Expat Life
February 21, 2023

Gezelligheid boosters to fend off cabin fever

With social distancing in full force, most of us are working from home and hardly leaving our apartments. The feel of our interior spaces is more important than ever, as we’re spending all day & night inside.

If you live in the Netherlands you’ll be no stranger to the concept of ‘gezelligheid’. Gezellig is one of those great Dutch words that can’t be accurately translated into a single English word. It is often translated in English as ‘cosy’ but that doesn’t quite cover it. It is less about a word and more about a feeling - true gezelligheid is something that can only be felt. It can be used to describe a place, an event, people, the design or mood of a space… or a host of other things.

Two of the most common topics for ‘gezellig’ to be used about are gatherings of people and the feeling of a space. Both of which are very relevant in the current situation as people feel the strain of being isolated from each other and the comfort of our interior spaces is being put to the test.

So how can you increase your gezelligheid levels while socially isolating yourself inside your apartment? Here are 10 simple tips that don’t require an expensive refit of the whole interior of your apartment!

1. Get some fresh air

The temperatures are still pretty fresh right now, with spring on our doorstep but not quite arrived. It can be easy to go for days without letting in any fresh air, in the interest of retaining that expensively heated warm air you have inside. The Dutch love to let fresh air into their homes, with some even sleeping with windows open in their bedrooms year-round! It will do you good to follow their lead and open your windows. If you’re lucky enough to have one, eat lunch on your balcony… especially if the sun is shining!

We aren’t having a full lock down, so even better, get on your bike to get some wind in your hair and fresh air in your lungs. Amsterdam is a small city, surrounded on all sides by nature so even on your rusty omafiets it won’t take you long to get into some green space.

2. Make your bed

Start your day right! Maybe it needs to be said that the first step is getting yourself out of bed. As a general rule, bed is not the best location for your home office. I’m sure someone somewhere wrote that all the most successful people start their day by making their beds, but don’t quote me on it. It looks good, it makes your mind less cluttered and it is welcoming to return to (after your 20 step commute home) at the end of the day.

3. Rearrange

Maybe it’s time to change things up in your space. Try rearranging your furniture for a change of scenery or Marie Kondo that messy drawer that niggles away in the back of your mind. There’s nothing like spending time in one space 24/7 for helping you identify which spaces could be working better than they currently are.

4. Stop being a plant killer

If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of a home filled with beautiful greenery but have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is. If things at your workplace are pretty slow right now, maybe it’s the perfect moment to brush up your knowledge. Pro tip: Remembering to water them is a good start… but there are plenty of great apps to inform you of what different plants need and remind you when to do it.

If you missed the memo that the interior of your house should basically resemble a jungle these days, it’s not too late to get started! Support your local flower/plant shop on the corner if they’re still open or if you’re in quarantine you can get plants delivered by Plantsome.

5. Get the light right

When talking about gezellig spaces, I think lighting is up there with one of the most important factors. Let as much natural light in as you can during the day. If you can, position your workspace near a window. Make sure you’ve got warm white bulbs in your lights so your home doesn’t feel like a laboratory. Light candles for bonus points.

6. Make your walls more you

Fill your walls with artworks that inspire you, photos from your travels and pictures of people you love. Even if you’re renting, there are plenty of great solutions for hanging things on the wall that are strong and easy to remove. So often this can be something you always had on your to do list, but never get around to. It can make a huge difference in making a house feel more like home, especially if you’re renting a furnished apartment.

7. Deep clean your apartment

If work is really slow, you may even resort to cleaning. Nothing is more terrible to endure (first world problems) but satisfying than 30 minutes spent scrubbing mouldy grout in a shower. Find permanent homes for that stuff you’ve had sitting in a pile in the corner for months. Go through your wardrobe. If you’re feeling really into it you can even do some dusting. Your mother would be so proud.

PS. If you usually hire a cleaner but aren’t having them come at the moment, consider paying them anyway if you can afford it. We can all get through this together!

8. Make a dedicated workspace

Most of us in Amsterdam don’t have the luxury of a beautiful home-office space we can work in. You’re more likely perched on one side of the dining table or couch, maybe right next to your partner, housemate or slightly stir-crazy kids. Even if it’s just for the daytime, having a set space where the work magic happens will help you to be more productive. 

9. Digital hangs

What about all those gezellig social arrangements you’ve had to cancel? Feeling lonely? Technology is here to help. Have a digital dinner where you video call your friends and eat dinner ‘together’. Have a movie night using Netflix Party. Use Houseparty. Try some ‘distance socialising’ while you practise social distancing.

10. Spread kindness

Boosting gezelligheid is not just for you, but is also something you can share (at a safe 1.5m distance). Send someone a card in the post or offer help to a neighbour in need. Drop off a cooked meal or flowers at someone’s door. If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s been allowed to have a pet in your apartment, give them a cuddle! 

Written by Jess, from our Amsterdam rental team.