygge is the most widely-known part of this annual cosying, but there’s so much more to learn. As well as lighting a few candles and making an effort to give their house a bit of warmth, Scandinavians have a tradition of buying fresh flowers, encouraging the consumption of cake accompanied by a warm beverage and prolonging Christmas for as long as possible.

Luxury cruise company, Celebrity Cruises, is famous for its trips around northern Europe and Scandinavia and, through years of expertise and research, they have come to know the region’s winter traditions pretty well. Working with them, we’ve rounded up six ways that Scandinavians deal with winter better than us Brits - and even spoken to psychologist Dr. Saima Latif about why we should adopt these traditions.

So sit back and learn how to make the most of what is, actually, a pretty magical time of year…

Tulpanens dag 

Translation: to fill your home with fresh flowers

Many Scandinavian countries hold an ongoing tradition of consistently decorating their homes with freshly cut flowers to welcome in the spring. These will typically be tulips, as they bring plenty of colour into an otherwise dull, grey and dreary winter season. Despite tulips being mostly frequently associated with Holland, the Swedes are actually the largest buyer of the flower and even celebrate it with a holiday known as Tulpanens dag (day of the tulip).

As Dr. Latif says: “Bringing colour into your home is the perfect antidote to the winter blues and can make such a difference. This is such a simple tip from Sweden that would make a lot of difference on a dark, cold winter’s day, as colour has been proven to have a positive effect on our wellbeing”. 


Translation: Time for coffee and cake 

We are so here for this. The moment we realised those in Finland had a specific word for shoving cake into their mouths while relaxing with a latte, we pledged our allegiance to their ways.

The literal translation for kakkukahvit is to serve up coffee and cake, ideally done to warm up from the outside. Finnish people recognise the harsh conditions of the winter months mean we all deserve a treat to get us through, which is something we couldn’t agree with more. 

Dr Latif sees the benefits in its sense of routine, and thinks it creates an opportunity for more social interaction. She says: “it’s a tradition that lends itself to being around others, which is so important in the winter months, promoting a sense of warmth and bonding which is valuable when the bleaker weather can often feel quite isolating”. 


Translation: to make your home cosy with blankets, candles, warming food and drinks 

Similar to hygge, the term stands for making your home as cosy as possible during the winter months, so you can truly bunker down when the cold comes. Think big blankets, candles and warming food and drinks. This term originates all the way back to 1762, and originally derives from ‘Mysa’, which means to smile with comfort and contentedness.

“It is inevitable that in the winter you’ll be spending more time indoors, so making your environment particularly inviting promotes a feeling of safety and security which in turn makes you more accepting of the winter months rather than wishing them away” says Dr Latif. 

“Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” 

Translation: “there is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes”

This popular Swedish proverb refers to the country’s inherent love for nature. It suggests that no weather is too cold or too rainy to be enjoyed, and encourages people to suck it up, and pull on some more layers. 

Considering we quiver in dismay at the first sight of snow, we could probably learn a thing or two about embracing the hazardous weather, especially considering that it keeps coming back every year. 

Dr Latif believes that this mantra of “hardiness and strength instills a positive way of thinking in the winter”, which could be easily adopted with a small amount of preparation.


Translation: to prolong the best parts of Christmas

Koselig is a Norwegian concept, which is all about holding on to the best parts of the Christmas seaon, even when the big day is over – as a way of coping with the harsh conditions of winter. People will light candles and fires, drink warm beverages and attend community festivals and activities that create the feeling that everyone is in it together - surviving the winter as one.

For Dr Latif, it’s the community aspect that is the most powerful – “being together with others can have such a positive impact on our wellbeing, repositioning us to think of winter as a time of togetherness which can make the season seem much more bearable”. 


Translation: to stay in, eat comfort food and fall asleep on the sofa

Fredagskos is a Norwegian term that encapsulates a very tasty version of ‘hygge’. It’s a typical Friday evening ritual, which involves eating a dinner of comfort food (tacos are strongly favoured) and then retiring to the sofa to watch TV and feast on an assortment of crisps and sweets until falling asleep. Basically, it’s our idea of pure bliss.

“One of the problems us Brits have after Christmas is the feeling that there’s nothing in winter to look forward to, so having a weekly ritual that involves getting together is the perfect way to combat this’, says Dr Latif.

We hoped you’ve enjoyed this very important lesson in Scandinavian culture, which basically encourages us all to eat delicious food and curl up on the sofa - so here’s to that!

Images: Instagram / Anjeli Lundblad / Toa Heftiba


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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.