Gezelligheid: More of a Feeling Than a Word

I was sitting under the sun, on a chilly but bright day, sipping my fresh mint tea and snacking on a toast with cheese that is decorated with a tiny little Dutch Flag while watching people passing-by either with their dog or a stroller, or sometimes both. On a day like this there is one word that seems to be lingering on everyone’s sentences that I couldn’t help but notice: Gezellig.

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Delft Centrum

 Me being used to asking my husband about explanation when it comes to anything that is related to the Netherlands, I turned to him and asked: ‘What does ‘gezellig’ mean?’

Somehow there was something about this word that got him puzzled. His reply was: ‘You can’t explain it, there isn’t an exact word for it in English.’

But, how? English is a quite extensive language afterall. Surely there has to be some meaning to it, right? Well, the answer is yes and no. From what I understand from my brief search on the internet; it is more of a feeling rather than a word. To get an idea; it is a cozy, comfortable, warm and familiar feeling.

Waking up to a snowy Christmas morning and opening your presents as a child in your warm living room is, for example, gezellig.

Going out to a nice restaurant with your friends and getting tipsy by the candlelight over a delicious dinner and enjoying yourself is, very gezellig.

Coming home after a long day at work and reading a book under a blanket while your cats are laying by your side is also gezellig.

Walking your dog in a park on a day that is just the right temperature, before the city is awake and ending it with a coffee and a croissant from your favourite cafe is, indeed, gezellig.

It is of course different for everyone; but in general everything that makes you feel content, joyous, cozy and maybe even appreciative of what you have can be described with one tiny word and Dutch are embracing it to the fullest!

 If you asked me several years ago how I feel about this whole concept, I would be less than keen about it all, but now, I kind of like it. As if it allows you to be more aware of your surroundings somehow and more connected to that moment instead of being hurled up in the past and overthinking the future. So, when you think about it, isn’t that what ‘mindfullness’ is? Did the Dutch knew about it all along and kept it all to themselves? Hard to say…

I shook my head slightly to get back to the reality of my surroundings. I was sitting on a dinner table, surrounded by few loved ones and having gourmetten that night, by far one on my favourite Dutch traditions. As my father-in-law poured me another drink, my mother-in-law turned to me and asked:

Gezellig hè?’


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