Ever said “fanny pack” around someone from the UK? Chances are you were met with chortles or surprise. Language is one of the most significant divisions between cultures around the world. Actual communication is so much more than just memorizing words out of a dictionary. It involves tone, body language, facial expression, and slang.
If you’re trying to immerse yourself in a new culture, knowing the slang is essential. Knowing slang is necessary even in your native culture–it signals that you’re in-the-know, hip, cool. But keeping up with slang sometimes means accepting some bizarre premises.
Slang Phrases From Around the World
When you’re really busy, you’re flat out like a lizard drinking. If you believe in the gospel of Crocodile Dundee, then it’s a turn of phrase that’ll make you seem cool wherever you go. Also, how weird were the 80s that Australians were a cultural phenomenon?
“Fall down seven times, get up eight times,” is a Japanese proverb that encourages perseverance over failure. Although it allows for the possibility of giving up after the eighth time you get knocked down.
Spanish slang for being a pest, annoying, or talking a lot with no one talking to you.
In Mongolia, people say more than God Bless You when someone sneezes. The idiom includes the phrase “and may your mustache grow like brushwood,” which is a whole other level of blessing.
The French are known for not being very kind or understanding to tourists who stumble over the language, and phrases like these might be why. Roughly translated, “to speak French like a Spanish cow.” Unkind to people who struggle with the accent and Spanish cows.
In Germany, if you see someone who’s had too much during Oktoberfest, you might say they’re dicht. It literally means tight but is used to say someone is drunk, high, or super tired.
The cultural differences in this turn of phrase show in more ways than just language. Literal translation; a raisin in the sausage. A nightmare! Anyone who’s mistaken oatmeal raisin cookies for chocolate chip knows that. But in Norway, where the phrase originates, it means a pleasant surprise.
Since quarantine, we’ve all been in a state of permanent fredagsmys. It’s a compound word from Sweden, combining Friday and cozy. It’s a way to describe your plan if you’re opting for sweatpants and Netflix instead of going out.
Instead of saying bro, broseph, or bro-ham, borrow this Italian turn of phrase. It means monk, which is another way of saying, brother.
Everything is more charming in Canada, including the beer belly. Instead, they call their plump stomachs “Molson muscle” after the popular Canadian brew, Molson.