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Dutch ‘Gezellig’ at the core.


A Danish concept that has spoken to the hearts of millions of people all over the world finding themselves in the pursuit of happiness and trying to escape the stress of the modern life. There is no chance you haven’t heard of it, well, unless you are a hermit and have been living in a cave.

But what is it in fact?

Hygge is “a combination of behavioural choices, cognitive modification, environmental adaptation, and philosophy”. In simpler words, hygge is the art of coziness in these stressful days. It aims to give us little pleasures and make us feel good.

Why am I saying this?

Well, what hygge is for the Danes and grew to be for the entire world, gezellig is for the Dutch. A bit less known to the outside world, but in no way less magic.

The Dutch have a saying – “gezelligheid kent geen tijd”, which translated into English means “gezellig knows no time”. More specifically, if you’re enjoying a good night out with your friends in a gezellig environment, no matter how late it is, you don’t go home, but enjoy every moment of it.

Once in the Netherlands, you can’t but not fully immerse yourself in “the strong sense of community and social connections” that is there. People there just seem to connect so easily to each other. Perhaps because they’re all in a pursuit of the same thing – to feel cozy together.  They go out for a “borrel”, or the so called after-work or pre-weekend drinks known as “Vrijmibo” where close friends enjoy hearty conversations in a gezellig atmosphere, which I see as a ritual in itself.

It is one of the main things that attracts me in this country, and what makes me want to come back every so often. That, and the beautiful panoramic windows of Amsterdam.

There is such a state of mind when the soul asks for comfort, coziness and inspiration. I think Amsterdam is the embodiment of it all.

As for the main sights, I believe what makes Amsterdam so great and loved is not the canals as one would think, but the windows. I think novels can be written about the windows of Amsterdam. And I don’t mean the ones on the renowned Red Light District, but the windows of the houses on the walkways alongside the canals.. large, tall, panoramic, streak-free and spotless windows. I truly believe that window cleaners are the richest people in Amsterdam. One could spend hours looking at them. This is what I had been doing the last morning of my stay.

I went out as early as I could to enjoy the “grandeur” of the city in its morning glory.. and I found myself hypnotized by the beauty of its windows.

I spent hours exploring their shapes, imagining their history and feeling their energy. As if they would talk back to me, I would actually hear their voices.. they would talk so slowly, in quiet voices, and yet so loud for me to hear their message.

In the city, as it is throughout the entire country, it is very common to have no curtains at all allowing passers-by to peak into the daily lives of the locals. And I know, it is not nice looking into other people’s windows. But I can’t help it, they beckon me..

As I’ve been told, the no-curtains tradition stems from Calvinism which molded the mindset of the Dutch society. The Calvinist mentality edifies the open-door policy which simply means that there is and should be nothing to hide. With no curtains, pretty much everything you have is on display.

But one could also notice that the apartments in Amsterdam happen to be tight on space so creating light inside is of utmost importance. Consequently, having big windows and no curtains seems like the perfect way to allow daylight penetration into the buildings.

My exploration has been very short though. I never seem to have enough time to savor the beauty of Amsterdam’s buildings. I keep telling myself next time..

That morning, before meeting the girls, my last stop has been The Breakfast Club. The few times I’ve been to this city, The Breakfast Club has always been my best choice for breakfast in Amsterdam.

Well, that morning I went for pancakes with fresh fruit and honeycomb butter. I’ve always wanted to taste this dish on the menu. Simply delicious.

The café is also pet friendly, which, I think, adds up to that gezellig feeling. It’s common to see dogs sitting patiently under the tables whilst their owners are enjoying their morning cup of chai latte. The pet owners are happy all chatting away, and dogs are happy that they’re not left out and gently petted every now and then.

The cafes in Amsterdam are something else. The Dutch have loved coffee for centuries, and you can tell it by the multitude of coffee roasters, vintage and artisan coffee bars. They impress with their simplicity and creative design, and are all oriented towards increasing social interaction. It’s where people, either friends or strangers, connect and engage in lively conversations. I’d go even further and say that Amsterdam’s coffee bars are the heart of the city’s vibrant social life. It’s the meeting point to discuss personal matters, love issues, work, newspaper headlines, political affairs, economic and financial concerns, and more.

And this is gezellig at the core. It cannot be explained in a word or two. It’s the feeling you get there. It’s in the air when passing alongside the charming network of canals, walking along the beautifully-shaped buildings with panoramic, impeccably clean windows. It’s in the first sip of the most delicious chai latte served at one of Amsterdam’s most delightful coffee bars. It can even be felt while caught in the middle of the bicycle chaos when you unintentionally bump into a bike and disturb the most important artery of the public transport network. Gezellig is what you feel when you enjoy a night out with friends at De Hallen and finish it up at Amsterdam’s most renowned coffee shops selling cannabis, hash and marijuana. Gezellig is even when you roam the narrow streets of the Red Light District and one of the ladies gives you a “high five” for no particular reason.

Gezellig is a series of experiences that you create to feel good. Or, these experiences find you, and then the feeling is even greater.

The open-mindedness of the Dutch is quite stunning. It satisfies my most voyeuristic taste buds and I can’t but not succumb to its tantalizing effect. So I always come back for another dose of gezellig.

And so I’ll be back, pretty soon..



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