Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Hygge and Sisu

I love all things Finnish (not least of all their music, OBVIOUSLY), so I was really excited to get a chance to read The Finnish Way, and then I was curious about hygge and decided to read about that, too.

The Finnish Way was written by Katja Pantzar, who is the daughter of Finnish parents, and a Canadian ex-pat living in Finland. She has the unique benefit of knowing the North American way of life, and an "in" in Finland, which is important. Finns seem like absolutely lovely people, but for Americans, I think it would be hard to get in with them. They are notoriously introverted, not smiley, and don't even have a Finnish word for "please"--it's considered more polite to just ask for what you want directly. 

Pantzar does a good job of highlighting the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and landscape, and focuses her narrative around the Finnish concept of sisu. There is no direct English translation for sisu, but it's generally best described as an innate courage and fortitude to persevere, survive, and thrive in the face of hardship. I love this concept. So much so that I bought a sisu bracelet to remind me to embrace my own sisu (Pantzar insists that while the concept is uniquely Finnish, one doesn't have to be Finnish to have sisu). Pantzar embraced hers by Arctic swimming year round (like, YIKES, add that to the list of things I don't think I could ever do). 

Overall, this book was great. I devoured it. Reading about how different life is in Finland is absolutely fascinating, especially through the lens of someone who came from the hustle and bustle and materialism of North American life. This book really explores and digs deep into both sisu and why the Finns are consistently some of the happiest people of earth. I highly recommend it if you're interested in the Nordic way of life at all, or just want to read something interesting about people who live differently than we do here in the US.

Springboarding off that, I read The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking. Hygge is a concept that's gained a lot of popularity in recent years. It centers around coziness and togetherness, and Wiking argues this is why Danes are the happiest people on earth. 

Maybe it's because I was born and bred in a humid subtropical place, but the idea of hygge is almost unrelatable to me. It centers around being warm and cozy and that feeling of like, if you went skiing all day, coming back to the chalet for something warm to drink and good food and laughing with friends. Which is all very nice, and I approve of people aiming for that. But it's not something that really moves me, at least, not the same way that sisu does. I feel like I can reach deep into myself and pull out dregs of sisu and nurture and grow them. If I think of hygge, I start to get overheated--there's just so much fire and blankets involved. It also seems more materialistic to me, even though Wiking insists it's not. And it doesn't have to be! And it probably shouldn't be. But scrolling the #hygge hashtag on Instagram proves otherwise.

Maybe I'll do a post in the future about attempting hot weather hygge. 

Anyway, out of the two, I definitely recommend The Finnish Way more, but enjoyed both. I can't wait to read Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage and The Nordic Theory of Everything next (all while planning my imaginary trip to Finland, of course).

No comments:

Post a Comment