Words that build ideas: Gemütlichkeit

The words you learn in another language aren’t just words: some of them bring along new concepts since they don’t have an exact verbal representation in our mother tongue. That is: learning languages provides us with more ideas, more tools, more points of view for facing the world.

I borrowed one of these from German: Gemütlichkeit. Literally it means comfort, peacefulness, cosiness…. That is at least what was in the dictionary when I looked up the word. But fully understanding the abstract meaning took me longer.

-”Why do you Spanish people hide in the darkest place out at the back of a bar?”

Then I realised that Gemütlichkeit, that cozy mood, involves light in a great deal. That light we Spanish take for granted, so much that sometimes we stop appreciating and caring for it. It’s true that we don’t quit everything and run outdoors at fist sight of a ray of light brighting up the day and the mood because we hope that to happen frequently. But it’s also true that we lack of an interior lighting culture: most houses and businesses have inadequate lights that cause us to strain our sight and don’t create a warm and comfortable atmosphere.. Usually it’s just a mediocre power lightbulb as a hanging ceiling lamp, with a very artificial colour temperature. Or a fluorescent light. Germans combine different sorts of lights, lighting directly strategic places and indirectly some others that combine to create more or less brightness, as is required. They also maximize natural lighting in interiors. So they manage to achieve a “nest” feeling.

In Gemütlichkeit serenity is also important, a decoration pleasant to the eye and a decluttered environment. Spanish people, generally, consider more important “what’s going on” (i.e. Having a good chat and laughs with friends) than “where it is happening” (it can be the cheapest, sleaziest bar, they don’t care). But it’s true that where something happens can contribute to an encounter being more memorable and make time fly away quicker. To feel more inclined to do certain things for the enviroment is more inviting. And to the place becoming not just an undifferentiated background but also part of the memories.

And of course: for a place being a relaxing spot, there must not be an excessive noise, such as that we are used to talking over in Iberia.

Curiously, Gemütlichkeit derives from Gemüt: “Soul, mood, spirit, heart, gut, mind, nature”. All of it. A Gemütlich place it’s one that heals your soul.

What about you? Which ideas have you discovered through the words you have learnt in another language?

3 Responses to “Words that build ideas: Gemütlichkeit”

  1. So, like usual I go to Wikipedia to decipher the curious animal you’ve chosen us to focus on for the next six months…and this time I’m still confused.

  2. Angelika says:

    Como te entiendo, esta palabra describe exactamente lo que la mayoría de la gente buscamos con el ejemplo que nos has dado. Necesitamos desconectarnos en un lugar tranquilo, comodo, donde podemos pasar horas y horas charlando dejando de lado el estrés diario que llevamos acumulado.

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