Is fællesspisning the new hygge?
Is fællesspisning the new hygge?
Don’t panic, hygge isn't going anywhere. But I’d like to pitch “fællesspisning” as the next Danish word to garner international attention. Directly translated, it means "communal eating", but of course it is so much more than that.
The Danish language contains many words for concepts that involve togetherness, sharing, and community. It contains more words around these topics than the English language does—which is a remarkable feat considering the English dictionary has 470,000 words compared to the Danish dictionary’s 200,000. I certainly see this togetherness reflected in the people; Denmark is a country that values teamwork and community to its very core.
"Take the food scene, for example. Copenhagen has an incredible food scene, considering how small the city itself is, and one of the things that really makes it special is how people share and collaborate with each other. Restaurants here don’t compete to be the best and destroy the rest; instead, they often collaborate on projects together and help each other out with things."
And then there is fællesspisning. Fællesspisning has had a bit of a comeback in the past five years or so. It is is not a new or particularly original concept. Probably the most common example of it in Denmark are the community centres (also a much better word in Danish: “forsamlingshus”) in smaller towns and villages, where locals gather to eat, drink and play bingo. Today, though, there aren’t many of them left in the big cities, leaving a gaping hole to be filled and a growing demand for places like this.
In a reformed church in Vesterbro, you’ll find one of Copenhagen’s most well-known fællesspisning spots, Absalon.
"The easiest way to describe fællesspisning is to compare it to a family meal."
Remember being a kid and coming home for dinner in the evening? Everyone would eat at the same time, you’d eat the same thing, and you’d probably have to help by bringing it to the table or doing the dishes afterwards. Imagine that, just on a greater scale, with your friends and/or people you’ve never met before.
Lennart and Sus Lajboschitz, the founders of Absalon—one of Copenhagen’s most well-known fællesspisning spots—put this demand down to the fact that we live in more isolated circumstances than ever before. The internet and constant connection has meant we’ve lost the places in our neighbourhood where we connect with our community and our neighbours, especially in big cities. People are living alone, not talking to each in the supermarket queue, and not looking each other in the eye while walking down the street. Fællesspisning seems the perfect antidote to that.
There are often family-style, long table, fællesspisning events hosted by different chefs and venues around Copenhagen.
For fællesspisning to work, it relies on the participation and openness of everyone attending, because a large part of it is the conversations and dynamics that are created around the table. At most of the dinners I've attended, we’ve collected our own plates, food, and cutlery, shared everything around the table “family style” and cleaned up afterwards. Some even involve cooking too. Sharing these tasks provides an easy way to strike up conversations with others.
"All are welcome—students, the elderly, toddlers playing board games, the builders working around the corner, the group of dressed-up women who've brought along their own bottle of champagne. Non-Danish speakers, too!"
It’s cheap too, usually costing something between 20 and 100 kr. for a meal, depending on where you go. This is possible because there is no need for waiters, the food is made en masse, served at the same time, and shared by the participants. But, interestingly, the price isn’t the reason why most people attend. It’s the chance to engage with others that seems to be the main attraction.