Get outside for a little uitwaaien

Published: February 25, 2021

Photo by Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

The Dutch love the feel of wind on their skin so much they have a word for it: uitwaaien (pronounced, roughly, out-vy-en). It roughly translates to “outblowing,” but it’s better understood as “walking with the wind.

Where did uitwaaien come from?

Going for a walk while it’s windy out might not sound groundbreaking. But uitwaaien, as a state of mind, has been popular in the Netherlands for over a century. Caitlin Meyer, a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam’s linguistics department, says it’s “something you do to clear your mind and feel refreshed—out with the bad air, in with the good.”

Fresh air being “good” has a long history: back in the 1800s, tuberculosis patients were often sent to countryside sanatoriums to convalesce, with the idea that fresh air would help their lungs.  

These days, scientific studies have shown that spending time outdoors, even for only a few minutes, can improve your wellbeing, help combat depression, or even increase anti-cancer protein production

Bringing uitwaaien into your week

Like the Norweigan concept of friluftsliv, uitwaaien is about embracing the outdoors even in less-than-perfect weather. But the Netherlands are flat and mostly close to the shore, so think less snowsports and more seafront. Walking, cycling, or any kind of moving around outside — even in a town or city — can all have a positive effect on your mood and give you a chance to feel the wind on your face. 

If you want to implement more uitwaaien in your daily life, it’s as simple as looking for ways you can spend a bit more time outdoors. Many of us are still working from home, so actively scheduling time to get up and move around can help break up the routine of sitting at our desks all day.

Getting off the bus a stop earlier or parking your car further from your destination and enjoying the walk can be uitwaaien. Walking around the block at lunchtime can be uitwaaien. Just take time to focus on the feel of the wind on your skin.

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