What on earth is gezelligheid?

Hygge, gemutlichkeit, gezelligheid – there is something about Northern European cultures that has created a unique set of words that goes some way to explaining cosiness.  Maybe it’s the weather, the culture or a focus on family but one way or another gezellig (pronounced something between HE-SELL-IK and CH-SELL-UCH with the ch sounds as in “loch”) is a word that the Dutch obsess over and is central to understanding their culture and approach to life.

But cosy doesn’t go far enough.  A room can be gezellig, a person, a party, time with family, a visit from a friend you haven’t seen in years. It’s about a sense of warmth and well-being. It’s easy company, it’s being comfortable. It’s a cup of hot chocolate in a fire-lit cafe with loved ones on a snowy day. It’s spending Kings Day dressed in orange on a boat with your closest friends and laughing until your sides hurt.

Gezellig is more than cosy, it really has no direct translation but perhaps by visiting Amsterdam you will leave feeling that the city itself embodies the spirit of gezelligheid.

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