Friday 26 May 2017


I Love Holland: Gezelligheid

Ages ago I promised you more posts on the Netherlands, and then life happened... oops. But I finally have some blogs planned for you guys and since I'm visiting my family again for a good week from tomorrow I thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to start with gezelligheid. You've likely heard about the Danish word hygge in the past year and gezelligheid is similar (though better, of course, ssshhh) as it describes a cosy and homely feeling, atmosphere or past-time and is one of the biggest things I love about being home (in addition to seeing my family). In this blog I highlight the things that define gezelligheid in the Netherlands. 

Gezelligheid In and Around the House

To me personally, gezelligheid is all things homeliness; from cute little decorative touches, to collections (think old-fashioned kitchen appliances from grandmother's time through to china), wall decorations, and basically anything that can make a house feel like a home and personal. Another thing you'll see a lot of is very iconic Dutch prints and items in and around the house. We're a proud nation, and so yes you will find wooden shoes masquerading as flower pots in our gardens alongside miniature mills, garden gnomes and lots of tulips.

Most houses in the Netherlands will have lacework curtains at the bottom half/third of windows to give that same cosy feel and perhaps some other lace throughout the house as well. And if you have a stand alone house, the windows often have beautifully painted shutters to make houses look gorgeous on the outside too. Add to that some lovely flowers in rows attached around the house, and you have a picturesque image that anyone would want to return home to at night.

That cosy, homely atmosphere also translates itself into an open-door policy whereby neighbours, friends and family will randomly pop by (aanwippen) for a cup of coffee (bakkie) with a biscuit on the side. We're very easy-going and inviting and always up for a gezellige time with acquaintances and friends to catch up.

Gezelligheid Around the Table

In today's fast-paced society with people working long hours it becomes hard to have time together with the family and so dinner time is really important. Traditionally taking place between 5pm and 6pm this is one of the few moments the whole family will be together each day so this time is truly cherished (of course not everyone is able to sit down together in the Netherlands, I am making generalisations here). A few decades ago lunch time was this moment everyone sat down together for a warm meal, but this has shifted to dinner.

The types of meals have changed little though and while other cuisines have made their way into Dutch cooking, we are still a potato, meat and veggie nation. With woensdag gehaktdag (Wednesday mince day), patat and a kroket or frikandel (fries with a meat-based snack) on Friday and soup on Sunday little seems to have changed at all. Winter is also always filled with a variety of stamppot dishes (one-pot very warm and filling meals), from peen en uien (carrot and onions) to boerenkool (kale, which has been a normal veggie for us Dutch people long before the superfood brigade caught on).

Two especially gezellige foodie moments that cannot be missing from this post are gourmetten and celebrations. Gourmetten, also known as raclette, is a traditionally thing we do for Christmas and New Years and allows each guest to make their own meals at the dinner table while enjoying a gezellige time with friends & family, with tiny little pans (see pictured below). For celebrations (think birthdays and anniversaries) we also go all out with hapjes (canapes), often of the cheese and meat variety, spread across every available table surface for guests to pick whenever they want to. Yum.

Gezelligheid With Friends and Family

You'll have noticed a theme in this post, between aanwippen for a bakkie and gourmetten, one of the most important parts of gezellgheid is friends and family, and spending quality time with them. There are many different ways to do this but some of the most common ones are playing games, Saturday TV-night and national holidays such as Koningsdag (King's Day), Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day), and any kind of important game on the football calendar (I did mention already we're a proud nation and we go all out in orange for important games even if, like me, you don't actually care about sports!).

Board games in the Netherlands are called gezelschapsspellen and as you can see part of the word is the same as gezellig. Coincidence? I think not ;) We have all the classics such as Monopoly, Yahtzee, Rummikub and Scrabble, but also very Dutch ones such as Ganzenbord (geese board, which is similar to Monopoly but with geese, haha). While we all love to play this more, like in many other countries this past-time is nowadays often reserved for the Christmas holidays.

Another traditional time for the family to all sit down together is for Saturday night TV. This used to be exclusive to the big games shows but has moved nowadays to also include the very popular reality programmes such as The Voice. All together on the couch and commenting on contestants is super gezellig. See also: Eurovision Song Festival, All You Need is Love Christmas Special and Ik hou van Holland (the games show that inspired the name of my blog series).

Last, but certainly not least, King's Day (and similar days). With orange desserts, orange outfits and accessories, and the Dutch flag painted on our faces we might look a bit wacky to outsiders but to us Koningsdag and our traditions are the epitome of gezelligheid. Getting up before 6am on a Bank Holiday to wander the vrijmarkt (massive country wide flee market)? Hell yeah! Once we've scored some awesome bargains we'll go back home for a bakkie with an oranjekoek (orange biscuit) and turn on the TV to together with the family watch our Royals visit one of our cities (a different one each year) and play traditional Dutch games. I can't think of anything more gezellig.

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I really hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you did, I'd love it if you can leave a comment about anything that embodies the meaning of gezelligheid to you. And why not share this post on social channels too? You can use the below image for Pinterest and other social channels can be found below my signature 😊

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