LearnDutchwith Us!

Start Learning

Dutch Language Blog

The Dutch Day of Wallowing! Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary

Yes, you read the title right. There is a Dutch day of wallowing or zwelgen! Read below to find out about this curious event.

What is zwelgen?

Photo taken by William Garrett found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

According to my trusted Prisma dictionary, zwelgen means the following:

gulzig en veel eten en drinken; zich te buiten gaan aan, genieten van; zich helemaal overgeven aan het hebben van medelijden met zichzelf (p. 742)

For the day of zwelgavond and for this post, we will focus on the last definition which basically means to completely surrender to having pity for oneself.  In other words, zwelgen is similar to wallowing, maybe even a bit of self-loathing. You might be feeling verdrietig (sadness) or have a lot of angst (anxiety) and a moment of zwelgen means you just let yourself feel that.


The idea of a zwelgavond came about after several experiences. The Dutch TV presenter and program creator Tim den Besten came up with the idea of a zwelgplek to balance the incessant pushing of the perfect life image on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. On a daytime TV talk show, Tim pointed out that we do this even when someone asks us the simple question hoe gaat het met jou? People quickly answer goed, fijn, gezellig, lekker, etc. and it isn’t socially acceptable to say ik voel slectk, kut, etc. 

Thus the idea of a zwelgplek came about. VPRO Zwelgplek is an online platform where the collective feeling of unhappiness is facilitated. When you visit the website, you can choose the mood you are in such as melancholie, huilen (to cry), ik haat alles, kutsituaties (shitty situations), etc. and then you are provided with videos, poems, book reviews, songs and more related to your mood. It is a self-help platform turned upside down.


The national zwelgavond was inspired by the zwelgplek, and was hosted by the Dutch TV channel VPRO (same ones who run the online platform). The evening was filled with interviews with people who have had it bad, artists will wallow in their art, speeches, and more. Filosoof  (philosopher) and psychiater (psychiatrist) Damiaan Deny was also at the show explaining what zwelgen is and what the benefits of letting yourself wallow are. Tim also talked about getting rid of this habit of telling people we are okay. Next time someone asks you hoe gaat het you can just answer by saying mwah! You can follow #mwahtoo to find out more.

You can watch the full show below.

Satire, Dutch humor or the real deal?

After watching the show, I was confused by the purpose. At times it seemed like satire while in other moments, not exactly. While the show was supposed to be about feeling bad, the conductor seemed extra happy. There were some suggestions as to what to do while wallowing, from listening to music to visiting art exhibitions, and the cabaretier (stand up comedian) Stefano Keizers talked about excessive zwelgen. 

At the end of the day, pretending everything is perfect is as silly as having an evening to wallow in our misery. Life cannot be all positive or all negative. We are a mix of both. Perhaps we should just enjoy the mood we are in, understand it for what it is and know that nothing (positive and negative) is forever.

Is zwelgen a thing in your culture? Do you have different words for it?

Tags: , , , ,
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Joseph T Madawela:

    wht aa great idea!

  2. Marcia:

    Hey! I know this isn’t the original post (but I was unable to comment on your baking post) and i was wondering which store it was where you got to find the shortening? (I know it’s a particular bakery store but I’ll need it in some
    months where I’ll go to Amsterdam) Thank you for your reply in advance!

    • Karoly Molina:

      @Marcia Hi Marcia! I’ve heard Jumbo regularly has it. I bought it at a local shop in the town of Geleen in Limburg called Taarten Shop. There are two online Mexican goods stores in the Netherlands that also have it and ship it right away. One is called Deli Mexico and the other Mexicaanse Winkel. Good luck! -K