15 local phrases from around the world

Last modified on February 19th, 2015 at 9:40 am

January 29, 2015

As the world gets smaller and more of us catch the travel bug, communication is the key to many of our lives – yet language is a funny thing.

We asked you to tell us your little local phrases, expressions of sentiment, weird sayings and favourite foreign idioms to give us a unique insight into the world’s cultures – and show us just how bizarre language can be.

  1. “wie eine Made im Speck leben”

In German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live a life of luxury.” This has become a completely natural phrase in the German language, but it paints a strange picture when you think about it.

  1. “I’ll have a wee cup of coffee. My Glasgow accent has greatly softened, but I do refer still to things being ‘wee‘, instead of little or small.”Graeme Taylor, USA/ Scotland
  1. “Qué padre!” As an expression to something cool or to express you like something, we use it in Mexico the same way some say “those shoes are cool” or “that hostel is great” Sofia Garcia Torrentera, Mexico


  1. “In Southern USA, ‘Bless your heart!’ (not meant as a compliment, depending on context.)” - David Matheny, USA



  1. “I say eh A LOT… And so do many of my Canadian friends.”Brittany Lyons, Canada


  1. “ ‘Ziveli!’ (Z is pronounced like J in French) – it means cheers! And in Serbia we have really pretty women so just say ‘mnogo si lepa’, we love compliments, and it means ‘you are really beautiful’”Milena Zivkovic, Serbia


  1. “Pescadero/Santa Cruz, California: you will be referred to as ‘dude’, if you are a man or a woman. And ‘gnarly’ is used synonymously to describe either something good/impressive or bad/unreasonable.”Keith Dilliplane, USA


  1. “‘What’s the craic?’ in Ireland meaning ‘what’s up?’ or ‘what’s the news?’”Melanie Lane, Ireland
Paul Zizka Photography;

© Paul Zizka Photography


  1. “ ‘Good on ya, mate!”Tony Webster, Australia 


  1. “‘Me clavó el visto’, new phrase that came up after the “seen” feature on Whatsapp and Facebook messages. It’s when someone sees the message but doesn’t reply, in Argentina.” - Candela Glikin, Argentina



  1. “‘Ne pas être sorti de l’auberge’”Cécile, France

A relevant one for us, this French phrase literally translates as ‘to not be out of the hostel’, but is a commonly used saying for facing a complicated problem.

  1.  “Päästää sammakko suusta” – Finland

The Finnish say ‘letting a frog out of your mouth’ is synonymous with saying the wrong thing, along with many other nature inspired sayings.

  1. “Hygge” – Denmark

This Danish word, pronounced ‘hooga’ roughly translates to cosiness although it’s a concept quite difficult to pinpoint. It illuminates the Danish soul, and Christmas is the hygge high season.

  1. “Raining cats and dogs” – UK

There are many explanations surrounding this strange British saying for heavy rain: cats and dogs cuddling into thatch roofs and falling out, myths of wolves representing the wind and black witches’ cats as signs of a downpour, a derivative of the old English word catadupe meaning waterfall – but the true origins remain a mystery.

  1. “Pelillos a la mar” Brianda & Maria, Spain

An unusual Spanish turn of phrase translating to “little hairs to sea”, often used to cool down a heated discussion which seems to have no resolution.

Learnt a useful or weird turn of phrase recently whilst travelling? Tell us your stories below. 

2 Comments. Leave new

We have tried to explain the Danish word Hygge at Christmas time on our hostel blog from the oldest town in Denmark. See website link

Great article, and far more descriptive. Makes us feel cosy on a frosty morning, although I’m sure temperatures are lower over in Denmark! Thanks for sharing guys.

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