Gezelligheid kent geen tijd

Delft blue tile with slogan
"Time flies when you're having fun"
Gezellig is one of those typical Dutch words that defy translation and often confuse non-natives when confronted with it: it's not cozy, it's not comfortable, it's just gezellig. It describes a mood, a feeling and, dare I say, a national common purpose.

Gezellig is going shopping with a girlfriend to the market, seeing new products from stall to stall and then relaxing on a café patio with a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie.

Gezellig is an evening at home with friends, talking over a nice dinner, a glass of wine, some snacks. Before you know it, it's 3am in the morning, you get ready to go home and everybody agrees that it was very gezellig and that you should do this again soon . In English you would say "time flies when you're having fun". In Dutch, it's Gezelligheid kent geen tijd. (Gezelligness doesn't keep track of time).

Gezellig is making time for each other, for connecting with like-minded people, for exchanging ideas, thoughts, visions without anybody getting upset or annoyed. You can't be gezellig alone, you need someone else there with you. If you get your panties in a twist or somehow easily upset the idyllic environment, you will be quickly classified as "ongezellig", or not gezellig at all. Not good if you thrive on other people's company, great if you're a hermit.

British-born Marianne Orchard from Like A Sponge, a former blog about the Dutch language and living in Holland, discussed this national characteristic in her post about the Avondvierdaagse (a national four day evening walking event that is held throughout the country) and mentions the following:

" Then I have a sudden flash of enlightenment and I understand the Avondvierdaagse better than I did last year: I just need to see it in terms of gezelligheid. (...) We are missionaries of gezelligheid. There will be no ungezelligd territory. On Dutch maps of yore it doesn’t say ‘here be dragons’ for unchartered territory: it says ‘here be ongezelligheid’."

It's almost a national decision to be gezellig, and very much the core of our culture. And let's face it, in these challenging times, shouldn't we make some time to deliberately be gezellig, with our family, friends or casual strangers.......So go forth and be gezellig today!


  1. Amen Sister!
    I need more gezelligheid in my life, that is for sure - a good goal for next month, I think!

  2. Go Mizz D! Gezelligheid is a good goal to strive for :-) Hope it fills your clogs!

  3. Thank you Nicole for your fantastic website en jazeker "gezelligheid kent geen tijd".

  4. Yes, gezelligheid. It's a feeling. Main ingredient, the participants. They don't need to be friends or even people you've know before. Then absolute relaxation. The conversation, or silence, is soothing without harsh words, the music is right, the ambiance is cozy, there's your favourite drink and soulfood or tasty snacks, the temperature and level of lighting is just right. It can only be achieved in groups of between 2 and 6 people. Saying a reunion was "gezellig" and everybody agreeing is the highest praise for all participants. A condition very easy to acomplish in Holland and impossible to be experienced abroad. It's like a Dutch Coca Cola recipe. A Secret that we, the Dutch will freely share with anybody, no matter religion, nationality or race.

  5. I think there CAN be gezelligheid in solitude. I have a small room on the back of my house, my "reading room" it is truly gezellig, whether I am there alone or with my husband. A room can be gezellig, giving you a feeling of relaxation and comfort upon entering it. That is my take on it anyways. It is one of the few Dutch words my sisters and I throw into our mostly English conversations, as there really is no English word for it...

  6. I kind of think that the word gezellig komt from gezelshap, wich means sharing time with others!

  7. I love all the comments about gezelligheid. The Dutch Table is gezellig, natafelen is gezellig :-)
    The Soul, Core and Uniqueness of the Dutch People is “Gezelligheid,” it is a vital element of the Nederlanders’ national psyche.
    The problem is that there is no English word that translates Gezelligheid or Gezellig. Iam attempting to translate do you have any thought on gezelligheid ?
    Gezellig – person. Gezelligheid it the opposite of modern society “objectifying” all things., education, business; religion, Art and people’s values and worth are measured by their objectivity. All this objectivity leads to many mental health issues because objectivity always leads to dehumanizing and depersonification.
    Gezellig the personalization of every thing indicating people are most important in life without them there is no life. Gezellig also applies to the ambience of the surroundings because they are personified.

    1. Natafelen, mij zwager noemt het uitbuiken! eventjes uitbuiken hoor!

  8. remember the 50's and 60's in Holland..

    somebody's birthday..

    * ~ 8PM friends coming over..
    * all the chairs from the house in a large circle in the living room.. around one or more tables..
    * koffie met gebak & cookies..
    * borreltjes erna - typical:
    advokaatje (weet je nog Zwarte Kip... lekker dik..?) met toppie slagroom, bessenjenever, of citroen jenever met een scheppie suiker voor the ladies...
    biertje, jenever (oud of jong) or conjakkie voor de mannen
    * schaaltjes met blokkies kaas, worst, augurkies in cervelaatworst rolletjes, en koude asperges in ham rolletjes..

    en maar ouwe hoeren, kwebbelen, en af een toe een bak vertellen en lachen...

    nou dat was dan weer gezellig hoor !! daaag!!

  9. Joke van Katwijk-RedekerJanuary 14, 2014 at 11:58 PM

    I am a Dutchie living in South Africa (Johannesburg). I came here as a teenager but I'm still Dutch in hart en nieren. Ik vond het gezellig om de website te lezen en ook alle recepten door te lezen. Ik maak nog iedere winter erwtensoep en als ik pakjes Nasi Goreng kruiden kan vinden dan dat ook nog. Ik zal geregeld hier naar recepten zoeken. Bedankt, Nicole.
    Joke van Katwijk-Redeker

    1. Family Tree
      Joke misschien dat je dit bericht leest, ik zoek al jaren naar familieleden voor mijn stamboom.
      Misschien dat je een e-mailadres kun geven
      Joop van Katwijk


I welcome your comments! Please be so considerate as to include a name, as anonymous comments will be deleted. Comments will appear as soon as they are monitored (usually within 24 hours). If you have a direct question, please consider emailing me at nicole at thedutchtable dot com for a faster response, or post on our Facebook page.