The most important things are the hardest to say because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless
Perplexing to pronounce, even harder to find. This is my journey with seeking and breaking gezelligheid in Amsterdam.
The Dutch language has a word that does not have an English equivalent. Its untranslatability parallels well to the phrase, “words just can’t describe this feeling.” Coined as the term that encompasses Dutch culture, I was curious to see how gezelligheid truly surrounded me in the Netherlands. Depending on the context, it can be translated as:
Gezelligheid | ge‧zel‧lig‧heid | f
a general and abstract sensation of individual well-being that one typically shares with others. All descriptions involve a positive atmosphere, flow or vibe that colours the individual personal experience in a favorable way and in one way or another corresponds to social contexts.
synonyms: cozy, fun, quaint, friendly, togetherness (but goes beyond this)
The term Gezelligheid can be used when referring to places or a party of people that is effortless to relax and settle into. To illustrate a few examples:
An evening downtown hitting some bars with friends is gezellig
Watching episodes of The Office with your loved one, wrapped up under the covers at home is gezellig
Your grandmother's kitchen where she would make all her signature home cooked meals is gezellig
It's slipping into moments of general togetherness that gives people a warm fuzzy feeling.
Finding myself in a gezellig moment for the first time was when my roommate and I was in search for the perfect study cafe. Tourists in our new neighbourhood, we were adamant on discovering the coziest corner around. Amongst the unfamiliarity we stumbled across an inviting cafe front. The exterior design screamed spring with its creamy pastel colour palette. Every table top was accompanied by fresh flowers and the windowsill had a fine arrangement of potted plants.
Once we stepped in, we were immediately greeted with a smile and seated. The layout of the cafe included both long community tables and intimate corners for two. These spaces facilitated conversations with strangers and best friends. T even en drinken cafe was warm, filled with friendly people, and created a sense of belongingness. Because of how gezellig it was, I keep returning back to enjoy the atmosphere, open faced sandwiches, and speciality coffees.
Discovering gezelligheid in situations like these ones introduced me to how it felt like. But, I also became hyper-aware of situations where I broke the Gezelligheid. A lot of them being in social spaces and gatherings. I remember that there was a time where I was invited to a party with people I barley knew. I was aquatinted with most of them but everyone seemed to have a stronger connection and foundation of friendship established. Where as I, just stumbled into the group by association of one of its core members. As I was swaying aimlessly in a house party full of people, I’ve never felt so alone. These spaces and nights were Gezellig to others but not to me. My presence disturbed the equilibrium of the present pop-culture notion of, ‘squad’. I did not feel warm. Instead, I felt as distant as my native country. 4780 miles away from any sense of home.
But at the end of the day, no word can really sum it all up. Gezellig(heid) is something that can only be felt. Words just don’t do it justice. For the rest of my time being here in Amsterdam, I hope to find myself experiencing moments of Gezelligheid everywhere I go.
'Till next time,
--- Andrea again