Some words just can’t be translated. My cousin and I have not been able to find a good German translation for “rationalization” (my definition might be something like –  applying to oneself or a situation something that is only partially true while ignoring that which is really much more true, in order to justify behavior).

I’ve always said there’s no English equivalent for either “spaziergang”  (a walk that is taken for the enjoyment of friends and/or the surrounding environment, city, village or nature) or “gemütlichkeit” (the yummy state of coziness, comfortable intimacy, and friendly interaction in an environment that is conducive to this state). Well, that’s how I would translate these words. Now I know why. I’d heard that Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world, so I looked into it and found this latest report. Denmark’s been in the top 3 for 7 years while the US is steadily slipping. Somehow it seems to be due to the fact that we have no word equivalent to gemütlichkeit.  Here are some excerpts:

“The new World Happiness Report again ranks Denmark among the top three happiest of 155 countries surveyed – a distinction that the country has earned for seven consecutive years. The U.S., on the other hand, ranked 18th in this year’s World Happiness Report, a four-spot drop from last year’s report. Denmark’s place among the world’s happiest countries is consistent with many other national surveys of happiness (or, as psychologists call it, “subjective well-being”).

“Danes have a stable government, low levels of public corruption, and access to high-quality education and health care. The country does have the highest taxes in the world, but the vast majority of Danes happily pay: They believe higher taxes can create a better society. Perhaps most importantly, however, they value a cultural construct called “hygge” (pronounced hʊɡə). (It’s now a #hashtag and in the Oxford Dictionary)

“Hygge is sometimes translated as “cozy,” but a better definition of hygge is “intentional intimacy,” which can happen when you have safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences. A cup of coffee with a friend in front of a fireplace might qualify, as could a summer picnic in the park.

“A family might have a hygge evening that entails board games and treats, or friends might get together for a casual dinner with dimmed lighting, good food and easygoing fun. Spaces can also be described as hyggelige (“Your new house is so hyggeligt”) and a common way of telling a host thank you after a dinner is to say that it was hyggeligt (meaning, we had a good time).

“Research on hygge has found that in Denmark, it’s integral to people’s sense of well-being. It acts as a buffer against stress, while also creating a space to build camaraderie. In a highly individualized country like Denmark, hygge can promote egalitarianism and strengthen trust.

“Nor is Denmark the only country that has a word for a concept similar to hygge – the Norwegians have koselig, the Swedes mysig, the Dutch gezenlligheid and the Germans gemütlichkeit.

“In the U.S. – which also places a high value on individualism – there’s no real cultural equivalent of hygge. Income is generally associated with happiness; yet even though the country’s GDP has been rising and its unemployment rates have been declining, levels of happiness in the U.S. have been steadily decreasing.”

Time for us to start valuing gemutlichkeit and having more hygge in our lives! You in?