Book Review: Niksen, Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing

January 09, 2021 By Mary Petiet 0 Comments

Olga Mecking came to live in the Netherlands as an adult and was so delighted to discover the practice of ‘niksen’ (doing nothing) she wrote a book about it. With lockdowns here in the Netherlands practically pushing us into a forced stillness, there's no better time to learn about the great upside of doing nothing - Niksen.

Imagine sitting cozily on your favorite couch. Maybe the sun is pouring through the window, or you’re wrapped in a soft blanket. It’s quiet, and you’re daydreaming.

This is Niksen, the Dutch art of doing nothing.

In her new book, Niksen, Olga Mecking introduces the world to Niksen, the trend she discovered while living in the Netherlands. The Dutch work hard and play hard with a great work/life balance, and while they tend to be very busy, Mecking found they also take time to sit still, to niks quietly amid the busy routine to balance activity with moments of stillness.

In Niksen, Mecking shares the practice with the rest of the world and shows us how it’s done.

Anyone interested in the Netherlands will enjoy Mecking’s descriptions of life there, and residents will recognize the territory she covers. From work/life ratios to childcare to daily life in a small busy country, Mecking, who has lived in the Netherlands for 10 years, introduces the reader to the custom of Niksen, which is so ingrained in Dutch life she writes it may have actually taken an outsider to recognize it.

This is not a self-help book, rather it describes a way to slow things down, if just for a moment a day, so you can recharge and return refreshed.

In Niksen, Mecking outlines how to find stillness, where to find stillness, and describes its benefits. While she recognizes Niksen may not work for everyone, or be appropriate for all life stages, she also imagines a society built upon it, a Nikstopia: ‘We can’t meditate the climate crisis off the planet, we can’t hygge our-selves in our homes away while minorities down the street feel threatened. But we can niks for a while, and allow ourselves and our brains, rejuvenated and recharged, to come up with smarter solutions. And then we can get to work.’

Niksen can be ordered online from several vendors including Bruna, Bol, and Amazon.

Amsterdam Mamas received a free copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.

Mary Petiet, Amsterdam Mama contributor, is a poet and freelance writer and author most recently of Owl Magic: Your Guide Through Challenging Times and Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems. In 2020, she founded Sea Crow Press, a small independent imprint curating creative nonfiction and poetry to give her titles a home.


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