Expat Blog


Normally, I translate any Dutch words I use on the blog by putting the English translation in brackets directly afterwards. But with this particular word, that is an impossible task.

So much so, that it requires a whole blog post!


“Cosy” I hear you say…

Is it probably the closest translation? Yes. But (and it’s a big but!) gezellig is sooooo much more than that…

In addition to “cosy” just not cutting the mustard, an English speaker wouldn’t use the word cosy in the same context as Dutch people use gezellig. You would never hear an English person say, “That was a really cosy evening.” EVER.


That’s another close one. Close, but no cigar. Sure, in some instances, you could use comfortable… but “That was a really comfortable evening.” NOPE.


Again, close, but if it was ONLY fun, you’d say “het was leuk” (it was fun). Gezellig is on another level.

Gezellig is gewoon gezellig.

Here are some comments from the blog on this subject:

Rody de Groot: The word ‘Gezellig’ cannot be translated to any language in the world with the same meaning as ‘Gezellig’ means in Holland. It’s a typical Dutch word. Guess we invented ‘Gezelligheid’…

Sloeberjong: Lekker is used a lot, but I do keep wondering when your blog about “gezelligheid” will premier. It’ll be a challenge to explain that to non-Dutchies!

Tanja: No translation is proper for the word gezellig, it means that people are having a good time, but it can also mean that your house looks cosy, or comfortable. Or if people do not get along that is ongezellig.

Thomas Gresnich: What I miss is the word “gezellig”, meaning something like cosy. Everything is “gezellig”, like: come for a gezellig kopje koffie. Are you coming tonight? Ja, gezellig. How was the party? Very gezellig. Why don’t you stop smoking? I find it so gezelllig, een sigaretje (a cigarette).

Rockerriert: Cosy is only part of the meaning of gezellig. There’s no English word that covers the whole meaning.

So, just what does this word mean?

Replace gezellig with cosy, comfortable, fun or even convivial and you only have PART of the meaning. The only way I can find to explain it without having experienced yourself is with examples:

As Thomas says: People, places, buildings, parties and situations can be gezellig:

  • Utrecht is zo gezellig.” (In this context could mean quaint, enjoyable, pleasurable – or a combination!)
  • Pieter’s feestje was echt gezellig.” (Pieter’s party was really awesome, had a great atmosphere, was spent in great company.)
  • “Marcel is een gezellige man.” (Possible meanings: entertaining, friendly, pleasant.)

The atmosphere (at a pub, for example) can be gezellig.  That feeling of a pleasant, friendly ambience and having a good time.

It can also refer to the notion of belonging, time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long time apart, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling.

Hey, even smoking can be gezellig!

It encompasses such a broad range of descriptions, emotions and uses that it simply cannot be translated to any other language in one word.

And what’s this Gezelligheid you speak of?

Gezellig is the adjective form and Gezelligheid is an abstract noun. So adding -heid roughly translates to -ness: coziness, togetherness, gezelligness.

Dus, ik zei het nog een keer: gezellig is gewoon gezellig.

So, I’ll say it again: gezellig is just gezellig.

Come to the Netherlands and experience it for yourself! Lijkt me gezellig!

Hayley x