The Danish people are known to be among the happiest in the world. In The Book of Hygge, Louisa Thomson Brits defines it as "a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted, and sheltered. Hygge is an experience of selfhood and communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation."
In an article by David Robson on BBC Future, we learn about a project designed to identify emotion words — like hygge — from other countries. Its director, Tim Lomas at the University of East London, gives as an example the Finnish concept of sisu which is a sort of "extraordinary determination in the face of adversity." According to Finnish experts, the English notions of grit, perseverance, and resilience do not convey the inner strength conveyed by their term.
Such "untranslatable" words offer us a chance to enrich our language and expand our appreciation of cross-cultural meanings and insights. Here are a few more examples:
- Desbundar (Portuguese): to shed one's inhibitions in having fun
- Tarab (Arabic): a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
- Shinrin-yoku (Japanese): the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
- Dadirri (Australian Aboriginal): a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening Sukha (Sanskrit): genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances