Koselig is the Norwegian schadenfreude.
Not in meaning, of course. In fact taking joy from someone else’s misfortune is about as un-Norwegian as it gets. But in terms of a word that just doesn’t translate into English, koselig hits the spot.
What is it? Good question.
It’s both a noun (koselig) and a verb (kose). Some say “cosy” is the closest translation, although I’m sure that’s only because it sounds similar! To be fair, cosy gets you 80% of the way there, but there’s plenty of koselig things that you wouldn’t describe as cosy.
So rather than try to find a word, I’ve decided to show my understanding of koselig using pictures:
More than anything else, koselig is a feeling: that of cosiness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles. At home, friends and family are entertained with simple, wholesome food, home-made waffles, lashings of coffee. In the mountain cabin, the flask of pølser (hot dogs) are passed around by day, and a flask of cognac is passed around by night.
Despite its lack of translation to English, koselig does translate across the Scandinavian borders. In Danish, the word is hygge or hyggelig. Just to complicate matters, hyggelig is also used in Norwegian, but more as a greeting or to convey friendliness – hyggelig å treffe deg means pleased to meet you.
Back in Norway, fredagskos is a thing! Embraced by the food marketing industry to flog frozen pizzas, crisps and “tacos”, fredagskos is essentially the same as “that Friday feeling” of Crunchie fame!
All this got me thinking, what is the typical koselig experience back in the UK? The closest thing I can come up with is enjoying a Sunday roast dinner with family or friends, all sat next to a roaring fireplace in a country pub.
Last but not least, pronunciation. Somewhere between “koosh-lee” or “kush-lee” and you’re half way there. Took me a while to work that one out!
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen: koselig!