Funny, Travel-Related Phrases Around the World, Written by Locals

More Travel Quotes? No, thank you!

How come to write a post for funny, travel related sayings, phrases and idioms from all over the world? Ok, I have to admit it! I am a bit fed up with the (common) travel quotes… how many times do we have to read “not all those who wander are lost” and “Quit your job, buy a ticket, get a tan, fall in love, blah blah blah,  never return” ? Or even worst “home is where your heart/passport/backpack/ whatever is”, “it is not the destination but the journey that matters” etc etc ! In fact these phrases are indeed beautiful and they can be (=used to be!) inspiring and meaningful but they have been overused by travel bloggers, websites, magazines, travel agencies etc. so much so that they have turned into boring… *eye-rolling*

kastoria lake
“No one realises how beautiful it’s to travel until HE comes home & rests HIS head on HIS old pillow” – L.Yutang
One more reason of being tired of such quotes, just FEW of them refer to women or just to HUMAN BEINGS! It seems that, as women, we don’t travel a lot *sarcasm*

On the other hand, it is such a shame to be able to find everywhere online (and eventually learn!) all of those quotes and at the same time to not even consider to learn some phrases of the local language before/ while travelling there… Who can blame us? In the era of “Google Translate” and the hundreds translation apps available online we don’t have to bother as much as we did in the past to learn the basics. We don’t need to. I am sad to acknowledge that I have been guilty of this in few of my trips as I was relied too much on English/ Google that I skipped the local language (in the Philippines for example, sorry my friends).

malta shoes
The same happens with the Maltese language as the expats talk in English (understandably in some extend of course!) and forget completely that there is one more language in here! An abandoned shoes workshop in Valletta, Malta

However, making the effort to learn and speak even few words is highly appreciated by locals and it can make a huge difference to your trip. Especially in a country with a lesser-known language the people can be really fascinated by that! I wont forget the Tanzanian faces when I was trying to pronounce words in Swahili! But, here we are! I asked from friends, fellow travel writers and travel lovers to send me some funny, travel-related phrases or idiomatic expressions from their countries so if we want to go the extra mile before the next trip we can… impress -or entertain!- the locals even more! Cant wait to try them out!

Algarve Shells
Me, looking for  travel phrases seashells!

Disclaimer: This is one of the posts I have enjoyed the most so far! No SEO, no keywords, no DA thoughts or Moz etc… I know that the fellow writes/ bloggers will be related to this feeling! Since I had fun writing this post I couldn’t but add some… comments next to each phrase; you will find them in [] ! Enjoy!

Countries Alphabetically 

Algeria by my friend Ahmed :  اللي موالف بلحفا , ينسى صباطو = someone who is used to walk barefoot, forgets their shoes ! We use it when someone is used to do something but then starts doing something new/different and gets lost! When you have a habit…it is hard to change it! [ of course we had to start with some shoes! ]

Australia ( 2 phrases) by Chantelle : Out woop woop = a long way away
Carrying on like a pork chop (!!) = a person who is acting silly
[ I am definitely borrowing the last one! Thanks Aussies! ]

Belgium (French part) by my friend Charlotte : “Mon oeil en parachute” it means something like “My my parachute eye” but we use it as “I don’t believe you”! [ that’s tough guys! ]

Belgium (Flemish part) by Sarah : “Leven als God in Frankrijk” = “Living like God in France” which means living a carefree, fabulous life. [ Wow, I want to know the French opinion of that! ]

Belgium Bruges
A tricolour tree living like God in Bruges!

Canada by Alyssa : “just gonna send it” ! This is usually in reference to doing something a little adventurous. For example, could be used cliff jumping into a lake, or skiing/snowboarding. It’s when you’re with your friends/buddies and you come to a jump or a cliff that you want to hit. You usually pause and then when you’re ready to go for it, you say “yeah, I’m just gonna send it!” [ I am adopting it, I need some courage from time to time!

China by Katie : “喝温水” literally means drink warm water. In China, drinking cold water is dangerous and you will very rarely find bottled water inside a fridge. The Chinese deeply believe that warm water fixes and helps with most things – any aches and pains, warm water will heal you. A colleague of mine found out she was pregnant; warm water is all she will drink. When the pollution is bad; warm water will help you breath apparently… [ when in China I was surprised of the fact that you could find boiled water EVERYWHERE, so this explains a lot!!

Funny Travel sayings around the World by locals
Love China no matter what though!

Colombia by Geena :  “No des Papaya” aka “not to give someone papaya”!!
The phrase actually means “don’t make yourself a target” or don’t set yourself up to be taken advantage of. It is often used when referring to wearing flashy clothing, using your phone in sketchy places and other instances that theft could be a problem. No Des Papaya–don’t draw attention to yourself!!
[ I found this such an interesting phrase! Even if you talk no Spanish at all you can easily say that and make locals laugh at you! I want to give it a try actually! ]

England (Midlands) by Melissa : I’m originally from Nottingham, but they are used all across the Nottingham, Derby, Leicester area. If you go outside of the Midlands and you use them though, people will think you’re strange and have no idea what you’re talking about!
“It’s getting a bit dark over Bill’s mother’s”
It’s looking a bit cloudy over there! Who is Bill’s mother? Nobody knows! However this has become the “local” way to tell people it looks like it’s going to rain.
“I’ll have your guts for garters!”
Okay this is kind of grim, because the LITERAL meaning is that the person is so angry at you that they are going to use your guts as garters/underwear, eww right? The expression is just used though when someone is angry, often jokingly. This is mostly used by older English people.
People add “like one-oh” to the ends of things to imply that someone was doing something really fast or like a crazy person. For example “He was running like one-oh” or “she was typing like one-oh”. Nobody actually knows what one-oh means though!

Bournemouth sculptures
Not in the Midlands but in Bournemouth it’s getting a bit dark over Bill’s mother!

Fiji (English) by Chantae : [ As Fiji country has 3 official languages (Fijian, English and Fijian Hindi) I managed to gather phrases from the first two! If you know any phrase in Fijian Hindi please comment below!!
“A little in front”
This is a very common phrase said when a destination is still up the road. While it’s intended to be used when you’re close to the place that you’re going, most people use it no matter the distance. For example, your taxi driver might ask, “Is it still in front?” “Yes, a little in front.”
[ Ok, I am very curious to learn if they have an…official metric system for measuring the “front” ! We have an almost identical phrase in Greek too! ]

Fiji (Fijian) by Alli : “sega na leqa”
This means “no worry, no hurry” and is vital to realise it so you can enjoy yourself while dealing with Fiji time! It is pronounced “senga na lenga” and it is basically the Fijian version of “hakuna matata”. For tourists and expats, it’s like a mantra that you can repeat to yourself over and over while trying to get used to Fiji time – things really do move slower here!
[ Wow, this is a country I would love to visit just for that! ]

France by my friend Mathilde :  “Il pleut comme vache qui pisse” aka it’s raining like a cow that is peeing ! We obviously use it when it rains A LOT! [ hahahaahha! ]

Funny Travel sayings around the World by locals
This is what happened to my face when I heard this saying! (Toulouse, 2017)

Hawaii by  Sarah : “it broke da mouth!”
This one comes from Hawaii’s local dialect called “Pidgin”. The phrase is used when people eat something and it tastes SO SO good !
[ Ok, I will use it in front of a British person in some point to… cut reactions (= Greek slag which means I am behaving in a provocative way just to see how the other person will respond to my behaviour!)  See what I did here?! ]

India ( two phrases) by Sapna : “Ek red light ko deak ke sharad log naa ruke but ek Kali billi agar sadak par kar jaye toh 100 log ruk jaye ge” means literally ” A Black cat passing by the crossroad can stop 100 people. What a red light signal failed to do on the road” !
[Wow,  this “black-cat bad-luck” assumption exists in India too!]
Also there  is another one, mostly written behind the trucks and quite popular : “Dheere chalo ge toh baar baar mile ge, nahi to Haridwar mile ge”which means ” Go slow, we meet again, go fast, you’ll meet Haridwar!” aka you’ll be off to Heaven cause people immerse the ashes of dead in Ganga river in Haridwar!
[ That’s such an interesting and clever warning! ]

India by Priyanka : लौट के बुद्धु घर को आये means the idiot finally came home. It signifies that you travel around and then you finally go home. The idiot doesn’t mean an idiot. It is more like no matter how much you go around you come home! [ THIS IS SO FUNNY! I am wondering how I would react if my family would greet me with this phrase next time I return home! Well, to be frank my sisters and me are calling each other idiot all the time, does it count?! ]

Israel by Or : סוף הדרך ( pronunciation : Sof Haderech) When we say that something is ‘the end of the road’ it means that it’s really good. For example: this pasta is the end of the road!
[ Super useful when in Israel to show appreciation to the locals! This phrase is indeed at the end of the road!! ]

Jordan by my friend Basel [who runs this amazing co-working space/ design space in Amman]:    الباب اللي يجيك منه الريح سده واستريح : means you should close the door that causes you trouble so you can enjoy peace of mind! [wise people, fantastic country !]

Malaysia by Teja: “Seperti katak di bawah tempurung”
It literally means: “Like a frog under a coconut shell”. It’s a saying referring (in a negative way) to people whose worldviews are small due to lack of exposure to the outside world!
[ Love that one and as this issue is a super common problem in Greece too I will try to “bring” it in the Greek language! But, since we have no… coconuts in here, I might change the coconut to an “olive tree”! ]

Langkawi hostel Malaysia
Wouldn’t mind to stay in Langkawi island even if I would have been in danger to… turn into a frog!

Malta by the book Il-Qawl lqul (authors J.S. Manduca and G. Mifsud) : il-frawla saret u x-xebba ħmaret = “The strawberry got ripe and the young girl red”. The young girl who picked strawberries got sunburned which reflects her readiness to get married as the strawberries are ready too!  [ It is not a surprise that Malta holds a lovely Strawberry Festival! ]

Morocco by my friend Amine :  جمع راسك و زير السمطة ( Jma rassek o zayar samta) The exact translation is “put your head in one piece and tie up your belt” but it actual means be wise and careful and/or don’t waste your money on random stuff! [ I think I will keep this as an advice haha! ]

Netherlands by my friend Inge :  “laat je niet kisten” literally translates to: don’t let yourself be put in a chest (or a coven)! In fact, it’s both to tell the person to be brave even if the world seems out to get you and wants to make you feel small, but also to tell the person to be safe! [ Of course! We don’t let ourselves be put in a chest!? ]

tulip fields holland
Some tulips are all you need in the Netherlands to feel better!

Poland by Aga : “ubrał się jak szczur na otwarcie kanału” it is an idiomatic phrase when someone is wearing too fancy clothes for the occasion/travelling ! Translated directly it means “dress like a rat for the grand opening of the canals!” [ I actually visualised a well-dressed and well-groomed rat attending a ceremony ?? ]

Romania (2… walking phrases) by Corina : “A umbla cu cioara vopsita” = Walking with the painted crow but it actually means… lying!
“A umbla creanga” it is translated as “to walk the branch” and it means to wander! [ OK, so officially I walk the branch! So cool! ]

Russia by Yulia : Не разевай рот = it translates as don’t keep your mouth wide open but it means pay attention, don’t be distracted (or you’ll be fooled). We usually say it when a person looks at something, like a tourist attraction, with eyes wide open and forgets about everything around, making her/ him an easy target for scammers!

Russia first out of earth
How to keep… the mouth shut when you see the space museum in Moscow?!

Samoa (American) by Meredith : [ Not exactly a phrase but this is hilarious and it might help fellow travellers to understand what is going on here! ]
Groups of people are often on the side of the road advertising “Car Wash”. The act of washing a car has been forgotten through translation as the groups are now just looking for donations! They are a weekly occurrence along island roads! [ Understood. But my question is… if I decide to leave a donation will I have my car washed too? ]

Saudi Arabia by my friend Hussain : من طول الغيبات ; جاب الغنايم = One who takes a long absence brings spoils! It is used when someone goes away for a long time, then coming back and the people there hope or expect something “extra” from him or her. [ Wow, this describes perfectly my dad who was working for months abroad as everyone was expecting gifts from him ! ]

Scotland (3 phrases) by Sarah : Haud yer wheesht! =Shhh, be quiet!
Gonnae no dae that = please don’t do that!
Geez a wee swally = Give me a little drink
[ Ok, I got super confused here! My Scottish friends used to make fun of me as they had to speak slooower so I could catch them! These phrases can be very useful when travelling in Scotland but I don’t think anyone can mimic properly the Scottish accent! ]

shoes stone Scotland
My Shoes Abroad.. in Scotland, easiest for them to play around than myself trying to learn Scottish phrases!

South Africa by Mairee : Well, here if someone says they will do something  “now now” it means they will do it later. If they say “just now” they will also do it later but less urgently! If you’re going to do it now you just say NOW! Undoubtedly, travellers can find this confusing!
[ Haha yes! Love it though! Am I the only one who finds similarities between Fiji and South Africa here?? ]

Spain by my friend Belen : “En casa del herrero cuchara de palo” = in the blacksmith’s house wooden spoon! This idiomatic expression means that when someone, who is specialized in a thing, doesn’t bother to help themselves for the exact thing! For example when you visit a computer technician’s home just to find out that their computer doesn’t work! [ This is definitely the case with me and my shoes ! ]

Sweden by Liliane : “borta bra men hemma bäst” which translated means pretty much that there’s no place like home and is most often used to indicate how much you liked your trip but you’re glad to be home!
[
Maybe not the best to tell in a Swedish person when in Sweden but it might help to break some ice! ]

Malmo sweden river
No place like Malmo in Sweden

Taiwan by Cat : 井底之蛙” (Jingdizhiwa) : it literally translates to “like a frog at the bottom of a well”! It is used to describe a person with a limited outlook because, as a frog in a well, you can only see one patch of the sky. People also use the idiom on a person who is afraid to step out of his/her comfort zone and not willing to explore hundreds of millions of possibilities out there! [ this is SO amazing! One more thing to bring into the Greek language!! ]

Oh, I almost forgot the Greek one!
Greece : Παπούτσι από τον τόπο σου κ ας είναι κ μπαλωμένο aka it is better to choose a pair of shoes (=Significant Other) from your place/ country even if it has been “repaired” many times ! I strongly disagree with this phrase but I think it fits perfectly the bill for My Shoes Abroad !! Don’t follow it though!

Haven’t found your country here??!! We have to fix this! Please comment below/ email me so we can talk and I will add your contribution! Last but not least, do you want to read more “travel with friends” quotes ? This post has many inspiring ones!

idiomatic expressions by locals from all over the world

 

You like my post as much as my shoes? Sharing is caring!

12 Comments

  1. Mina

    I couldn’t agree more with you on the travel quotes… And here you have such a great selection of interesting phrases. When traveling I never do my homework on learning some phrases fro the country I’m going to visit, but ones I’m there I’m curious and always ask the locals.

  2. Meredith

    What a fun article! Definitely taking notes from this for my next trip or just.. for fun! Thank you for making the effort to gather and write about these idioms!
    Meredith

  3. Linda (LD Holland)

    I agree that learning a few phrases in the local language opens up people. This was such a fun read. I am not sure I will remember all of these but a few will stick with me. 
“Don’t make yourself a papaya” is a great reminder for all tourists. You do not want to be the target! Using “a little in front” reminds me of the Jamaican “soon come” (which usually is not really soon. A little like “now now” in South Africa. I had to share this post! Thanks.

  4. Emmy

    What a fun compilation! This is definitely more interesting than all the overused travel quotes out there. If I see one more “not all who wander are lost” quote, I might lose it lol!

  5. bhavya

    Hahaha!! that was funny. Haven’t read such an interesting post for a long time.
    I really enjoyed your captions. I know how it feels to write without having the keywords and seo jargons in mind 🙂

  6. Kalyan Panja

    I loved reading those idioms and sayings. These experiences are an integral part of the beauty of traveling to new destinations.. but I didn’t understand them all haha!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *