The term ‘lagom’ is from Sweden. Like ‘hygge’, it doesn’t have a direct translation, but it’s about balance and moderation. It means ‘just the right amount’ and is thought to derive from the Viking concept of sharing a horn of mead around a campfire, where they would consume a little before passing it on so that nobody lost out. Apply it to modern life, and the discourse is around sustainable living, more restrained finances, healthier eating, and buying less – but buying well.
Lagom, pronounced lar-gom, doesn’t have quite the same heart-warming connotations as hygge. Quite the opposite. As an article in The Daily Telegraph put it ‘contentment, fairness, balance and appropriateness aren’t exactly words that quicken the British pulse’. This is a philosophy that’s more about the practical, the sensible, the wise. Of course, a wealth of brands have leapt onto the Nordic bandwagon once again, heralding it as another way that we can learn from our can’t-put-a-foot-wrong neighbours across the sea. Ikea has gone back to its roots and have launched its own ‘Live Lagom’ project that teaches people how to make life more sustainable. A new line of skincare that uses ‘Nobel-Prize-winning’ science has been born, named, naturally, Lagom. And almost every bit of media has written an article on the ‘lagom’ way of being.
Let’s put lagom into context. Suggestions of how to ‘lagomify’ your life include, properly recycling. Paper, glass, plastic, food – the lot. Swapping to energy efficient light bulbs. Reducing good waste. Essentially, being mindful (but let’s not get onto mindfulness) of your carbon footprint. In terms of diet, it means not overeating, exercising restraint and listening to what your body needs, and an extension of that is moderating your lifestyle so you regain a work-life balance. And when it comes to finances, lagom thinking is to do with spending less and appreciating more. While frugality is a part of it, and lavishness is not, lagom isn’t about surviving on bread and water and living in rags. Rather, it’s a case of buying things that are made properly, from good materials, and that will last. It’s very much anti our throwaway society. It’s about valuing what we have. So a lagom outfit would be understyled (less is more), a lagom home the same, likely to be filled with home-grown herbs and verdant, oxygen-giving plant life, and where everything is perfectly organised (reminiscent of Marie Kondo’s declutter concept perhaps?).
Lagom makes several fair (and good) points. We believe in many of the points it raises. But, it also feels a little like it’s a compilation of numerous concepts/philosophies/movements/campaigns – call them what you will. These are conversations that have been discussed, on and off, for years in British society, and overseas. But perhaps because of the Nordic influence, and because we’ve become a little obsessed with all things Scandinavian, we feel like we need to sit up straight, listen, and change our ways – pronto. Instead, should we not simply listen, absorb and apply what feels right to our own lives? At Neptune, we’re big believers in learning from others, but we also believe in having a strong sense of self and not feeling compelled to follow the latest fad. Maybe one of the key things for us to take away from lagom is this ‘there’s an obsession with trying to be happy that Swedes don’t have. Lagom says, you know what – maybe life could be a little better, but it’s good enough.’
Let’s stop trying all the time to be what others are.
Let’s just be.