New year, new you. That’s the saying, right? Unless you’re a foreign media outlet writing about the Netherlands. Then it’s the same old tropes, writes our regular columnist Molly Quell.
Not two days into 2024 and we already had the first gezelligheid story of the year. Axios, the American news website founded by a group of Politico journalists, ran a story called Gezellig: How to be cozy like the Dutch.
The piece defines gezellig as “a word that describes feeling cozy, usually with friends or loved ones.” The Dutch love to claim gezellig is untranslatable but in reality, English just affords itself multiple words – cosy, homey, cheerful – to cover the singular option offered in the Netherlands.
We have had gezellig discourse before. Nearly 20 years ago, Slate ran a story about the quest for gezelligheid. That piece opens with the sentence: “The overriding vibe in Amsterdam is coziness.”
The author must have never set a toe on an Amsterdam bike lane if that’s the vibe he thinks the city has.
In 2015, the similar Danish word hygge had its moment, which kicked up another round of gezellig discourse. In 2017, Dutch News ran the definitive guide on being gezellig and we considered the matter closed.
But those plucky foreigners just can’t help themselves on a slow news day.
Not exactly “doing nothing.”
The most infuriating part of the niksen discourse was, of course, that the Dutch are the most over-scheduled people on the planet. Anyone who has lived in the Netherlands for more than two weeks has discovered that any attempt at social interaction is met with the formal presentation of a completely full agenda and suggestion of coffee in 4 – 6 working weeks.
From there it has only gotten weirder. A 2019 story in the New York Times detailed dropping, which it described as the practice of Dutch parents abandoning their children in the woods to find their own way home like some sorta reverse Hansel and Gretel situation.
I already dragged the NYT for this story, so I don’t need to repeat myself. But Dutch Twitter was a very enjoyable place for a few days while we all joined together in mocking the New York Times.
Just when we thought it was safe, 2022 blew in with uitwaaien. The opening anecdote of the story in the Washington Post quotes a (admittedly very good) cocktail influencer. Not even a wellness influencer!
Later the story gets to the wellness bros, a gym owner who wrote a book about (the long-debunked) 10,000 steps and my personal nemesis Wim Hof, who is described as a Dutch health expert. He’s known as the Iceman for advocating sitting in cold water to make yourself miserable so you can feel smug.
These concepts get recycled and repackaged and then we get subjected to them all over again. There appears to be an unending appetite amongst foreigners for odd Dutch cultural conventions.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that the Dutch are a weird people who have lots of odd cultural conventions. We should just be mocking them for it, not celebrating them.
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