5 ways gemütlichkeit could help us find more unhurried happiness in our lives.

It's time to take this cozy, unhurried social acceptance vibe seriously.

Sometimes you can learn a lot from a word whose meaning you can never truly know. Gemütlichkeit is one such word.

Why does a word matter so much? Well, this is one of those words that encompasses the perfect mix of feelings we all want — and need — to experience. (More on that in a minute.)


I first heard of gemütlichkeit when I was visiting a friend in Austria. It's pronounced in the neighborhood of "geh-mioot-lee-kite" — and you can listen to a native speaker pronounce it if you really wanna get serious.

It's kind of undefinable.

Merriam-Webster describes it as "friendliness and cordiality."

But it's more than that.

German blogger Constanze describes it: "A soft chair in a coffee shop might be considered 'cosy'. But sit in that chair surrounded by close friends and a hot cup of tea, while soft music plays in the background, and that sort of scene is what you'd call gemütlich."

My favorite attempt at a definition is one floating online from definitions.net:

While I was visiting my pal in Austria, I had her point out each time gemütlichkeit was happening.

I realized, I've been feeling gemütlichkeit my whole life, but I'd been taking it for granted. Because ... no word!


Me (on the right) having a VERY gemütlichkeit moment on the banks of the Mississippi River at a Blues Festival. Gemütlichkeit is all around us!

Gemütlichkeit is a very specific vibe. Like the difference between a house and a home, like drinking cider and singing songs with friends around a fireplace while it snows, like a chill beer garden on a sunny afternoon.

"... a situation that induces a cheerful mood, peace of mind, with connotation of belonging and social acceptance, coziness and unhurry. "

Now I had the word, gemütlichkeit, and with it, great power ... to take cozy, unhurried social acceptance seriously.

Here are five ways you can, too!

There are real, valid, and applicable reasons that it's so awesome to discover gemütlichkeit in your life (and not just because it's a fun word).

1. Social isolation is a real thing.

Loneliness is real. And it's a bummer! Gemütlichkeit is about cultivating environments where people can get closer to each other, in person! With modern life and modern technology bringing us further and further from each other in real life...

Social isolation cat needs a pet. And some human contact! Image by Justin Dolske/Flickr.

...being kinda intentional about in-person closeness and social acceptance is a good thing.

And, according to Sherry Turkel, author of "Alone Together," a book about technology, modern life, and isolation, "We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves."

So by being in a place of social acceptance and cozy, cozy friendship, we're actually building skills to be better to ourselves. Neat, huh?

2. By naming this vibe, we can cultivate it!

This is perhaps the most simple, but the most profound. Not all who wander are lost, but it helps to know the name of what you're looking for if you're looking for it.

Gemütlichkeit doesn't just happen — you can make it happen!

Does a body (and soul) good. Image by jeffreyw/Flickr.

It's like when you finally figure out the best ingredients for a certain soup. Yeah, you could probably make the soup again without knowing that and if you kinda tried, but knowing and naming those ingredients means you're owning it! You can recreate the soup!

3. Instead of singing about "The Bare Necessities" in the German translation of "The Jungle Book," Baloo the bear sang about gemütlichkeit.

Here's a quick review of the bare necessities, aka mother natures recipes ... i.e., Baloo the bear knew about gemütlichkeit all along!

Disney. You are deep!

I'm not going to go into an academic comparison of the two languages as it pertains to "The Jungle Book" song lyrics. But I am going to think it's cool how much "The Bare Necessities" actually captures the cozy, neighborly, humanness of a hug vibe that IS gemütlichkeit.

A gemütliHUG from Baloo and Mowgli. <3 GIF from Disney's "The Jungle Book."

4. You can't get gemütlichkeit in a drive-thru or a quick checkout line.

One of the things I like most about the concept of gemütlichkeit is its emphasis on being unhurried. According to a Pew Research study in 2006, nearly a quarter of Americans feel rushed. Not a good feeling.

There's no such thing as hurried, drive-thru gemütlichkeit.


Image by Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr (altered).

You can't get it in a hurry.

You can get it after an unhurried marathon hangout sesh with your best buds for hours, though. Maybe you also sing the gemütlichkeit drinking song. Maybe you don't.

GIF via Silvia Albert/YouTube

But you can't rush gemütlichkeit. Does this mean that a quarter of Americans don't get to feel the cozy, unhurried social acceptance that is gemütlichkeit? Maybe.

Maybe they like feeling rushed and that they don't have enough time in the day. But on the off-chance that they don't, it's nice to know that the everyday, rushed person can seek to cultivate some more gemütlichkeit in their lives and maybe feel a little better.

5. Other countries also have a word for it! (So it must be good.)

Hygge is basically Danish gemütlichkeit, and gemytlig in Swedish has a similar meaning as well.

This is the first thing that came up when I searched for gemytlig. Cosy, friendship, drinks, unhurried, chill vibes. Looks about right. Image by Patrik Neckman/Flickr.

There's even an Ikea moose named gemytlig. And a city in Wisconsin has a three-day festival each year called Gemütlichkeit Days to celebrate German culture.

Cool word, huh?

It's not easy to be a modern person — there are so many things that separate us ... both exciting things (opportunity! random hot air balloons!) and obnoxious things (emails! people who take three hours to text you back!).

I'm sharing this little tale of a meaningful, untranslatable word in the hopes that knowing about this kooky word gives someone the excuse to reach out to someone else and feel a little less alone and a little more close.

We all need that.

Happy gemütlichkeit-ing!

More
True
Airbnb

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture