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Kwakkelen: the ancient Dutch art of kind-of talking about your health

How the pragmatic Dutch ‘kwakkel’ their way through winter

Forget Hygge, say goodbye to päntsdrunk, and say hello to the latest lifestyle from Northern Europe: Kwakkelen. Not unlike other Dutch expressions like ‘gezellig’ or ‘naar de tyfus gaan’, kwakkelen resists translation. A description then: kwakkelen is a form of self-care in which you express mild concerns about your health. But for the pragmatic Dutch kwakkelen is much more than just a word. From October to March, it’s all they talk about.

We spoke to Marianne de Vries, a 32 year old resident of Utrecht, a picturesque Medieval town about 30 km South East of Amsterdam. She has been ‘kwakkeling’ since early December. “In the beginning I was a bit like: it will blow over. But then I got very sick. Very very sick. I sneezed all day, and also threw up quite a few times. Now it is a bit better but I cannot say it has all been over. My friend Jan has it as well. He is really aan het kwakkelen.”

Kwakkelen can mean you have the flu, it can mean you didn’t want to go to work that day or it can mean you are unwittingly developing cancer. “An import aspect of kwakkelen is that you don’t actually see a doctor”, explains Pepijn de Vries, a GP from Haarlem, a suburb of Amsterdam. “People may decide for themselves to go to the doctor if their ill health continues until Friday but in the end they decide to take a paracetamol and inform their co-workers that they are going to bed early tonight.”

So if you also want to talk about your health without really saying anything at all, start kwakkeling today!


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De Engelse Zieke, Rachitis, is een ernstige aandoening die te maken heeft met een tekort aan vitamine D.

Dit kan worden voorkomen door voldoende buitenlucht en blootstelling aan zonnestralen.
Veel binnenzitten bij een beeldscherm kan de kwaal verergeren. Indien de kwaal zich openbaart, kan deze worden gestopt. Eenmaal opgelopen fysieke en mentale schade is echter irreversibel.

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