Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Gezellig ("Cozy")

Americans like big, shiny and new things.
The Dutch like gezellig things.
How can we possibly get along?


Gezellig is a Dutch word that’s difficult to translate because it is rooted to the Dutch personality and culture. Cultural items are exceedingly difficult to translate from one language to another. For example, how do I describe the American culture’s fascination with the Kardashians? I have no idea. And I am an American.

Similarly only Dutch people can really understand the meaning of gezellig and since I’m not Dutch I won’t even pretend to be even slightly knowledgeable on the concept. Nevertheless because my American self likes big, shiny new things, I will try to translate this culturally big, shiny as in “new”-to-the-USA concept.  

Technically gezellig means “nice”, “cozy” and the “pleasure found at being together”. It usually involves friends or family meeting at a cafe or someone’s home to share conversation, cookies and/or chocolate. It always involves coffee or tea and if you’re lucky sometimes both, which makes for double gezelligheid!

Having imbibed liters of coffee and tea while talking and laughing with my Dutch friends and cousins in countless cozy cafes and homes with chocolates and cake, I have felt gezellig. I’d describe it as “a pleasant feeling of experiencing a fun time together”. Although I’d never be so bold as to trust my own feelings about whether something is gezellig or not, I have noted how frequently my Dutch pals and cousins will stop amid the laughter to say.
“Gezellig!”

Their verbalization provides a stamp of approval allowing me to know that “this” was cozy fun and that what I was feeling was truly gezellig. However if they hadn’t told me it was gezellig, I wouldn’t have known. After all, how could anyone trust an American who can’t explain the Kardashians?