Shedding light on Scandinavian style around the globe

How one expat has endeavoured to spread Danish ‘hygge’ to the world

Any foreigner who relocates to Denmark is quickly introduced to the nation’s preoccupation with hygge. Impossible to translate, yet so central to the nation’s culture, the term’s all-encompassing yet ambiguous meaning baffles many expats.

Such was the case with Shaun Russell when he moved to Denmark. Originally from the UK, Russell relocated to Copenhagen to live with his Danish wife 12 years ago – and he too found himself intrigued by the idea of hygge.

“I was looking for products that best define the Nordic lifestyle,” Russell explained. “I even researched the question with Scandinavians, both here and abroad – but the one product that always came out on top for us, as well as the locals, is the humble candle.”

“The fact that [Danes] use candles 365 days a year, morning noon and night, made it the ultimate essence of the daily simple pleasures of Scandinavian lifestyle,” he went on. “The importance of candlelight is obvious given the geography of the country and the long dark winters, but what I found most interesting was how that necessity for heat and light gradually turned into something much more intangible.”

As a foreigner, Russell said the Danish candle habit took some getting used to. But he too eventually began ‘lighting up’, even at breakfast time, and eventually took it one step further – he set about spreading Danish hygge outside of Scandinavia.  

Russell teamed up with a fellow Brit based in Stockholm to found Skandinavisk, a company dedicated to celebrating the essence of Scandinavian lifestyle.

“It’s almost as if hygge is the emotional place from which Danes draw energy and contentment. I would argue that it is the Nordic focus on prioritising the small moments in life that makes them the world’s happiest people,” Russell pointed out. “So by putting the word together with the principal ingredient – the candle – therefore seemed an obvious thing to do.”

Candles are welcome even on bright Scandinavian daysSkandinavisk candles are hand-poured into individual moulds – rather than industrial machines – and then topped up to condense the wax and left to set. It’s a traditional, centuries-old method and it’s this recipe, Russell contends, that makes the candles burn longer and glow more deeply than any other candle on the Nordic market.

“[Our] secret combination of vegetable stearin, refined paraffin and Danish beeswax give many hours of slow-burning, deep-glowing hygge.”

Russell first got the idea to star Skandinavisk several years ago while working as the senior marketing director of McDonald’s Nordic – but it wasn’t until he left his post that he began actively pursuing the idea.

He and his business partner are both married to Scandinavian women and believe that their presence in the region’s two largest cities has helped them understand the culture more holistically.

And being non-Danish, he claims, has given them a unique perspective that may have actually helped them in their pursuits.

“While we will never claim to be Scandinavian, we have both spent 12 years in the region living in both main cities and working in senior regional positions, so I would say we have had a pretty good exposure to Nordic life so far,” he said.

“Ultimately we are attempting to translate what we observe about what makes the Nordic countries work so well. It’s a story we don’t think has been told yet, and we are only at the start of our journey. But we do use a lot of local help to bring it to life.”

While Skandinavisk will ultimately expand to Christmas candles and other products in the coming year, Russell says their focus will always be on reflecting the smaller moments of Scandinavian lifestyle.

“We think it is a story worth telling the world about because we think it can serve as a reminder to people that often the best moments are the smallest ones, surrounded by loved ones, warmth and smiles,” he explained.

In addition to Denmark and Sweden, Skandinavisk candles can now be found online at Skandinavisk.com and at select locations in London, Paris, Berlin, New York and Japan, and will soon be available elsewhere around the world.





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