A Scandinavian-American On Incorporating Scandinavia Into Your Life (Besides Hygge)

October 11, 2021

With the weather turning colder in the northern hemisphere, many are looking to the arctic countries for tips on how to make the most of the chilling temperatures. Scandinavia is famous for hygge, and many in non-Scandinavian countries have adopted the practice to learn to enjoy the colder months. While hygge is so important, it’s a good idea to note that since Scandinavians are so used to the cold, they have more to give than just hygge when it comes to chilly-living tips. So if you’re wanting to find more joy in the dipping temperatures or just want a piece of Scandinavian living, here are just a few ideas (take my word for it—as a Scandinavian-American myself, these really do work):

Dress for the weather.


This may sound so simple, but dressing for the weather really makes a huge difference. Embrace layers, thrift sweaters, and pull out those warm socks. Not only will this give you a taste for Scandinavia (which famously has shifting weather, resulting in Scandinavians always wearing layers to adapt to it), but it will help you connect to the season. Paying attention to the weather is a beautiful way to feel grounded in it, and can help you be more mindful of what autumn and winter truly mean in your region. On top of it all, you’ll be more comfortable since you’ll be prepared for the outdoors.


Eat ingredients from the region.

Eating is a powerful act, and it’s an important action to take when you want to connect with a region. Scandinavia is famous for some incredible foraging, so lean in to that when you cook. Make lingonberry jam and spread it on your morning toast. Drink blueberry juice, roast some chanterelle mushrooms for dinner, or make an elderberry dressing. You can even buy teas with Scandinavian berries in them if that’s more accessible to you (elderberry tea is delicious and widely available). Think about the regions of Scandinavia where these treats would be found as you indulge in them to honor where they came from.


If you need to buy something, consider buying from a Scandinavian company.

Scandinavia has a lot of thriving beauty brands, clothing labels, and furniture stores that are known worldwide (hello IKEA and Fjallraven), making it easy to support a brand from the region if you need to purchase something. Try to look for small brands by making your Google search more specific (for example, rather than searching “Scandinavian skincare,” type in “Oslo skincare” or “skincare made in Iceland”), that way you can support small businesses. If you can’t find what you need, try buying things that have some sort of nod to the region. For example, if you need moisturizer but want to buy from a brand that ends up not being from the region, buy something with seabuckthorn oil in it—something plentiful in Scandinavian countries.

Wear colors that remind you of eco-regions in Scandinavia.

Colors speak to us, and can even control our moods. Tap into this by thinking about the region in Scandinavia that you feel connected to currently. If you feel tied to the glacial lagoons of Iceland, wear light blues, silver, white, and navy. If you feel connected to the woodlands of northern Sweden, wear shades of green, amber, earthy browns, and black. Meditate about what those regions mean to you, and wear the landscape like a second skin.


Eat vegan Smørrebrød.

Traditionally from Denmark, Scandinavians love their open-faced sandwiches. As someone with Scandinavian heritage who also loves sandwiches, I make this multiple times a week. While the possibilities are endless, an easy option is to toast some rye bread and spread it with a thin amount of vegan cream cheese (kite hill is best). Top it with dill, thinly sliced apples, and pickled onions. It’s even better if you drizzle it with balsamic vinegar or a few dollops of a good, grainy mustard for extra tang. The sky is the limit with Smørrebrød.


Follow photographers on social media in the region.

If you want to connect with Scandinavia on a visual level, but can’t be there physically, support photographers who are capturing the beauty of the region. There are so many on social media, and lots of photos of theirs on Pinterest. Follow them and browse through their photos a little bit every week to honor Scandinavia and get to know the region better. Consider having a folder where you can save the specific places you want to travel to.

Paint or make art inspired by Scandinavia.

This could act as a beautiful meditative practice to feel more tethered to this northern region, and as a result you’ll also get beautiful decorations for your living space. Pick someplace that speaks to you, or someplace you’ve always wanted to go. I have paintings of Iceland all over my home because my partner and I fell in love with the country when we spent a month there a few years ago. Not only was painting the places fun ways to reflect on our time there, but it helped us feel closer to that little icy island that is so far from our woodland home here in Appalachia.


Simplify your life.

Scandinavians are all about “less is more.” Their architecture highlights the nature around them and makes space for natural light. Their most beloved skincare brands have less ingredients and focus on being wholesome more than anything else. Their fashion is practical yet elegant. Their food is focused around whole foods. Bring that spirit into your life. Donate things you no longer need. Find your own fashion sense to not overcomplicate your mornings. Find a natural skincare and makeup routine that emphasizes your skin’s natural beauty rather than hides it. Spend time outside. Look for ways to make your life slower, simpler, and more down to Earth. In the end, that’s what Scandinavian living is all about.

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Photo: Emily Iris Degn

Emily Iris Degn
Emily Iris Degn is an environmental travel writer, editor, passionate eco-journalist, professional artist, and published eco-poet. She is from the San Juan Islands, but currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her incredible partner and beloved sea shell collection. You can find her in many spaces on Instagram: @emilyirisdegn @happyvegansfeed @emfallstoearth @emilydegnart OR at emilyirisdegn.com.


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