Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gezellig? Ge-what-the?

What am I doing here?

"Gezellig" is a Dutch word that's said to be virtually untranslatable. It signifies a certain brand of cozy--a quality that depends not just on the physical environment (though that's important; think candlelight, simple good food, modest furniture with a patina of history) but also on the comfort of warm, accepting company.

I first encountered the word "gezellig" in this Slate travel piece, and Seth Stevenson's description of the way the Dutch "carve out cozy, delightful moments anywhere they can find them" is still the best explanation of the concept I've seen.

But if you want more, here's the Wikipedia entry about gezelligheid ("gezellig-ness") and there's also this explanation from an Amsterdam travel guide. It's related to the Danish concept of hygge, or mysig in Swedish, as well as gemutlichkeit in German. Coziness seems to be important in a lot of northern European countries with long, cold, dark winters.

But it's not just a winter thing. Four years ago last August, my husband and I spent a week wandering the canal district of Amsterdam, and that was enough to make me crave gezelligheid like nobody's business. And that's what I'm doing here--trying to figure out what's gezellig and how to get me more of it.

So, for example, my mother's gingerbread cake in a newly-thrifted Delftware bowl is gezellig.

On the other hand, our house's entryway, which is basically a tight squeeze between a cabinet and a shoe rack, plus a corner of the kitchen counter piled with crap? Not so gezellig.

But I'll be working on it.

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