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Word of the Day: geluk (luck, happiness)

This is not one of your lucky days. You’re late, you hop on your bike and race to work. You realize you forgot your rain gear. Cloudburst, of course. Freezing gusts of wind and rain soaking you through and through. You arrive at the office and the first question they throw at you is: ‘Have you passed your exam fully clothed swimming or did you take a shower?’ You pour yourself a cup of freshly made coffee, take your familiar place behind the prehistoric computer, start on the Facebook word of today and, strangely enough, a warm sense of happiness overpowers you.


The ‘you’ in my story is me of course. You must have guessed. But it’s true, today I feel a strange kind of joy that cannot be attributed to any known cause. It seems misplaced. So far the year’s weather was lousy. We’re still stuck in this persistent crisis. The Netherlands have never counted so many unemployed people. Radical minds execute gruesome deeds. I’m soaked to the skin and yet I am GELUKKIG, happy. Happiness and luck can be expressed in Dutch by the same word: GELUK. The words that come to mind are the lines of a Dutch song, sung by Rudi Carrell in the European song contest of 1960.

‘Wat een geluk dat ik ‘n stukje van de wereld ben
Dat ik de wijsjes van de sijsjes en de merels ken
En dat ik mee mag doen met al wat leeft
En mee mag ademen met al wat adem heeft.
Ik ben zo blij dat er in mei altijd narcissen zijn
En dat er vruchten, vlinders, veulens, vogels, vissen zijn,
En al die blijdschap komt enkel door jou
Omdat ik vreselijk ongeneeslijk van je hou.’

(How lucky that I’m a little part of the world. / That I know the songs of siskins and blackbirds / That I can join in with all that is alive / And can breathe with all that has a breath. / I’m so happy that in May there are always daffodils / and that there is fruit, butterflies, foals, birds and fishes / And al this happiness is only thanks to you / Because I’m terribly, incurably in love with you.)

In het Eurovision festival had Carrell niet veel GELUK (Carrell was not so lucky), because the song only received two points, deux points, twee punten and came one but last. And yet, Rudi Carrell (aka Rudolf Wijbrand Kesselaar, born in Alkmaar,1934) can teach us a lesson. Don’t give up, setbacks and bad luck may lead to unforeseen opportunities. Later on in life Carrell made it as an entertainer in Germany where he had a very successful television career. For over thirty years he was very popular there and in great fortune. He died in his mansion near Bremen in 2006.

Nobody could have predicted Carrell’s career abroad. Though he lived and worked in Germany, he never fully mastered the language and his pronunciation always sounded foreign. The Germans loved him for that. This should come as a comfort to expats who are forever struggling with the Dutch accent. Even though the Dutch will always recognize your foreign accent, however hard you try to correct it, your pronunciation will never be an impediment for success in social life. When a Dutchman seems to laugh at your accent, just smile and remember Rudi Carrell’s luck, GELUK.

Why I love Carrell’s corny song so much is because of the line: ‘wat een geluk …dat ik mee mag doen met al wat leeft’. How lucky I am that I am allowed to be a part of everything that is alive. This luck makes me happy. Dit GELUK maakt me GELUKKIG.

O yes, by the way, is GELUK a ‘de’ word or a ‘het’ word? See, yesterday’s posting on GEZIN for the answer!