Understanding Gezellig

For over 30 years, Dutch sisters Micki and Elsbeth Rowaan have lived in the United States. They frequently return to the Netherlands to visit their family and friends and keep up with the latest Dutch design trends. After their American friends began asking about their modern home decor, they founded Uniek Living, and the rest is history.

While Micki and Elsbeth continue to share the beautiful modern home and lifestyle products that they find in the Netherlands, we also want to share with you the culture and language of the Netherlands.

Over the past few years, people in the United States and around the world have become more familiar with words and concepts from other countries that are difficult to translate. You may have heard of the Danish term hygge. Roughly translating to a state of coziness and comfort that creates a feeling of contentment or well-being, hygge has become increasingly popular in the United States.

We want to introduce you to a Dutch term that we believe will help you create the comfortable, modern home of your dreams.

Defining Gezellig

Similar to hygge, gezellig is a word that is difficult to translate into English. We’ll do our best to explain the sentiment behind gezellig, though we’ve never found a word in the English language that quite covers it.

Since there have been many attempts to describe gezellig, we’ve assembled some of the best explanations we’ve heard from friends and family in the hopes that it conveys an accurate picture of gezellig. What’s most important to understand, though, is that gezellig is more of a feeling you have than a strict adjective.

The first way gezellig is described to English speakers is “cozy” or “comfortable.” But it goes far beyond that. You would never describe a night out with friends as cozy or comfortable. Gezellig can be described as sociable and companionable.

Other people describe gezellig as the Dutch tradition of friendliness and comfort. The feeling can take place in any season, meaning the general sense of coziness doesn’t only apply during the cold winter months.

Gezellig is about building human connections and nurturing them. It is about connecting with people who are different than you are and ensuring everyone is included and enjoying themselves. Often it is described as contentment no matter the circumstance.

Gezellig can also refer to the notion of belonging. It can be enjoying time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend or partner after spending time apart, or even reuniting with a family pet after you’ve left home. Gezellig represents a general sense of togetherness and creates a warm feeling.

Creating an Atmosphere of Gezellig

Although the general idea of Gezellig refers to a feeling and a connection with others, it can also refer to a place. A coffee shop or pub can be gezellig. So can a library, your bedroom, or a family home.

If you want your modern home to emanate the feelings of warmth, comfort, joy, and love that are associated with gezellig, then you need to determine what it is that gives you those feelings of comfort, joy, and belonging. If you find your joy in books and cozy throws, create spaces in your modern home where you can display your beloved books and curl up with a cup of tea. If you find comfort and belonging in the kitchen, use modern kitchenware to create a space that always feels organized and happy.

Before you start decorating your home, ask yourself, “Where do I find myself the happiest? Where are those few places that bring me such joy and peace, it’s hard to put into words?” Once you answer those questions, you’ll know how to create the feeling of gezellig in your home.

Visit our Uniek Living blog to learn more about Dutch culture and how to decorate with Dutch design.


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