"Inner emigration": the Polish answer to "hygge"

Article published on Jan. 3, 2017
Article published on Jan. 3, 2017

Considering all the tragedies that have plagued us in 2016, it's little wonder that the concept of hygge has become so popular, Even though it turns out we all got fooled by a gianting advertising campaign. But fear not, cafébabel has an alternative for you: instead of buying expensive books about the Danish lifestyle, why don't you join us for a spot of "inner emigration", Polish style?

2016 left us all on the brink of clinical depression. Aleppo, Muhammad Ali, Baghdad, David Bowie, Brexit, Brussels, Leonard Cohen, Nice, Orlando, Prince, Donald Trump, the Zika virus... Stupid referendums, human tragedies, the passing of great people, wars and destruction: the media has been giving us the blues with news like this almost every day.

So no wonder the big thing this year is hygge. Who wouldn't like to retreat from the flood of tragic news, comfortably wrapped in a blanket near the fireplace and sipping gløgg (mulled wine) in the company of loved ones?

But the success of hygge is not mere chance. It owes its popularity to an intensive promotion on the part of British publishers. The aggressive advertising campaign propelled hygge-related books to the top of bestseller lists. But in Denmark hygge is not an unequivocally positive phenomenon - especially since it has been appropriated by right-wing, anti-immigration parties.

So here is an alternative. The eighties weren't a particularly happy period in Poland. Neither was 2016, but let's face it - it was way worse back then. The imposing of martial law crushed the dreams of the democratic opposition, and anyone engaged in "anti-government activity" risked a lengthy prison sentence. Not to mention the everlasting economical crisis, the inexistence of the free press and the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. The answer was emigracja wewnętrzna, or "inner emigration": retreating from public life, staying around family and friends, grabbing for whatever small pleasures are closer to hand. A grey, grim, eastern-European version of hygge, if you will. Here are a few good reasons for you to reject the Danish propaganda and choose inner emigration instead.

The fireplace

HyggeThe fireplace is a crucial element of hygge. As you all know, every house in Denmark is equipped with one. It is an expensive ecological nightmare.

Inner emigration – The coal stove. Who said the inner emigrant has to stay home all day? The coal stove allows you to breath in some fresh air even when it's freezing outside. Plus you help to save Polish coal mines from closing down. While feeling your blood circulation returning to your hands, be careful not to make any eye contact with strangers. Contemplation of misery should remain an individual exercise. 

The Books

HyggeThere's nothing like losing yourself in a good book. And we're talking real books here, with their sounds, smells and textures that no e-reader or tablet can recreate. The best would obviously be to read a hygge-related guidebook (cf. hyggeception) but a Scandinavian cookbook would possibly do the trick as well.

Inner emigration – Polish culture is similar to the Dutch in this regard. But the choice of reading would be different. We highly recommend samizdat books, with their binding that disintegrates in your hands and a dissident message to convey. Politically-involved works provide a good framework for enhancing feelings of helplessness.

The drinks

Hygge – An evening with a book is always even nicer with a glass of mulled wine. Oranges, cinnamon, cloves and loads of honey - this mix is able to warm up parts of one's soul that the woollen socks, the blanket and the fireplace are unable to reach.

Inner emigration – The best companion for any inner emigrant is vodka. You drink it in small glasses, the so-called literatkas, and it warms you up much more successfully than even the warmest mulled wine. In appropriate quantities it enables you to forget about the passing year. Actually, it can even enable you to forget all the ones before.

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2016: Best Year Ever

No, we're serious. And our editorial staff have put together a series of articles 'celebrating' the last 12 months. From opinion pieces to works of outright fiction, nothing was off limits.