Move over, hygge – this winter is all about this cosy Norwegian concept
Nowadays, it seems that every country has its own untranslatable world. The most recognisable is Denmark’s hygge, which is loosely defined as a sense of cosiness. Sweden has lagom, meaning ‘not too much, not too little, just the right amount’, a kind of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ idea that eschews excess and promises the perfect balance. In Finland, there’s kalsarikännit, a word meaning you are going to get drunk at home in your underwear with no intention of going out (yes, really). And in Norway, there’s kos.
Not just an island in Greece, kos (pronounced ‘coosh’) in Norwegian means a feeling of warmth, kindness, togetherness and laughter. It defines a nation. It’s particularly important in winter, when snow sits heavy in the skies and the dark nights stretch on; it could just be the secret to surviving this dark and gloomy time of year with a smile on your face.
What is it not?
Exclusive or expensive. One of the key features of kos is that it is equally available for everyone – anyone can experience it and nobody is left out. According to linguist Jan Svennevig at the University of Oslo, it is a state of mind and reflects an unpretentious common Norwegian ideal of equality. Rather than being a state of luxury, it’s finding luxury in simplicity – the kind of joy that is available to everyone.
How do you use it?
A classic Norwegian phrase is ‘nå koser vi oss’ – meaning ‘now we’re having a good time’ or ‘now we’re having kos’. It’s such a popular phrase that it has its own hashtag – #NKVO –which you can search on Instagram to find Norwegians showing their own versions of kos.
How Norwegians do it
If you’re in Norway, you could do it in winter by going skiing in the mountains, or in the summer, you could go island-hopping until late in the night in a location where the sun doesn’t set until 11pm. You might buy a cinnamon bun at a bakery and eat it slowly with a great cup of coffee – Norwegians love their caffeine – or you might retreat to a cabin on the side of a fjord for a weekend and enjoy hiking in the fresh air before cosying up in the evening.
How to do it yourself
We might not have an English word for it, but that doesn’t mean you have to fly to Norway to find the feeling. Focus on food and good times – invite some friends over for a casual dinner, buy a waffle iron and make heart-shaped Norwegian waffles for breakfast (there’s a great recipe here), or slip into cosy clothes and relax in front of a fire. Eat chocolate while cosying up under a blanket in your favourite spot at home. Or just light some candles, put on some warm socks and make a great cup of tea. It might not pass the Norwegian test – tea is definitely not a Scandinavian thing – but it could be close to an English equivalent.
Words by Laura Hall