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‘Gezellig’, your favourite new word

If you want to know the meaning of a Dutch word, you look it up in the dictionary. Or you ask a Dutch person to translate it for you. But what if a word doesn’t have an international equivalent? Such as the Dutch word ‘gezellig’? 

The Dutch use the word ‘gezellig’ to give value to, or describe, a certain atmosphere or sentiment. This value can be shared by a group: everyone is acknowledging (and contributing to) the feeling of ‘gezelligheid’. But what you find ‘gezellig’ is also personal, it’s a matter of individual taste and preference. 

Either way, the Dutch instinctively know what you mean when you use the word ‘gezellig’. It’s usually only after a few months of living here, that a non-Dutchie gets the meaning of ‘gezellig’. And when they do, it often becomes their favourite new word.

Because non-Dutchies look so hard for the meaning of ‘gezellig’, they might be better at explaining it. We asked international people, living in the Netherlands, to explain what the word ‘gezellig’ means according to them. After reading their answers, we think ‘gezellig’ might just become your favourite word, too!

Mariell:
‘Gezellig’ was one of the first words I learnt, but no one could really explain to me what it meant. People had to show me. It took about half a year- we were at a festival with friends, it was a real nice time. In this festival was a tiny scene in the woods, people were doing art and just having a real ‘gezellig’ time. I stepped into another world, and I finally understood the real meaning of the word. I can now proudly say: thank you for the ‘gezelligheid’, and mean it.

Bogdan:
For me the word ‘gezellig’ means sitting next to a fire place, on a gray winter day with a cup of chocomel in your hands.

Gezellig Direct Dutch open haard

Pablo:
‘Gezellig’ to me means to enjoy life!

Paola:
‘Gezellig’ means for me: a place where I feel safe, calm, welcome, warm and comfortable

Erin:
The dutch word ‘gezellig’ to me means happiness, warmth and togetherness. ‘Gezelligheid’ can’t be directly translated to one word, it encompasses many meanings and feelings. Since moving here a year ago this is one of my favourite concepts. In Canada we don’t have a word that quite matches ‘gezellig’ and what it means/feels.

Natasha:
‘Gezellig’ is: good company, enjoying a group setting and having a good time

Camille:
‘Gezellig’ is used when we are in a cosy, comfortable and shared situation. We feel confident but this feeling should be shared with all the people in that situation: so for me ‘gezellig’ is ‘the pleasure to be together’.

Howard:
‘Gezellig’ is one of mijn favoriete Nederlandse woorden. I know that it means cozy or relaxed but it is also said that there is no equivalent English translation! So going out to a lovely restaurant in the Netherlands with family and friends is ‘gezellig’. Ook er is een ‘gezellige’ kamer. Er is zoveel meer te zeggen over ‘gezellig’.

Susan:
‘Gezellig’ to me means going on a walk on a lovely spring morning with a loved one.

Karin:
‘Gezellig’ means being sociable with other people. Interacting in an informal and cozy manner.

Lisa:
‘Gezellig’ to me means the feeling of when you enter into a typical Dutch house, where other friends are waiting for you with warm wine or tea, and there is background music and the smell of cinnamon, because your friend just cooked that special apple cake. Everyone is happy and cozy, sitting on the couch and on the colorful carpet, the temperature is pleasantly warm and there are Christmas lights on the wall even if it’s February.

Kelsey:
‘Gezellig’ is a fluitje (a type of beer glass) of local beer on a cafe terrace on a warm summer’s evening at dusk, watching the leisure boats pass lazily down the canals in Amsterdam. It’s biking down side streets in the quiet snow, heading home after a long day to family and a steaming bowl of snert (pea soup). ‘Gezellig’ is a birthday party with your favorite friends – even when the chairs are all arranged in a circle. It’s walking along the strand (beach) with barking dogs in the distance and waves lapping at the shore, and a plate of kibbeling hidden under your coat to protect it from the blowing sand. It’s a Nutella-covered stroopwafel at the market, bought in triplicate as visiting friends and family take in the sights and spend quality time. It’s a hike through the Veluwe or a stroll through the Rijksmuseum at a quiet time. ‘Gezellig’ is quintessential Dutch.

Yusuf:
‘Gezellig’ can be translated as a fun or a comfy situation. For me it’s a word that sums up the sound I always hear when the Dutch speak which the ‘ICH ah’ sound at end of ‘gezellig’


Luther:

The Dutch term ‘gezellig’ means to be glued together in a way that is harmonious. For example: The Architecture of buildings in the Netherlands are ‘gezellig’, and they are all beautiful and admired by many people around the world.

Maria:
For me ‘gezellig’ means ‘cozy’. This term is not only used for describing a situation or place, but also for describing a person which is humble and social.

Glyselle:
‘Gezellig’, I remember my boyfriend told me it has really no proper English word equivalent. But when I first heard this Dutch word, it was translated to as nice or cozy. I am a young Filipina who has been exposed to the Dutch culture as early as when I was six. And everytime I had a good time like really an amazing time doing all the fun stuffs with my friends and family, we always say ‘gezellig’. It doesn’t really sound nice, cozy or fun when spoken, as it’s like a tongue twister in the mouth but its essence as a word is underrated. ‘Gezellig’ for me is the indescribable -no word can describe- emotion. ‘Gezellig’ is a feeling of euphoria and at the same time a feeling of good times that you will always cherish in your memory together with the people you shared those times with, and  everytime you will remember those memories you will end up saying with a smile, “Ja! Het was gezellig!”

Aneta:
‘Gezellig’ stands for something or someone cozy, nice, friendly, fun, comfortable and enjoyable. ‘Gezellig’ is more a feeling rather than a word.

Emma:
To me, ‘gezellig’ was one of the first words I experienced in the Netherlands. Having arrived in mid September (2019) and started working in November, I was invited to lots of borrels (another new word to me!). I heard ‘gezellig’ mentioned a lot and when I asked what it meant I was told it’s not just a word it’s a feeling! Lots of fun with friends in a happy atmosphere! I’ve never forgotten that! 😊 I thought about an equivalent word in English – which there doesn’t seem to be – but in Scots we have a similar concept. Having a cosy ceilidh wi’ a richt guid lauch! (Basically having a happy gathering with a real fun time and lots of laughs!). ‘Gezellig’ is such a great expression 😁 I love it!

Rashid:
Socializing and integrating such that you no more feel away from home.

Sara:
‘Gezellig’ means something ,or someone, warm and nice that makes you feel good 🙂

Maria:
It’s this feeling of warmth and pure joy that you have when you have your friends over to play cards against humanity, eat pizza and laugh! Guess what’s niet ‘gezellig’ – the lockdown 😕

My:
‘Gezellig’ means cozy, comfortable

Urvashi:
‘Gezellig’ means cosy

Veronica:
This word for me is the whole country called the Netherlands. When you walk through the centre of Amsterdam, you constantly admire the ‘gezellig’ canals. When you enter a cafe on the corner of your house, you sit at a ‘gezellig’ table and drink delicious coffee. When you go to an interesting meeting you meet ‘gezellig’ people. When you have weekend, you go to the ‘gezellig’ store to buy something for your ‘gezellig’ home. Or when you get on the ‘gezellig’ train and go to ‘gezellig’, awesome a new city for you in this country. It is a wonderful word that you always want to use in the Netherlands!

Gift:
The word ‘gezellig’ means several things to me from ‘cozy’ and ‘comfortable’ to ‘enjoying time with friends’ and ‘having a nice lunch in a nice restaurant’. It’s one of those Dutch words that are untranslatable but fits into many different contexts.

Adib:
‘Gezellig’ to me means cozy, but doesn’t necessarily imply a cozy ‘place’ per se, it could also reference a cozy time with friends or people.

Valentina:
‘Gezelig’ has an easy translate but it goes beyond the word itself. I think that is more like a feeling, like you see someone that you didn’t see for a long time.


Vipin:

‘Gezellig’ or cozy in English means being able to do something with ease. Feeling comfortable at a specific place, or feeling good towards certain people. Feeling cozy is one of the best adjectives to describe how I feel living in the Netherlands. When I moved here, I had a lot of hesitations, but then after a while, I felt unexplainably good and I love how it makes me feel. I don’t ever want to not feel that warmth in my heart ever.