The Dutch Lifestyle Approach That Made It Onto “Ted Lasso”
You may not own a houseboat, but you can still cultivate "gezelligheid"
Spoilers ahead if you’re not caught up: In the most recent episode of Ted Lasso, the gang’s in Amsterdam for a friendly with Dutch behemoth Ajax. It doesn’t go well.
Facing a long evening to process the latest embarrassing loss, a beleaguered Ted gives the team and staff a reprieve — no curfew tonight. Do whatever you want, so long as you’re back on the team bus by 10 a.m. the next day.
Six subplots unfurl from there, including Ted pregaming an American-themed burger restaurant with psychedelic tea and Jamie and Roy doing their best impression of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. At the heart of the narrative, though, is Rebecca’s unlikely stay on an woonboot, or houseboat.
In an extremely self-aware meet-cute (this writers’ room has made it clear how much it loves romcoms before), Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) takes an unwelcome tumble off a foot bridge, and finds refuge with a similarly-aged Dutch divorcee, played by Matteo van der Grijn. His floating home has a surprisingly spacious open floor plan, a full bar and a dryer that evidently takes nearly three hours to get the canal out of Rebecca’s clothing.
This man isn’t given a name, though he might come back somewhere in the narrative. Whether he returns or not, though, there’s one word he repeated over and again which left its mark on the episode: gezellig.
What does it mean? The Amsterdam mystery man uses it as an adjective, punctuating moments with Rebecca to express how much he’s enjoying their chance evening together. Gezellig refers to a place or situation that is particularly friendly or enjoyable. The umbrella term — gezelligheid, a noun — represents a cozy sense of conviviality.
If this sounds sort of familiar to the Danish quality of hygge, that’s because it is. Many European cultures have not-so-easily-translated concepts that champion the sense of belonging: there’s gemütlichkeit (German), mys (Swedish), koselig (Norwegian), convivialité (French) and sobremesa (Spanish).
You wouldn’t exactly call gezelligheid a formal philosophy, although it permeates Dutch values, relationships and even interior design. (That might explain the man’s well-appointed houseboat.) It’s more about atmosphere, and creating places that feel warm, safe, welcoming, hopeful and nurturing. The sort of place people want to linger in…no matter how long it takes their clothes to dry.
Ultimately, Ted Lasso isn’t about soccer or London or bad puns; it’s a show about people being at their best when they’re surrounded and supported by other people. In recent episodes, though, many of those people have struggled to create (or find) supportive environments.
Ted feels further from Kansas than ever, Roy’s reminded of his relationship woes every time he comes to work, Rebecca can’t spend a day in London without one of that psychic’s freaky predictions coming true. These characters could all use a little gezelligheid.
As the team learns in its subplot — hours spent arguing over whether to attend a sex show or a DJ rave, before staging a legendary hotel pillow fight — there’s stability in staying in. Sometimes, you’ve got everything you need right in front of you. This episode (titled “Sunflowers,” after a painting in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, and the state flower of Kansas) concludes with a scene that’s about as gezellig as it gets: Ted, Roy, Rebecca and the whole rest of the cast, back on the bus at 10 a.m., singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”
Lasso haters tend to fixate on the show’s chummy, cheesy and corny core. Fair enough. It leans into it pretty hard. But the show always shows its work. That atmosphere on the bus was earned, and getting there was uncomfortable.
Over years of watching Ted Lasso, it’s increasingly clear that its writers have been crafting a roadmap: how to find your way back to life’s golden rule, regardless of how old you are, or lonely you may feel. Gezellig is the latest lily pad. You’re always just one fall into a river away from a warm fire.
Thanks for reading InsideHook. Sign up for our daily newsletter and be in the know.
Suggested for you