It’s no surprise that so many of northern Europe’s languages have a particular word for feeling cosy (from the Gaelic còsag, a small hole you can creep into). It’s when rain is mizzling and the damp rises from the canals that we yearn for the feeling the Dutch call gezelligheid. The Dutch love this word and are fiercely proud of all it represents. They 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 – 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”)!
Gezellig and gezelligheid are less about a word and more about a feeling.
Derived from the word for ‘friend’, it describes both physical circumstances – being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends – and an emotional state of feeling ‘held’ or comforted. The Danish hygge (cosiness), the German Gemütlichkeit, which describes feelings of congeniality and companionship, and the Finnish kodikas (roughly: homely) have similar connotations. Riffle through the languages of the sunny Mediterranean however, and the equivalent combination of physical enclosure and emotional comfort is much harder to find.
gezelligheid kent geen tijd
(roughly: counting the days)
(ps. there are two sides to every coin. True to form, meet ongezellig, gezellig‘s shadowy twin. Ongezellig is a precise astute word like no other. “Let’s get out of this place, its just so ongezellig” can sum up a response to the mood of a place like no other word can!)
Definition based on the one found in The Book of Human Emotions by Tiffany Watt Smith