Every well-adjusted international knows that gezellig is at the core of Dutch society. But while gezellig has been claiming the spotlight for decades, another quintessentially Dutch word has gone completely unnoticed, despite the fact that it is one of the foundations that Dutch society was built on. The word I am talking about is Burgerlijk.
Burgerlijk literally translates to civil, but this really does not reflect the true meaning of the word. Burgerlijk is having a nine to five office job, having dinner with the in-laws at Christmas, buying a suburban home to live in with your dog and your two children, where you and your neighbors can put sausages on a barbecue while your wives drink rosé and gossip. Burgerlijk is avoiding the outrageous and conforming to what is expected. It is Calvinist to the core, just like our beautiful little country. Still, Burgerlijk is mostly considered boring. It is every bit of mainstream that our millennial generation seems to despise.
But why? You see, I too was once a hater of Burgerlijk. I wanted to be different, travel the world, and definitely not have a nine to five office job. But then I grew older, and I found out that you do need money to travel. It turns out jobs are quite a good way to receive such money. And when you want to work on something together with other people, it’s actually not such a terrible idea to work from the same place, with all your desks and computers in the same building. And as it turns out, it’s quite nice to leave at five and be able to dedicate the rest of the evening to your personal life. And actually, owning property is a great investment and dogs are amazing.
Of course, we all want to be special and do things differently. But if the majority of the people are doing something, doesn’t that just mean that it’s probably quite a good choice, rather than a boring one? Why despise being Burgerlijk? There’s no shame in walking the path that everyone has walked.
I say, let’s embrace the Burgerlijk! Complain about taxes, mortgages and the weather. Go to bed at a responsible time. Walk out of the office at five with pride. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and simply live your best Burgerlijk life in 2019.