Ask any Dutch person for an untranslatable word in Dutch; they will all smile and, without exception, without even thinking about it, come up with one word: gezellig.
Used both as adjective and adverb, gezellig is at the core of being Dutch. A Dutch person will use the word at least three times a day on average, and anyone who has ever visited Holland will be familiar with it. In fact I have found it not unusual to meet Americans who take pride in knowing the word and (thinking) that they can pronounce it. My husband considers Dutch not a language but a throat disease, and the pronunciation of gezellig may prove his theory.
A room can be gezellig, and in this context the word is quite similar to cozy or gemütlich. But gezellig encompasses way more than that. It is closely tied to the company you are in and also refers to the atmosphere that is created when you are together. For that to be gezellig it’s essential that you connect with the other person or people.
Gezellig is what makes you feel good, relaxed, warm, protected–almost cuddled. Listening to the sound of rain on your roof while you’re in bed is gezellig. It’s a sense of familiarity, of feeling at home.
An entire evening can feel gezellig. Dinner, visiting your parents, a chat on the phone can all be gezellig.
Having coffee with a dear friend is by definition gezellig, as is having drinks with friends, unless things end in a bad argument, at which point the event becomes ongezellig.
Sitting in front of a fire is gezellig. Central heating is not so gezellig.
A friend invites you to a party; you respond with: “Gezellig!” in anticipation of the fact that it will be.
Gezellig can also be very individual. For one person Christmas shopping can be the apotheosis of gezellig, while it’s another’s worst nightmare.
Gezellig can also apply to people, usually implying that they make conversation well, are jolly and have an easy laugh–in short, that they’re fun.
As you say goodbye in the hallway after an evening of visiting friends, you say “Thanks, it was gezellig!”
As long as it’s gezellig, everything’s good.