Scandinavian words can spark more joy in your life.

Updated: Mar 18

Recently a Scandinavian word has received a good deal of attention in media; the concept of "friluftsliv" (pronounced "free-loofts-liv"). It translates roughly to "open-air living" and is deeply ingrained in the Scandinavian heritage. Probably mostly so in Norway. Even a Norwegian, playwright Henrik Ibsen is credited with inventing the term in a poem.

Previously you know I have described specific Scandinavian terms closely related to happiness, such as "Lagom" and "Hygge." The meaning of the Swedish (and Norwegian) Lagom refers to the concept of balance: not too much and not too little, whereas the Danish "Hygge" is about creating cozy moments, situations of togetherness, and peace of mind.

Now let's talk about 'friluftsliv.' The concept of friluftsliv encourages outdoor adventures for all ages in all kinds of weather. Friluftsliv is a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast. It offers a cold-hardy inspiration for a frigid time of year. My family's Norwegian branch (my sister-in-law is Norwegian) will go to their cozy cabin in the mountains whenever they can. In the summertime, they are hiking, and in the wintertime, they are cross country skiing - the whole family. But Friluftsliv is more than just an activity; it's a kind of lifestyle; time spend in nature will expand of our spiritual and physical being.

And maybe that's the thing with these words: They refer to activities that may bring about a specific joyful state of mind.

There are other Scandi terms describing happiness, joyful moments, or simply Nordic feel-good:

Getting up early in the morning to listen to the birds — that's what Swedes call "gökotta." The term consists of "gök," which means cuckoo, and "otta," which means earliness. According to the Swedes, this early bird activity will bring you a deep feeling of happiness and joy for the rest of the day.

In Danish and Norwegian, we have the concept of "Lykke" (pronounced like' lu-Keh'), which is the word for joy and happiness, describing a state of everyday happiness where we make the most of life's simple pleasures. You can check out "The Little Book of Lykke" for more on this.

And a very Norwegian and funny one is 'Utepils': As soon as the days start to get longer and people enjoy the first rays of sunshine after a long winter, a striking phenomenon can be observed in Norway. People of all (legal drinking) ages come out to enjoy the weather and have an "utepils," or "outdoor beer," a beer that's consumed outside. For Norwegians, this is a very special moment of joy.

Another specific Swedish one is Fika - the coffee break – and I will be coming back to that soon. 

Maybe these happiness terms actually allow us to see and appreciate moments of happiness and wellbeing. I guess it's somehow proof that words can transform how we experience our world and that activities we practice may change how we feel…

Norlii is all about opening the door to our readers and subscribers to try out some of these feel-good Scandinavian experiences. See more about Norlii right here.


"What is 'friluftsliv'? How an idea of outdoor living could help us this winter" JEN ROSE SMITH, National Geographic, SEPTEMBER 11, 2020

"The little book of Lykke," Meik Wiking, Harper Collins, 2017

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