No. 2: Gezellig Gezelligheid

Dutch gezellig

“No translation possible. Please try again.”

How could we possibly expect to make a list of stuff Dutch people like and not include this perplexing little guttural-sounding word at the top of the list!

You will quickly learn that Dutch people like love this word. They are fiercely proud of this word and all it represents. I would go as far to say that gezelligheid is the modern day religion of the Dutch. They love it, they need it and they respect it.

In fact, Dutch folk are going to ask you over and over again if you know what gezellig means. Once you do know it’s meaning, they are then going to ask you over and over again if you know how to pronounce it. Learn to love it too, because you won’t escape it (or its pronunciation), and you will soon seen that gezelligheid truly is all around you.

For those of you not yet knowing what gezellig means, let’s get one thing straight: this word has NO accurate English translations. Yes, it’s a sad fact my friends, but it’s true. People will try and try again to tell you that it means cozy… or quaint… or familiar…or friendly… or a nice atmosphere… or a fun time, but you get where this is going; no one word can really sum it up. Gezellig and gezelligheid are less about a word and more about a feeling. Yes, this is starting to sound all chakras-and-healing-crystals to you, but truthfully, gezellig(heid) can only really be felt.

You can say that again!

Things do get even trickier to comprehend, because Dutch people tend to evaluate everything on its particular level of gezelligheid. A place can be gezellig, a room can be gezellig, a person can be gezellig, an evening can be gezellig. Christ, even childbirth can be rated by its gezellig-ness (my doctor once told me she preferred home births, simply because they were, “well… just more gezellig”)!

But as we all know, there are two sides to every coin. True to its form, meet ongezellig, gezellig‘s nasty twin brother. Again, ongezellig is a precise astute word like no other. “Let’s get out of this place, its just so ongezellig” can sum it up like nobody else can.

I’ll never forget taking an impromptu boat ride with a friend of mine and her family. After an hour spin and a stop by a canal-side restaurants for a nibble, we  docked the boat as her 3 year old Dutch son turned to me, clasped his hands together and sighed while saying “ge-zel-lig”! Truth be told, it was the only word that accurately summed up our day. And even a 3 year-old knew it.

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184 Responses to No. 2: Gezellig Gezelligheid

  1. Mu says:

    How does it differ from ‘comfortable’? I tried putting that word in place every time you wrote ‘gezzelig’ and the article still seemed to make sense.

    • Linda says:

      Comfortable still doesn’t quite cut it. It has a calm, homey quality.
      However, a lively party or an animated chat can also be gezellig – not really situations that would be described as “comfortable”.
      In my opinion, gezellig mostly depends on people. Being all alone would never be described as gezellig, even if you’re comfortable. You need (the right) company for a place or a situation to be gezellig.

      • Mark says:

        I agree it mostly depends on people, but it is possible to be alone and be “gezellig” e.g. if one’s house qualifies as such. I’m Dutch, my American wife tried to understand the “gezelligheid” concept. This is about nine years ago and we were in the NL watching the news about a village where the surroundings were completely flooded and, if not for an impromptu dike of sandbags, the village itself would have been flooded. They were interviewing a local woman who described living there at that moment as rather “gezellig”. At the point my wife knew she would never quite understand the concept. It is most definitely not the equivalent of “comfortable”.

      • chiara says:

        you are right! it can be ‘gezellig’ on a trainstation when the train is late due to bad weather with everybody swearing at the railway system, sipping hot coffe and wishing they were home! But that is definetly not comfortable!

      • Ron Superior says:

        For it to be ‘Gezellig’, you have to be in a ‘gezelscap’, I would imagine.

      • Ron Superior says:

        *gezelschap

      • Josh Whyland says:

        i think the german word “geselligkeit” comes closest – even though the dutch do not like to be compared their siblings, which i can understand. geselligkeit here in germany means a common spirit (gesellschaft), where people feel comfortable with another, even aganist the odds. gezelligkeit, though, goes further. that is why i am so in love with the netherlands and their folks :D

    • One book described it for me like a scene where people start getting more relaxed, more open, conversations can deepen, and you reach that point where there is an open atposphere and mutual understanding that’s beyond words. You get connected at a deeper level, from heart to heart.
      Making things “meer gezellig” means the new arrangement/decoration would easen that process of making people feel more comfortable and relaxed around.

    • Derek Kist says:

      You can also be comfortable alone on a couch that’s not gezellig

    • Jimmy says:

      Gezelligheid is an expression of connectedness. Ongezelligheid is an expression of disconnectedness. The more connected, the more gezellig. The connection is with anything: a party with your best mates might be gezellig, but if the music is connecting to you as well it’s even more gezellig. If the colors, the sun, the moon, anything is connecting to you at that moment it’s more gezellig. All elements add up to how gezellig an experience was.

      If you are asked to come along to a party and you reply that you can’t because of whatever, then the other person might reply “oh, come on, don’t be so ongezellig”. I.e. don’t be so disconnected.

    • Heather says:

      when its gezellig, you’re havin a good time

  2. Gezellig hier says:

    Well, comfortable is the same as the Dutch word ‘comfortabel’, which has little to do with gezellig or gezelligheid. Read the article, it can’t be translated!

    • Chris Winter says:

      Gemütlich, Mysigt, Hyggeligt and Koseligt are just the spot-on Germanic and Scandinavian translations. And yes, Swedes rate quite a few things by how “Mysigt det var” while the Norwegians and Danes talk about things being “veldigt hyggeligt”.

      Apart from that, I would say “Cozy” is a spot-on translation to English. No more no less. Cozy implies all of the things that gezellig invokes. Then possibly “Gregarious” or the Swedish “Sällskapligt” would work as well.

      The notion that “gezelligheid” isn’t translatable is an urban myth that is kept alive by the Dutch simply because they don’t know diddley about other cultures. I’m not saying we’re alone in that, but we are quite human in this regard.

      Reminds me of my Swedish ex who wanted to make something “Typically Swedish” for Christmas, so she did a Risgrynsgröt. My mother busted out laughing and pointed out she’d been making the same Rijstebrij for the past 60 years with cinnamon and butter. This goes to show that what you may think is unique to your culture might be borrowed or simply ubiquitous.

      • Audrey says:

        Cozy refers to comfortable and a nice atmosphere instead of a certain moment.

      • Sonja says:

        A room can also be gezellig by the way it is furnished, A party can be gezellig. A dinner can be gezellig. You can have a gezellig chat with a friend, etc, No cozy does not cut it, but it is the closest we have in the English Language. I was born and raised in the Netherlands but have now live in the US for 40 years and am a teacher. There is no word exactly like gezellig. Lekker is another that does not have a translation! It can mean delicious, but you can also have a lekkere walk.

      • R. Salemink says:

        Totally true, its just arogant to say it is not translatable. Words that you can,t translate are taken over in otter languages. Apartheid is a example of that.

      • astridklomp says:

        I am a Dutch person living in Sweden and I agree there are equivalent words in these Scandinavian languages but they are not used int the same wide meaning as we Dutch use gezellig. And they are definitely not used as often and applied to every situation as the Dutch do. So even though linguistically you might be right, in practice I believe you are wrong.

      • Steve says:

        Not quite. There is many a person whom I would readily call “een gezellige mens” in Dutch but would never call “a cozy person” in English. Calling that person “gregarious” would say that the person takes up with many people, rather than expressing that I enjoy that person’s company in the way “gezellig” does. True that “cozy” is the right order of magnitude – “een gezellige mens” is by no means a person you can’t live without but is much preferable to a mere acquaintance – but we don’t use the word “cozy” for people in English.

      • Steve says:

        The site won’t let me reply to Sonja, but I must point out that “lekker” is only so broad in the Netherlands. Having lived in Belgium as well, I can tell you that Flemings are scandalized when a Dutchman calls a non-food item “lekker”. It is my belief that this particularly Dutch use of “lekker” is parallel to the particularly American use of “sweet” for all things positive.

      • wohdin says:

        From what I’ve gathered, the word can be summed up by “a sense of coziness and belonging in one’s present environment and company”. It’s not EXACTLY corresponding to the word “cozy”, but it’s most definitely related. It seems to be a sort of “vibe of coolness evoked by a cozy and welcoming environment”.

        It’s perfectly possible to “define” any word in any language on a meaningful level, meaning it is also perfectly possible to translate a word based on context. There are many valid candidates in English to “substitute”, both single words and phrases, that could convey the same general meaning.

      • Bianca says:

        I’m no expert in Scandinavian languages, so I’ll have to trust you on that one, but “gezellig” is not translatable in one word in English, no matter how you put it. “Cosy” comes close, but it still has a slightly different meaning. For example; I’m home alone right now, enjoying the beautiful weather. I live in a forest, and I feel extremely cosy. But it’s not gezellig, although I do have a gezellig home. The place might be gezellig, but it does not mean the experience itself is gezellig. Most of the time gezellig depends on the company you have, except when it refers to a place. And like someone else said, I wouldn’t call a person cosy either, while calling a person gezellig is perfectly acceptable.

      • Bianca says:

        Same goes for a party by the way; it can be extremely gezellig with lots of crazy stuff, wild dancing and loud music. But no native English speaker would call such a party cosy, because cosy implies a soft and calm intimate feeling.

      • Chris Winter: I completely agree with you about the (un)translatability of “gezelligheid”. It can be translated, in some languages by paraphrasing it, in others with a term that does describe it pretty closely. “Gemütlich” for “gezellig” or even “Geselligkeit” (as noun) does translate it perfectly in my opinion. Thanks for pointing this out!

      • Joost de Jong says:

        Knus and Gezellig are being confused here. Cozy is Knus. Knus can be very gezellig, but not all that is Gezellig is knus. if that makes sense. I think the word gezellig morphs as well, depending on the situation, making it so hard to translate. So as much as Chris Winter is right, he is also wrong. It all depends on the situation. There is just not one word, at least in the English vocabulary to describe the word gezellig. I have lived in the United States for 20 years and still can not explain in less than 1hr the word gezellig. :)

      • riez says:

        Cozy is not a spot on translation, I have to sincerely disagree with you on that. “Gezellig” is the combination of a connected atmosphere in the company of others (company = gezelschap).

        Gemuetlich in German does not specifically point out the enjoyment of other people’s company either, but comes a lot closer. The Danish translation is most similar and regarded as spot on and therefore probably the Norwegian too.

  3. loup says:

    I wouldn’t call a ‘vette dikke feest’ comfortable, no matter how gezellig it was.

    • rule14 says:

      * “vet dik feest”
      literal translation:
      fat fat party

      • kittyclaw says:

        technically it’s not fat fat party, it’s fat obese party ;) :P

      • Steve says:

        I think “big, fat party” would be a more common English idiom. Consider the film title “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” or the common epithet “big, fat liar!”

  4. Benny says:

    A recent example: Last week I hosted Dutch friends (father + daughter) at my house who were on holiday. Because she was 14 yrs., I assumed that she would want separate sleeping quarters from her father, so I made her a bed in a separate guest room. When I showed her to her room, she asked me if she could sleep in the same room with her father. When I asked her why she would want to try and cram this mattress into a small (read: uncomfortable) space, she replied: “Het is meer gezellig!” (It is more gezellig).

  5. Tessa says:

    I’ve looked up the word ‘gezellig’ in the online dictionary and they’ve come up with: cosy, snug, snugly, cosily, pleasant, sociable, chatty. However, as a Dutch person with English speaking friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no English word to describe ‘gezellig’. All the translations are apt to a different situation, but none are appropriate for how we Dutch use the word ‘gezellig’ in every situation :D . Often I find myself looking for the right word to describe the feeling I have when talking or meeting with English speaking friends, when if I were with Dutch speaking friends I would say: It was ‘gezellig’. I think ‘gezellig’ should be used in every language LOL.

  6. Dutchie says:

    het is meer gezellig doesn’t exist, maybe she said: het is gezelliger :D

    • Albert says:

      In dutch the comparisons can have both forms, what can be handy for foreigners, when they are irregular, just by adding more or most to it. One might consider it as ‘messy’, however, one can also see it as ‘… gezellig’…

  7. Rachel says:

    I’m an American who has been living in NL for 13-years. “Gezellig” is not translatable into English.

    It means more than “cosy” or “comfortable”. Like you said it’s a feeling… No -one- word encapsulates the feeling.

    • c.moi says:

      grinnn yes there is one word for it:

      Gezellig

      just spread it around the world and embrace the feeling.. and there will be no more translation problems :)..

      we dutchies will correct all people that use it for situations that are not qualified as gezellig. after a few centuries of correcting people (see the article on dutch directness and you know we won’t hesitate to do so haha) people will know what it means..

      i think the main differnce is how people learn a language.. i do notice that most foreigners insist on finding a translation, instead of simply accepting the word without knowing its exact meaning.. when you have heard it enough, it will become more and more clear when its suitable and when not.. How else would a todler know when something is ‘gezellig’ and not.. You don’t think its parents hold up pictures everynight and whispering to the kid ‘gezellig’ ‘ongezellig’.. the kid simply absorbs the word and in combination with that current situation/mood/company etc. then it learns visiting grandma can be ‘gezellig’ but in other circumstance it might not be, or even ‘ongezellig’..

      • Steve says:

        You know, it’s funny that English hasn’t absorbed “gezellig” the same way it has absorbed so many other foreign words, like shampoo, sorbet, and even schadenfreude. It must be that gutteral “g” that English-speakers find so “ongezellig”.

      • Mgvb says:

        Steve: the same ‘g’ is in Schadenfreude, yet English speakers seem to say the ‘sh’ sound. Anything can be ‘verbasterd’, as the Dutch would say. (couldnt find a good translation for that one either)

  8. Mark says:

    It may not be translatable into English, but, the Dutch are not the only ones who have this concept. I think the German “gemutlich” (with the umlaut missing here) is pretty much the same. The Danes have something that, if I remember correctly, sounds something like “hugele” or “hugelich” and they have similar debates with English speakers about how untranslatable it is.

    • Tob says:

      Well, actually the meaning of “gemütlich” is not as broad as the meaning of “gezellig”, I’d say, but fortunately “gesellig” is a German word as well.

      • loup says:

        ‘selig in yiddish, too, and it’s even a common name for boys

      • Steve says:

        Can’t reply directly to loup, but would love to know whether the Yiddish “selig” is connected to “gezellig”. I always assumed it had more to do with “zalig”, the clerical blessing and Flemish catch-all for all things agreeable.

      • riez says:

        @Loup

        Interesting, since a lot dutch words are derived from Yiddish, Probably from the large Jewish community we used to have in Amsterdam.

        Gezellig is clearly derived from “gezel” or “gezelschap” which means partner or company. If in Yiddisch there too is a similar word for that, I wouldn’t be surprised. But Steve’s comment does make sense, it looks and sounds a lot like “zalig” and yes, our southern neighbours seem to use it for everything that is good, tasty,agreeable or fine.

    • Charles says:

      The Danish version is “hygge” – also unpronounceable and hard to translate. It has roughly the same meaning, but with more connotations of warm home and hearth. Interestingly, hygge is actually a Norwegian word (you can tell by the double-g) but the Danes have really taken it and run with it.

    • Yo says:

      Gemutlich is gemoedelijk in dutch and Hugele or Hugelich is heugelijk. It is not the same.

  9. Joost v S says:

    As far as I know, “convivial” most closely approximates the meaning of gezellig. However, gezellig is a staple of the Dutch language whereas the use of convivial is relatively rare.

    One of my favourite Dutch words is “schemerlamp”, it oozes atmosphere.

    • Sander says:

      A schemerlamp is utterly gezellig

    • carolien says:

      Yup, convivial comes pretty close, I think. I have Darren Criss to thank for knowing that word :P.

    • Steve says:

      “Convivial” is helpful. Perhaps it’s “convivial” and “cozy” put together.

    • Ron Superior says:

      this word has NO accurate English translations.
      no one word can really sum it up.
      Convivial is a direct translation of ‘Gezellig’ – It’s derived from Latin and means exactly the same thing. It’s not used much in English because lots of people have really terrible vocabularies and can’t speak their own language.

  10. Nick says:

    Gezellig = convivial
    Grew up in the UK, been living in the NL for 16 years now, and this is the best i’ve heard so far!

  11. Polinoko says:

    I’m Dutch, but lived in the US for a while. Often tried to explain it to Americans and the closest one of my colleagues ever got was “warm and fuzzy”.

  12. Niels says:

    The word gezellig is derived from the noun ‘gezel’, which means companion. Gezelligheid in it’s core meaning is something shared between people.
    However, the semantics of the word has shifted so that also situations, objects or whatever that do not necessarily inmpy company can be described as gezellig.

    • riez says:

      same as “lekker” which litteraly means tasty, but you can say it for anything that is agreeable. A German female friend (why is there no translation for “vriendin”?) was utterly shocked I called my girlfriend a “lekker ding” (tasty thing)

  13. hanneke says:

    this whole get-together is starting to become really gezellig!

  14. Anna says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed reading it and the comments! I’m Dutch but having been living abroad for years.

  15. Daan says:

    This converstion about how to describe the word can is Kinda gezelig right?

  16. I’m a Dutchy living in Australia for the past 17 years. Aussies do not understand this word. However, Princess Mary of Denmark (the one that married Prince Frederick and is of Australian background) quite often tries to describe this word when talking about the Danish people. So I think it is not utterly Dutch but maybe also Danish! Having said this, the Dutch gezelligheid is unique!! I still miss it to this day. (even though I think there is a lot of gezelligheid here also if that makes sense)

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  18. AudriWolf says:

    Hi SDPL,
    I’m a South African and we have the same word in Afrikaans (an Anglicized version of Dutch) and it means the same thing – nothing in particular – and gets used often. Gesellig (as it is pronounced in Afrikaans) can mean cosy, comfortable, chatty, nice etc etc.
    Can’t wait to visit Amsterdam in Winter this year :)
    A

  19. Albert says:

    “Gezelligheid” is in translation the thug that awaits you in a dark alley with a dripping knife.
    Adding to the confusion, there is also the more familiar word, “gezelli”, without the “g” at the end, meaning: Gezellig gezellig op een gezellige manier, what means so much as cosy being together in a cosy way, or being cosy at yourself, like me at this moment all alone with my ashtray and beer before the computer (and my desk in a state of medium messiness).
    Translated back to latin, “gezel” (from which it is a derivative) means “socius” or “compagnion”. I guess it would result in some horror like “compagnionshipmentness” in translation, or to go from bad to worse, “compagnionshipmentnessness” or (from worse to worst) “compagnionshipmentnessnnessabitily” what would translate back to “gezelligerheid”. Although I am sure you are not going to make friends at scrabble with that last one (or even if it fits) and risk being put outside with the cat (that could be used as a symbol of “gezelligheid”), in a language that is as gezellig (compagnable) as dutch (including the cat and the stove) one can use it fairly riskless in compagnionship(mentness).
    I admit, “compagnionshipmentness” sounds like a medical threat, I guess that after two centuries of (ab)use one might hardly notice the difference.
    @Nick: I have tested “convivial” to destruction and it makes a chance, even in the negative.

  20. I’m Dutch and gezellig is a lot of the feelings mentioned above, but the bottom line is that you feel totally at ease. That’s why a place can also be described as niet (not) gezellig: let’s get out of here, it’s not gezellig here.
    There is an other country that has its own word for gezellig and uses it in the same way. In Thailand they say ‘sanuk’. I once stayed there for 5 months and always knew exactly when to use this qualification cuz its exactly the same as gezellig. And the Thai thought it was very sanuk I understood what sanuk is all about:)

    • wilhelminavictoria says:

      Yesss… “feeling totally at ease” is the only right translation of the word “gezellig”!

      • Frank says:

        I can feel “totally at ease” on a deserted beach, watching the sunset … but that would not necessarily be “gezellig”.
        Therefore, “totally at ease” is not a translation for “gezellig”.
        Only the Dutch use that word with that intangible connotation that annoys us foreigners so much. So, let’s just give the Dutch that word, leaving them behind, bathing in ‘gezelligheid’ … and let’s move on. :-)
        Frank

      • wilhelminavictoria says:

        Thank you for your clear answer (you could be Dutch!)

        Next time you go back to that deserted beach, go and watch the sunset with a “metgezel” (best friends or someone you love)…take a bottle of champagne… a guitar… a warm blanket… sing together…
        Then you might come close to the feeling we are talking about ;-)

      • Frank says:

        Ah yes wilhelminavictoria … my point exactly: you have to be with at least one other person to have it “gezellig”. And since I can be totally at ease on my own (and I’m not alone in that), the concept “totally at ease” is *not* a translation for “gezellig”.
        Come on, shoot again, I dare you :-)

        ps: I *have* been on a deserted beach with a lovely companion … “gezellig” doesn’t even begin to describe the mood we were in … .

      • wilhelminavictoria says:

        I surrender… ;-)

    • Robert van der Linde says:

      Gezellig IS difficult translate precisely because – for Dutch people – the word has special feelings, circumstances and connotations attached to it and ingrained within it. The word describes an atmosphere – i.e. how people feel in certain situations … anything from hanging with good friends to having a nice “bakkie koffee”.

      It’s very much like trying to precisely define a nation’s ‘sense of humour’ … you know and feel the difference in your gut … but it’s almost impossible to describe why one is better, funnier or different.

  21. sanne says:

    Love you blog!
    You have to listen to this song, probably over 30 years old, but still very gezellig :-)

  22. Rose Mentink says:

    hahaha
    Gezellig, I am watching tv right now and I have a cup of tea and I find that gezellig.
    Tomorrow I have a diner with a big group and I cannot wait because I reckon it will be gezellig.
    I am a cyclist and doing a traing together is way more gezellig even when you don’t talk.

  23. Gezellig is usually translated into cosy which means “knus” NOT “gezellig”. Indeed it is hard to translate, the only American phrase that comes close, I think, is “having a good time”.

  24. Gazellisch says:

    I agree that there isn’t one word that captures its range, however some of its usages that haven’t been mentioned above are ‘welcoming’ v ‘unwelcoming’ and ‘heart-warming’ (closely related to the ‘warm and fuzzy’).

    btw, Companionshipmentness isn’t necessary, but is nice :) ‘Companionable’ ;-)

    Convivial/conviviality is a strange Latin import…… there’ll be an English word for it that has long died out, therefore my vote goes to the universal adopting of ‘gezellig’ in every tongue!

  25. enm says:

    funny that the most well known untranslated dutch word is ‘apartheid’….

    • ablabius says:

      Actually, the most well known untranslated dutch word is ‘fuck’. Steak, snack, fiche, and mannequin also have a wider use than apartheid. They may be mispronounced, but they are untranslated Dutch words.

      • wilhelminavictoria says:

        Fuck, steak, snack, fiche and mannequin are untranslated Dutch words?
        “Mannequin” may come from the Dutch word “manneke” but the other words are certainly not Dutch! !

      • wilhelminavictoria says:

        Maybe nice to know that

        “fuck” is an English word that is considered vulgar. In its most literal meaning, it refers to the act of sexual intercourse

        “steak” comes from Old Norse “steik” = “roast”

        “fiche” or “fish” comes from the Old English “fisc” (plural: fiscas)

        “snack” comes via the English language from the Old Duth language word ‘snacken’ (eating eagerly)

      • Sonja says:

        You must be young thinking Fuck is a Dutch word. When I still lived in Holland it was never used. The first time I heard it was in the US. Now everyone in Holland uses it, and many have no clue what is us or where it came from. Fuck is the English equivalent of neuk.

      • “Fuck” comes from the dutch verb fokken. It wasn’t a swear word when it first crossed the English channel many centuries ago. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a word meaning “to breed” would evolve into a slang word for copulation or fornication.

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  27. ecdj says:

    What about the word ”lekker”? Your food can be lekker (taste good), it can be lekker warm (nice and warm), you can say lekker ding (cute (tasty) guy), or lekker dan! (Oh great, sarcastic). This too is a word you can not translate, not in a way that it can be used in all these separate situations.

    Love the site bij the way, studying in the uk now and reading all thing makes me miss home a bit. Hope you add some more soon, there is so much more to write about.

  28. Willem says:

    After trying to explain to my UK girlfriend the meaning of gezellig as ‘anything that makes you feel good’, she has now put it in her head that sex can be gezellig! I would say as a dutchman that the use of the word gezellig is a very good way to kill erotic thoughts.

    • wilhelminavictoria says:

      Well… in my view your English girlfriend has a point there! Sex has to be “gezellig” some way or another ;-)

      • Just another Dutch living abroad says:

        I agree!!! in my opinion, if you want to repeat sex with someone (normally that would be the case with your partner) then it must have been “gezellig”, if you don’t, i would say it was sort of ‘ongezellig’….

  29. Coen says:

    Gezelligheid kent geen tijd

  30. Vrijgezellig says:

    “gezellig” is just tacky to use. same as “leuk”. one should definitely use a word that describes the atmosphere/situation more precisely. However, sometimes “gezellig” is the shortest most precise description.

  31. Fee says:

    Gezellig:
    Cosy & Fun combined, It’s a state of Mind! :)

  32. Matt Greenberg says:

    Gezellig doesn’t translate into a single word in English. The best example is a conversation that has gotten so interesting that the time flies by. Everyone is enjoying him/herself. Then the evening is “gezellig.”

  33. Wevert says:

    Gezellig(e) = Adjective …
    Gezelligheid = Noun …
    … for “Having a good time”

  34. springplankBart says:

    “Gezellig” means everything stated above, and much more. But ultimately, it’s a way of saying much with little words.
    Imagine two older ladies, shopping their asses off for half a day, resting at La Place. Coffee has been purchased and brought to a table. Bags are put out of the way, coats hung over chairs.
    The moment they sit down, they both will sigh and say: “Heh heh, gezellig. Effe zitten.”
    Of course they don’t mean to say that having a coffee at La Place is ‘een gezellige bezigheid’, a gezellig activity, but the whole idea of shopping with a friend, burning money your husband worked for, drinking coffee while gossiping about people around you – that’s gezellig. Doing what you like doing.
    And if somebody (or some event) messes up your plans towards ‘gezelligheid’, then that’s ‘ongezellig’. A reason to ‘be very direct’ or a reason to leave, go do something else.

    I like this site. There are tons of ideas waiting to be exploited!

  35. Nienke says:

    Gezelligheid to me is a warm feeling about something simple and often social. I think the word has a strong conventional connotation, but almost never in a bad way (which makes it all the more unique). Having a simple cup of tea on the couch with the cat on your lap can be gezellig (=simple pleasure of enjoying little things / the snugly ambiance), but having something more fancy like dinner in an expensive restaurant can only be gezellig when you allude to the company of others which you enjoyed during that dinner (=eating out is not particularly regarded a simple pleasure, however the good company is). Truly gezellige company usually is a bit chitchatty about random things and never too serious. When a topic is hard to chatter about, it’s often not particularly gezellig. Also, the word cannot be applied to situations or stuff which can be considered exiting or cool. Therefore, Ferraris or sex hardly ever get gezellig, and when they do, it’s quite off-putting.

  36. Grethe says:

    I’m South African and in Afrikaans (the Dutch language’s little sister- often called Kitchen Dutch or Zuid-Afrikaans) it translates to… wait for it… GESELLIG! :P

    We pronounce it pretty much the same and there’s pretty much no English translation for it, as it means the same as the Dutch version. We also refer to a “get-together” of some sorts as a geselligheid. :)

    Love your blog!

  37. Lutske says:

    I have to say that I NEVER use the word gezellig. To be honest, I hate the word! It has a certain “it has to be” in it. If someone says to me I already pass. Because we can drink a cup of tea, but we have to find out during that time wheter it is gezellig or not. When someone says gezellig, it must be gezellig! So I always go for the word leuk (nice). Then this stigma of only stop by with a smile, do not talk about anything that isn’t great/perfect/nice (even though you are in a bad mood), is gone. My friends know that I realy hate this word and try not to use it. They also know that when I say that I had a great time I mean it.
    In other words: you can use gezellig for everything even though it was not gezellig. I even heard this word at a funeral, when can a funeral be gezellig?

    • Desirée says:

      Funerals are often gezellig, as it is a get-together of relatives who often haven’t seen each other for a long time. After the funeral, there’s usually coffee and sandwiches during which time people catch up. So yes, it can be gezellig.

      ‘Leuk’ has the same leve of insignificance. Everybody always says ‘leuk’. Leuke jurk, leuk behang, leuke vakantie… It doesn’t say anything about the dress, the wallpaper or the holidays. Why is it ‘leuk’? Because the dress is red? Because the wallpaper suits te person? Because the weather was nice on holiday? It doesn’t really mean anything.

  38. Rick says:

    I mostly only use this word ‘gezellig’when I’m in company of other people that I like. Being alone or with boring people, people you do not like etc. is ‘ongezellig’. For me personally there needs to be at least 1 person around me that I like in order to have it ‘gezellig’.
    Another good example is people going to places that are usually gezellig.. one that I really find gezellig is a christmas market with lot’s of people and nice stuff everywhere, the christmas period is a time of gezelligheid and lots of christmas occasions like christmas dinner and stuff are gezellig. I think giving examples of something that is gezellig can give you the idea what it is, but in order to know what it really is, you need to do stuff with someone Dutch and he/she will tell you afterwards if it was gezellig or not, you will get the hang of this soon or later and there is something Dutch inside you that only Dutch people will understand :)

    Very nice that you brought this fact up, I didn’t realise it’s something very Dutch until now :)

  39. hennie says:

    I am dutch and live in Danmark. Danish has similar words, which you cannot translate directly. Gezelligheid=hygge, gezellig=hyggelig. These words are used exactly like the dutch ones, it`s quite nice for a dutchwoman :D

  40. ablabius says:

    Gezel, in Dutch, means companion. Metgezel is someone who accompanies you. But gezel is also a rank in craftsmanship, equivalent with English journeyman, but with less emphasis on the traveling around and more on working with a master while already a full fledged craftsman.
    Company is more or less essential for gezelligheid, but it is most of all a sense of being in your proper place, a feeling of being where you should be, at that time and with those people (whether a single person or a crowd). The situation can be lively, but it`s a calm feeling, a feeling of connectedness. It`s a meditative state of emotional consciousness.

  41. Brian Lutz says:

    Having grown up with Dutch roots (my grandparents are Dutch immigrants to the US,) I’m certainly familiar with this one. In my parents’ house, there are certain overhead lights you just plain don’t turn on unless you really need them, simply because they’re ongezellig.

  42. Sam says:

    “Gezelligheid” – noun – A familial and friendly atmosphere within a group in a certain setting; “Gezellig” – adj. – Possessing the quality of “gezelligheid”; “Ongezellig” – The opposite of “gezellig”, i.e. unwelcoming, alienating, or even hostile.

  43. Marr says:

    Haha, wat een gezelligheid hier.

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  45. Richard says:

    If you think “gezellig” is hard to translate, then try “rete gezellig”;-)

    • Houte Klomp in the land of the Canucks says:

      l.o.l.
      bere-gezellig is another one

    • Marieke in Aus says:

      After 3,5 tears my Aussie partner is quite happy to say with a big smirk on his face ‘lekker gezellig’ as for him it covers al his happy feelings he experienced in a situation. I think it is hilarious as I have not been able to explain him how to use it otherwise. I know what he means :-)

  46. Frank says:

    This website is heaven for me.
    I’m a Belgian living in the Netherlands since 1983 and I still am confronted with my non-Dutchness on a daily basis.
    Now, this case is simple. You are right: there is no adequate translation for ‘gezellig’ in English. But here’s the thing: there is NO language in the world, NO people in the world that has a word for ‘gezellig’. Even in Flemish -the correct way of speaking Dutch … ;-)- that same word ‘gezellig’ does not even come close to the Dutch (lack of) definition and emotional connotation. You do the math.

    Frank

  47. Tom says:

    I try to explain as a moment of sharing, and the sharing could be whatever, as long as it is together, most of the times at somebody’s house, or a group of friends joining for an acitivity like bowling. , have a laugh, some times a cry. I think the more was shared, the gezelliger it was. Could also be bringing up old story’s.

  48. Berend Simons says:

    We like the word ‘gezellig’ almost as much as the Americans like the word ‘like’.

    • Jane says:

      Only Americans that consider the “like” word useful are lazy… most of us never use it and can’t stand it! Uneducated youngsters use it to fill in a blank space in their sentences.

  49. Ivonne says:

    Gezellig, when you define a situation where you are with others, describes a mental state; you enjoy being able to relax and be yourself while being in eachothers compagny.

    When it defines a location it says that this particular location ouzes a kind of warmth and is inviting.

  50. Ivonne says:

    compagny = company

  51. poepveeg says:

    gezellig = cozy in english

  52. maitlandm says:

    I’m afraid that to me, “gezellig” sounds like “nice.”

    • maitlandm says: ‘I’m afraid that to me, “gezellig” sounds like “nice.”’

      That’s because you’re not Dutch. Don’t take it too hard.

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  54. Tess says:

    wel i’m 14 year old and dutch and ‘gezellig’ means just feeling , comfortable, having a good time and so on but i can’t really explain it because you have to feel it gr. Tess (sorry if there fault in the comment my english is not that good)

  55. Matthijs says:

    Compare it with ‘gustar’ from the Spanish, yes there are some equivalents, BUT situational! So, back to the Dutch language.

    Me gusta esta comida, i like this food, ik vind dit eten ‘lekker’ (yes here we’ve got ‘lekker’ again which is worth the same discussion)
    Me gusta hacer windsurf, i like doing windsurf, ik hou van windsurfen/ik vind windsurfen leuk. (and not ‘ik vind windsurfen lekker’, you might encounter it as ‘lekker’ that the is wind blowing trough your hairs)

    ‘Gustar’ covers a lot of cases, where in other languages you have to use different words. That’s the same with gezellig.

  56. ssmanatee says:

    i realize this is a little simple but it sounds like “awesome”, in the way Americans use it, would be pretty close.

  57. RvR says:

    The best description I have is when you get a certain feeling that you can’t think of a word for, that’s gezellig! I have gezellig coats, gezellig colleagues, gezellig roads etc etc. Anything that gives me a little smile inside is good enough for me!

  58. Rik says:

    Nowadays gezellig is often combined with genieten. So it isn’t gezellig if you also geniet (enjoy) it. Sad but true.

  59. de Boer says:

    Like many old Dutch traditions, Gezellig is rooted in the deep Spirituality of the Reformed Faith. In modern day (secularized) Holland the true meaning is lost. Gezellig is the nourishing joy that comes from either food or company that is in dwelt by the Holy Spirit. Genuine communion of Saints.

  60. John Gonoude says:

    Again with the can’t translate gezellig nonsense. Convivial people, convivial.

    (Or conviviality for gezelligheid).

    Still, no-one likes a heretic

  61. Pingback: No. 35: Impossibly steep stairs (aka: the death “trap”) | Stuff Dutch People Like

  62. Jen says:

    From everything I have read here, I agree that convivial (and conviviality) may be the best English translation. However, in the U.S., no one uses convivial (or conviviality), so the actual meaning of even the English translation still doesn’t register with us.

    It almost sounds as if instead of having no translation for the word, we actually have many: it is just a different translation for each different type of situation where gezellig is used.

    Either way, I think I will start to use it here in the U.S….as soon as I understand it. ;)

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  64. N-X says:

    I’ve always translated it as gay myself.

    Gezellig, is basically what the Flintstones called a gay (old) time.

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  66. Danny says:

    A burning fireplace is always gezellig…! So is spending the afternoon in your favorite pub with your mates after playing a game of your favorite sport (soccer). Sitting around the christmas tree with your family, drinken hot choco while the kids unwrap their presents…is always gezellig.! It’s more or less that warm feeling that you get when you feel welcome and apreciated and totaly at ease. Oddly enough it can apply to the strangest things in my language but mostly it relates to certain people, places or situations that give you this feeling.

  67. While we might not use convivial that often In the US, we do use companionable. It seems like that might be a good translation in many situations. But companionable pretty much requires people – you can’t really have a “companionable silence” by yourself, for example.

  68. harmamae says:

    I think every culture is proud of their words that can’t be translated directly into English (think “saudades” in Brazilian Portuguese). That said, many, many words aren’t directly translatable into English, but can be translated in context – no language can just be easily substituted word for word into another, after all.

  69. harmamae says:

    I think every culture is proud of their words that can’t be directly translated into English (think “saudades” from Brazilian Portuguese). That said, I agree that not every word needs a direct translation into English for it to be translatable (in context).

  70. Pingback: Gezellig! | the Living Little project

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  72. Houte Klomp in the land of the Canucks says:

    First time reader and commenting. (Dutchie now living in Canada). Great blog!

    One lesser “gezellig” connotation of the word gezellig is when people ask you to “keep it gezellig”, or in other words expressing one’s opinion or sharing bits of information that people in attendance would rather not hear could severely spoil the gezelligheid. Sh*t disturbers aren’t welcome at times when it becomes gezellig.

    I guess there are different modes of operating within Dutch society or people that basically operate differently (god bless ‘em: my parents), one that is non-confrontational and would rather keep it gezellig and one that wouldn’t care less as long as the truth is said.

    Doei

  73. Tja says:

    I have a love hate relationship with the word gezellig. Sometimes I really love the word. However, I really dislike how it’s sometimes used for manipulation though. For example, if people are trying to pressure me into attending a social event (such as a circle party, or somewhere really loud and crowded) that I don’t want to go to, they start with grilling me on why I don’t want to go. Even if I can give 40 valid reasons, their response is invariably “Maar, het is toch gezellig!”.

  74. Arjen says:

    I think the best comments about the word gezellig were made in the beginning of this thread. Gezelligheid is a feeling that can be experienced with a person, a place, a situation, an event, etc. Its about opening up, honesty and enjoying each others company.
    A crowd can be gezellig and people can have gezelligheid in a bad situation.

    I think the word gezelligheid can sometimes be associated with another word the Dutch like: eensgezindheid. Eensgezindheid means as much as ‘all for one, one for all’, having one goal to achieve together. Most Dutch agree there’s not enough eensgezindheid in society, but when there is, often it’s gezellig too!

  75. Martina says:

    I think gezelligheid has something to do with the crappy Dutch weather outside also. A warm cosy home with the schemerlamp on while the rain is pouring down outside, with a cup of tea with a koekje and company of leuke people would definitely qualify as very gezellig.

    • ploop says:

      I’m sorry but every time dutch people call something ‘gezellig’, it happens to be the most boring time on earth, and the leuke people and leuke (superficial) conversation makes me quite frustrated. I wonder if they say it to convince themselves that they are having a good time?
      I think it is also cultural. Dutch people like to *describe* elaborately the time they are having. In a lot of other cultures, people don’t see the need to state that they are having a good time while they are having a good time, as this would be redundant.
      I suspect that inside they are not having a good time at all..

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  77. cloggy says:

    Convivial is a good one I go for that.
    Gezel, gezelschap, gezelligheid,
    nice but only if the gezelschap is in a good mood don’t forget. If they are grumpy It is NOT gezellig
    for all the other english translations, we have other words.
    Apartheid is Afrikaans

  78. cloggy says:

    I don’t like Frans Bauer(‘s music), but the people who visit his concerts have it very gezellig with a few thousand at a time !
    (I have nothing against him personaly, but can’t stand his songs)

  79. cloggy says:

    Come to think of it we even use the word gezellig as an expression when something was supposed to be gezellig but failed.
    just a long streched gezellig !

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  82. silvana says:

    if you have to bycicle home trough the pouring rain, it is way gezelliger to do this with a friend or someone you like.
    Being all alone at a warm home afterwards, is not gezellig but it is way more comfy.
    Gezelligheid is (mostly) a social thing.

  83. Dirk Vet says:

    Important thing: not being ‘gezellig’ is basically social suicide. If your a man, and ladies refer to you as ‘ongezellig’ be sure you’re NOT getting laid tonight. So even if you have no idea of what the hell ‘gezelligheid’ is, DO NOT CARE and just act social and cool. Also about the pronounciation: it sounds a bit like gazelle, almost as gazelle + a g at the end.

  84. Pingback: Gezellig! | Cait's World

  85. crosbilius says:

    Is it not the opposite of ”’awkward’ ?

  86. crosbilius says:

    Isn`t it kind-of the opposite of ”awkward”?

    • Marieke in Aus says:

      I understand that thought. But I don’t think it is. E.g. when you have a get together with friends, and you end up having a fight or an argument, this get together will overall be classified as not gezellig, regardless if it was akward or not. If you personally felt akward or embaressed during the argument, you’d say you felt akward or embaressed. You wouldn’t describe yourself as feeling not gezellig. The akward feeling you might have experienced adds the not gezelligheid factor to the situation.
      I, as a Dutchie, use gezellig alot, but living in Australia now, I can’t anymore because people don’t understand what I mean.
      I wouldn’t pick a restaurant when it doesn’t look ‘gezellig’ to me ( e.g. depressing color wallpaper, plastic chairs, no decoration). When I think someone has put nice furniture or curtains or fresh flowers in his house, making it look cozy to me, I’d say it is a gezellig house. Having a drink that I like with people I like in a place I like, I describe as gezellig. But if the place isn’t that nice and the drinks fail, but the company is good, I still classify the activity as gezellig. Someone who’s dressed up in a brown wool suit doesn’t look gezellig if he goes to a childrens birthdayparty. My Aussie partner described my mum als looking ‘lekker gezellig’ when se showed him her new dress. He did not understand it was not appropriate to call my mum ‘lekker’ (as in looking hot/sexy) (however this depents on what you think its appropriate in your family, my mum blushed, and so did I and my brothers) but I think he tried to be nice to throw in the ‘gezellig’. Although, I’d say it was slightly akward ;-)

  87. Rense says:

    Of course ‘Gezellig’ can be lead back to the word ‘Gezel’, which is someone accompanying you. The notion of ‘connectedness’ isn’t that bad at all….

  88. harrisrh says:

    This site rocks! Great writing. Great insights. Keep it up!

    • JohnThePhilosopher says:

      I am Dutch but born in America. My grandmother born in Zeeland took care of me and taught me a little Dutch, well I thought it was Dutch. Discovered when I visited the Netherlands the Duch I knew was Zeeuws. It is a regional dialect of Dutch spoken in Zeeland. I understood Gezellig to have a slightly narrower meaning. It’s meaning being the intersection between Gemütlichkeit and happiness, what ever that is for the individual. Gezellig has a meaning that I think tells us something about the Dutch in the same way that the meaning of Gemütlichkeit tells us something about Germans at a particular point in time. I studied German and spent several years living in the southern Schwarzwald, picking up another regional dialect. I had a very good high school German teacher who was from Bayern and came tho the US in the 60′s. When I tried out my high school German on native speakers, my German friends would tell me that this or that phrase was something that only old people said. Meanings change and sometimes the meaning of a word might get expanded. The word that I heard all the time in Germany was Geil. It means something like awesomely cool. The original meaning of this word isn’t PG. Now five-year-old German kid says it. The meaning of Gezellig seems to be expanding to meet the needs of an evolving society. Maybe there are just more things that are Gezellig now. If you are learning a language there is a point where you realize that direct translation never gets the meaning exactly right. The Philosopher Kant said that when meaning is transmitted and then understood a substantive understanding and agreement take place between two people. This can be an imperfect understanding even between two native speakers in any language Gezellig is one of those words that has so many uses that the meaning is more in the mind of the speaker than in a definition, no matter how flexible. A German I know who went to university in the Netherlands and has also lived it the US told be that Gezellig, Chillig and chill mean just about the same thing to her. I think chill comes closest to the meaning, if the person you are talking to has the same idea of what is, and is not chill, as you do.

  89. Tineke says:

    On DutchCommunity I found an interesting definition of ‘gezellig’ in the first paragraph of this article: http://dutchcommunity.com/2012/05/23/sports-and-leisure-in-the-netherlands/

  90. I think we need to analyze the word for foreigners to fully understand it. Gezellig comes from gezielig (German: sälig), but without the religious undertone of the word. IOW Gezellig means nothing other than that “something is putting the soul at ease”. Of course in time the meaning has both changed and expamded to include all those translations given by previous posters. As often occurs in languages, some words get “inflated” in time. I’m sure that my grandparents would have used the word gezellig differently than we do today. And yes, perhaps in the past the religious “undertone” was a little less “under”…

  91. Josef says:

    This one is easy: vibe, a person’s emotional state or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to and felt by others. Although it can also be a good or bad vibe or vibes from an object or experience too.

  92. Nou dat was even lekker gezellig kletsen. Mooi toch! Try to translate that.

  93. Carlos says:

    A lot of things that I read above are complete BS!!. Especially

    “The notion that “gezelligheid” isn’t translatable is an urban myth that is kept alive by the Dutch simply because they don’t know diddley about other cultures. I’m not saying we’re alone in that, but we are quite human in this regard.”
    Chris Winter says:
    February 2012 at 5:46 pm

    To use the word “gezelligheid” you must have companion. the word derives from gesellschaft which is German for companionship. So, when you are having a good time with other people (could be just one). It can be gezellig (or not!, that is ongezellig). You can never be alone and be “gezellig”!!

    That fact that CW wrote Dutch people know ‘diddley’ (as in Bo Diddley) tells enough about the writer…he knows diddly squat about the Dutch… So maybe he’s Dutch

  94. Menno says:

    An English word that comes close to “gezellig” is: ‘informal’.. If an atmosphere is gezellig, it is always informal. Not only that; it is also ‘relaxed’, ‘loose’ and if people are involved, which is very often the case, it is ‘congenial’, which means there is like-mindedness and togetherness. These four (or six) words sum up the meaning of gezellig, in my opinion.

  95. Gustl says:

    Apparently the big difficulty with ‘gezellig’ lays of the fact that the word was so widespreaded in the daily conversation that it lost its primary meaning and received a lot of new conotations! I totally agree with the JohnThePhilosopher’s comment up here…the word could be just an infinity of things because the dutch use it for an infinity of situations! It depends on the perception of each!
    Even though I would like to add some other translations that I consider correct just to keep the discussion…hehehe
    English: inviting, agreeable
    German: wohltuend, einladend, gefällig
    Portuguese(my mother tongue): caseiro, agradável, aconchegante

  96. Stephanie H says:

    I’m American, and I don’t want to attempt to translate your word gezellig, because it sounds so special to your culture. It sounds like whatever it is describing, because it can’t be experienced alone, it would involve “camaraderie”, which is a noun, so certainly not a one-to-one translation. Does the overuse of the word lessen how special the feeling is? I’d have to admit that I rarely feel what you all are describing as gezellig. Perhaps I’m just not often surrounded by warm, friendly people .

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  98. shane says:

    COSO – cozy + socialble

  99. Dutchman's lover says:

    I questiond my Dutch lover this morning about gezellig and asked him if we had times together that would qualify as gezellig. Was it when he kissed me first time in his car? Possibly at baseball game we were at? He told me last day we were together having burger was gezellig, hvaing beer at castle was gezellig, and when he drove me to see the pyramid was gezellig as well. He summed it up this way, “basically having good times, relaxing without any necessary love or sex or anything. It can be gezelling with anybody.”

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  102. Jaap says:

    Gezelligheid kent geen tijd means gezelligheid doesn’t know time

  103. Dennis says:

    Feeling one with the others…….

  104. Delightful. Pleasant. Fun

  105. joop speth says:

    As I was a child, my mother often asked me to go to the local library and ask the lady-librarian there to give me some ‘gezellige’ books for her to read.

  106. joop speth says:

    I mean, reading these books was gezellig for her, she did not need people around her.

  107. Demian says:

    Actually the term baffled me for years too. I was as unable to translate the term to english as the next person. Untill the answer come to me, from america no less. My mom, who lives in a windmill :) and yes she has wooden clogs, has a friend in the states that works on a windmill (transported from holland) and she sent her a t-shirt with the print:
    Gezelligheid
    Togetherness that knows no time.

  108. Pingback: Wat een gezellige* wijk | katrijnsogenblik

  109. Sonja harper says:

    I grew up in holland, have lived in the US for 40 years return to visit holland once or twice a year. We just have to except that there is no translation for the word gezellig. Only if you grew up with it do you understand the meaning. There is no word in English that has the same meaning.

  110. BGold says:

    Yes! gezellig!
    If you look at the word you can see
    Gezel and lig.
    Gezel is and ancient dutch word, coming from German wich meant as much as someone who is sharing a house with you, or someone who is learning a trade frome you, and in Dutch it meant more a friend or a partner. So you could say gezellig means ‘amongst friends’. As in ‘not amongst enemies’.
    Sure anyone, no natter from where they come knows the warm, safe and shiny feeling at a party or in a warm house at a cold day, or anywhere where lots of friends are, and you get that special feeling that it should last for ever?
    Well, that is Gezellig. And indeed when it is not Gezellig, ONGEzellig we want to leave and bever go there again.

  111. Pingback: gezellig (adj) | There's A Word For That

  112. Haps Hash says:

    Hij bedankte premier Mark Rutte en koning Willem-Alexander. „De gastvrijheid was bewonderenswaardig en de organisatie vlekkeloos”, liet Obama weten. Het was „gezellig” zei Obama ook in het Nederlands.

    http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/22428096/__Obama__NL_is_gezellig__.html

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