Hello from Haarlem!
This week’s blog comes to you from Netherlands, where I visited briefly. It seems so appropriate that I would be in North Holland to learn first-hand about the concept of gezelligheid, as my podcast for the past couple of weeks has been focused on the Danish concept called hygge. In practice, hygge is a set of guidelines for living simply and with grace. It encourages us to slow down, to take the time to seek out or create a quiet space, and to share that space with loving friends and family.
Too busy to read? You can listen to the podcast instead!
“The greatest ingredient for human happiness is being with other people”
To build a better picture of what gezelligheid is, I should tell you a little about Haarlem. Haarlem is a town that was established in the middle ages (around 1245, according to Netherlands Tourism). If the name sounds familiar it’s because it’s what the New York burrough of Harlem is named for, after first being called ‘Little Amsterdam’ by the European immigrants who settled there. I fell in love with Haarlem during my short time here because of the pubs and restaurants that occupy buildings that are hundreds of years old. Despite being so old, they’re very welcoming with their soft lighting, and the thick rugs on the floor and ceiling to dampen sharp sounds. These pubs and restaurants all have the same type of cozy ambience that is often described in hygge gatherings, but the Dutch would say that gezelligheid is more social than hygge.
“Gezelligheid is the heart of Dutch culture.”
The purpose is to just spend time together. The Dutch 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.
“To lose track of the time you’re spending with friends is called having a ‘gezellig time.’”
We, as North Americans, can borrow the concepts of hygge and gezelligheid to grow our relationships with friends and family. In making small changes to our homes, and to our restaurants and pubs, we can create a more welcoming environment that is free of distraction, and where we can enjoy each other’s company. By turning the lighting down (candles!), and turning the noise down (no television or loud music!), we can create inviting spaces where people gather to share stories and laughter.
Until next week!