Gemütlichkeit

Gemütlichkeit

[guh-myt-likh-kahyt]
is a German abstract noun that has been adopted into English. Its closest equivalent is the word "coziness"; however, rather than merely describing a place that is compact, well-heated and nicely furnished (a cosy room, a cosy flat), Gemütlichkeit connotes the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time.

Queen Victoria is said to have been one of the first to use the adjective gemütlich in English.

Recent usage

The word can be used in descriptions of holidays. The communal connotations of Gemütlichkeit are also emphasized in some uses of the term. For example, one academic described it as a tradition of "public festivity" (in the form of a "mixture of music, food, and drink"), which "promote[d] community solidarity." The Harlem Renaissance was then cited as of how a sense of Gemütlichkeit arises from a "mix of music, art and politics in service of community consciousness."

A more narrow use of Gemütlichkeit can be found in reference to the economic policy makers and analysts in the United States involved in influencing the decisions of the board of the Federal Reserve System. With respect to the "inflation dampening effects of globalization", a Georgia Southern University professor writes that interpreting certain U.S. economic trends could "spell an end of the Gemütlichkeit - a situation in which cheap labor and money abroad as well as ever-increasing productivity at home had permitted an uninterrupted spell of controlled growth in overall prices.

"Abandon all burden, ye who enter here."

The underlying concept is that social tensions and certain environments can cause stress, resulting in a feeling of alienation. Gemütlichkeit is an active way of preventing such negative influences by going to places and/or meeting with people that are regarded to be gemütlich. A gemütlich person again is one that takes part in this lifestyle and knows about the tensions he/she is able to cause, and thus tries to avoid these things actively. This way an agreement is established to make an "environmentally cosy" site (Heuriger, garden, cellar, backyard restaurant, living room...) "socially cosy".

One characteristic of a gemütlich situation is that one could blot out everything else (past, future, other places and absent people) and yet everything would be fine (an eternal "now and here"). Germans describe that as "leaving everything at the doorstep" (though a gemütlich place doesn't necessarily have to be inside a house).

Similar words in other languages

A similar word, gezelligheid (/ɣəzɛləɣhæɪt/), exists in Dutch. The Dutch gezelligheid however is always attached to a social situation (a gezellige person is somebody who likes to be among people and socializes well), whereas Gemütlichkeit can also be enjoyed alone.

There is also a Danish equivalent (hygge), which basically means the same.

In Russian, the word commonly translated as cosiness, уют [uˈjut], carries almost identical connotations as the German word.

In Czech, 'pohoda' means cozy, ease, tranquility and well-being. A group of people may have 'pohoda' together.

See also

References and footnotes

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