As most of you probably already know by now, I am a huge music fan. Maybe you have even seen me perform during one of the many gezellige Happy Hours at the Holland stand at meeting conventions all over the world? And in case you missed it, I even wrote a song about adding some orange to your world. What can I say? Music just makes me happy.
But truth be told, it’s not only music that makes me happy. There must be something in the Dutch water, because Holland consistently makes it to the top ten of happiest countries in the world.* Well, maybe it’s not so much the water, but more about the way we live our lives in Holland. Let me introduce you to some of the Dutch habits that might shed a light on why the Dutch are so happy.
Yes, I can confirm that the rumors are true. The Dutch not only mastered the art of painting, but also the art of part-time work. More than 50% of the Dutch population works part-time, which in our book means less than 36 hours a week. The reasons for working part-time for both men and women are very diverse, often personal and even go back in history. But in the end it all comes down to this: it’s all a matter of balance. The Dutch have a rather laid-back approach to work and know that there is more to life than work alone. But, don’t get me wrong now! This doesn’t mean that the Dutch are lazy. Quite the contrary! The Dutch are renown for their strong business skills, directness, no-nonsense approach and getting-things-done attitude. We just like to work efficiently so that we have more time for the important things in life.
Like borrelen, for example. We sure do love a good borrel, no matter where in the world we are. There actually isn’t a word in the English language that would sufficiently translate the meaning of the word borrel. Essentially, a borrel is a more or less informal social gathering while having a drink (or two), some Dutch finger food like cheese or bitterballen and enjoying good company. There are Friday afternoon borrels, after work borrels (which can take place any day of the week really), during work borrels, Sunday morning borrels, after sports borrels, …. You name it, we can always find a reason for a good borrel. In fact, a borrel often takes place after an important (business) meeting and is a great and informal way to further discuss plans, strategies or even close business deals. Some people say the best business deals are sealed by the water cooler, in Holland it’s during a borrel!
Do you want a taste of a great Dutch borrel? Then make sure to come visit me during Happy Hour at the Holland stand at one of the many international events I’m visiting. Next up: IMEX Frankfurt. See you there?!
We are truly gezellig!
A borrel is also a great means to experience some true, Dutch gezelligheid. Just like borrel, there is really no proper way to translate this extremely commonly used word into the English language. It’s also very hard to describe what gezelligheid is exactly. Gezelligheid, often used as a verb pointing out that something is gezellig, is essentially a feeling that can describe a range of (positive) emotions. For example, a borrel – especially after a hard day’s work or a successful business meeting – is generally perceived as gezellig. Meeting your best friend for coffee is always gezellig. Even having a business dinner can end up being very gezellig (on top of hopefully being successful). Going on vacation is definitely gezellig. But also attending a post tour after a convention surely is gezellig. Even US president’s Barack Obama’s trip to Holland to attend the NSS top in The Hague in 2014 has been ‘truly gezellig’.
I dare say that the word gezellig is likely the most commonly used word in the Dutch language. Here’s a fun challenge: learn to pronounce it as best as you can and then tell the next Dutch person you talk to that it was truly gezellig meeting them. Let me know how it went, will you?
It’s all about the balance
While there is no scientific research showing that these habits do in fact increase the general state op happiness of the Dutch people, these habits surely play an important role in our everyday lifestyle. And like I mentioned before, the Dutch are pretty good at making sure their work life balance doesn’t get out of hand.
I’m curious, have you experienced any of these Dutch habits while visiting Holland or doing business with the Dutch? Or are there any other habits that you’ve come across that struck you as typically Dutch? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.