10 untranslatable words for relaxing around the world

This week, we've collated our favourite 'untranslatable' words from around the world that describe that feeling of ultimate relaxation. 

Whether you're hanging out with friends and enjoying a beer, meditating in the outdoors, or getting cosy with a glass of wine, there's a word for it all. From Spanish to Swedish, each of these terms can't quite be translated directly into a single English word. Instead, they convey a mood, an atmosphere or a situation that requires more explanation. 

So if you're at work or at home, take a quick five minutes to check out these words that you'll want to add to your dictionary. Put your feet up, and cue mahabis


1. MYSA 

‘mysa’— this swedish word means a range of things in the realm of relaxation. It can be roughly translated to English equivalent of ‘cosying up’ or to ‘snuggle’, but in a wider sense it also means to have a ‘nice and relaxed time’.

The idea of ‘mysa-ing’ involves hanging out, being comfortable, content, enjoying the moment and recharging.




‘mysig’- similar to mysa, this Swedish word, pronounced ‘mee-sig’, describes anything with an unexpectedly relaxing vibe. Rather than ‘mysa-ing’, the concept of ‘mysig’ better describes a place or situation rather than a relaxing action.

This Swedish blog says a perfect mysig example is a warm living room on a cold evening, with flickering candles, a roaring fire, and a couch to put your feet on. 



3. FIKA   

‘fika’- this is a word we’ve stumbled across a couple of times at mahabis. And we love it. A simple concept and one that is embedded into Swedish culture- a laid-back chat over coffee. Making time for fika is an imperative. So much so that fika is protected by Swedish law. The working day and even the school day may be interrupted twice for a ‘coffee diversion’.

Forget grabbing a coffee from the counter and drinking it on the go, this concept is all about taking it slow, and pausing for downtime. You can find out more about different cultural rituals surrounding the coffee break here




‘hygge’- this word has become famed for it’s lack of translation, and is described as something we ‘want all the time- but seldom have’. The Danish word roughly means the ‘complete absence of anything annoying irritating or overwhelming’, with the ‘presence of and pleasure from comforting, gentle and soothing things’. The art of hygge — a word that is hard to explain and even harder to pronounce (‘hooga’!)- is so much more than the concept of cosiness.

It means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life. It’s no wonder that Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world. When Danes gather in groups of two or more, hygge refers to that sense of friendly companionship when conversation is flowing and toasts are raised. The high season of hygge is Christmas, when gløgg (mulled wine) is shared and friends are over. 




‘gemütlich’- this German word has a range of meanings. There isn’t a direct translation in the English language, but it can describe an atmosphere that is pleasant, homely and cheerful. It can also be used in the context of describing comfortable furniture. For example, the phrase ‘es sich (Dat.) gemütlich machen’ means to ‘nestle’ in cushions. It is also used to describe comfortable company or familiarity. German blogger Constanze says:

“A soft chair in a coffee shop might be considered ‘cosy’. But sit in that chair surrounded by close friends and a hot cup of tea, while soft music plays in the background, and that sort of scene is what you’d call gemütlich.”

Our favourite colloquial translation is when gemütlich is used to describe something that is unhurried. A synonym of the phrase ‘in aller Ruhe’, gemütlich it is the very opposite of ‘to hurry’ or ‘to haste’.




‘gemütlichkeit’- translating similarly to gemütlich, this traditional German word connotes an atmosphere of belonging, relaxation, chilled music, great food and drink. Close to the English word ‘cosy’, gemütlichkeit refers to the intimacy of being at ease.

It is an important part of German, Bavarian, Austrian and Swiss-German national identities, ingrained in cultural mythology and even used across the Atlantic. In the US, Jefferson City, Wisconsin uses the phrase “The Gemütlichkeit City” as it’s local motto and holds a three-day festival in September in celebration of this facet of German culture. 




‘friluftsliv’ — this Norwegian concept translates directly as “free air life”, and is used to describe the feeling of being outside, exploring and appreciating nature. It isn’t strictly defined as a term, but can include anything from meditating, taking photographs, sleeping outdoors or even dancing.

Practising friluftsliv doesn’t require money, equipment or a particular setting, and can be as simple as taking a walk outside in the open once a day. 




‘utepils’ — put simply, utepils [oot-er-pills] means enjoying a beer outside with friends, at any time of the year. However, the more traditional understanding of the phrase describes the ritual of the “first drink of the year taken outdoors”. After a long, dark, Norwegian winter, when Spring is on the way, the first utepils is enjoyed as the snow melts. Similar to the first ice cream of the year… only for adults.

This Norwegian linguistic blogger says utepils is always encouraged by lines such as ‘Oh, come on, it’s a little sunny!’. Rain or shine, I think utepils is something we could easily adopt. 




‘sobremesa’- whilst this Spanish phrase means literally ‘over the table’, and is used to explain the time spent chatting after a meal, the full definition encompasses something much wider. One site, dedicated to the concept says:

“Sobremesa is the leisurely time after we have finished eating, but before we get up from the table. Time spent in conversation, digesting, relaxing, enjoying. Certainly not rushing. Not reserved for weekends -though it can be longest on Sundays- even weekday and business meals have sobremesa. For Spaniards, how we eat is as important as what we eat”.

This laid-back lifestyle sounds pretty idyllic. A morning swim, followed by a tapas lunch, relaxed sobremesa, an afternoon siesta, then a fiesta into the evening. Perfect. 




‘βόλτα’ or 'volta'- originating from Modern Greek, this expression literally means ‘let’s go a turn’ and is similar to the English saying ‘let’s stretch our legs’. More precisely it can translate as ‘evening promenade’, and the term is translated in Italian as ‘passeiggiata’. Whilst this is expressed differently across Europe, it widely refers to the hours of the evening, around dusk, where people in the town may go for a walk in the main streets.

Known as the ‘Sabbath Stroll’ in some cultures, this tradition has a distinctly Mediterranean feel of meandering around seaside towns as the sun sets on the horizon. 


So, whether you're mysa-ing, enjoying an utepils, or feeling gemütlich, it's time to don your mahabis and enjoy some well deserved downtime.

Share these words with your friends, using this simple ready-to-go tweet, and let us know your favourite. 

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