When I was teaching French in Czech Republic, one of the things I really struggled to explain to my students were idioms. Simply because there was not always a similar one in their language, and, what seemed obvious to me was not to them. So, when I learn a phrase or idiom in a foreign language, I want to know everything. What is the literal translation? What is the best way to say it in my language? What does it mean? What is its origin? After my article on untranslatable words, we asked ourselves, why not do the same thing with phrase and idioms?
So, just for you, I’ve looked up ten idioms related to travelling around the world. That way, you will have no problem being the center of attention when you will use them during your travels. My pleasure.
1) Makati ang paa
Maybe are you more acquainted with the English version of it: To have itchy feet. Makati ang paa is a phrase that comes straight from the Philippines, and refers to the need to go away. Sometimes enough to make you hop around because you just can’t wait to go on an adventure and see the world. Don’t you ever do that? No? Oh, okay. Well, maybe I’m just the weird one. Or the embodiment on the Makati ang paa.
Yes, right, right, this isn’t really an idiom, Fernweh would have been more suited for our article about untranslatable words. So why do I still put it here? Because we are still in the definition of what an idiom is. Kinda. And because it is my article and I can do what I want.
Fernweh, a German word from the 16th Century, was invented by the writer Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, who was also a great traveller. Contrary to Heimweh, that is being homesick, Fernweh means “the need to go far away”. Now this is what Leeve is all about! Immer ein wenig Fernweh im Blick.
3) żyć na walizkach
There is an English equivalent for this one too: To live out of your luggage. An idiom that will probably speak volumes to backpackers, since it’s about living in a place, whether temporarily or permanently, with only the belongings of your luggage.
4) Ехать зайцем (Yekhat' zaytsem)
Imagine, you’re going on a train, but you didn’t buy any ticket. You are waiting, in a seat, praying in a corner of the wagon not to have your ticket inspected, shaking like a hare. This is more or less what the phrase Ехать зайцем means. Riding as a hare. Or, as one says in proper English, defrauding and being jittery to get caught.
5) A vol d’oiseau
I’ve always found this phrase cute. Not very useful, but cute. Calculating distances à vol d’oiseau, meaning in a straight line, without taking deviations into account, well, I’ll leave that to optimistic people. I mean, yeah, it’s nice and fun to know that this or that place is one hour away à vol d’oiseau Michel, but it’s not going to take that three-hour walk using small paths to reach this place away.
6) 四海为家 (sì hǎi wéi jiā)
How about a little Chinese lesson! Literally, 四 is the character for the number 4, 海 means sea, or ocean, 为 can mean to be like, or to act like, and 家 means home. When put together, to feel at home wherever you are in the world. It can also mean to live like a hobo, but in that case, there is a bad connotation to the phrase.
I think this is my favourite phrase in this list. Katzensprung also comes from Germany (yes, I like German, it really is a beautiful language when you take the time to study it), and means “at a cat’s jump length”, to refer to a short distance. Hey Marie, do you know where the bakery is? Why of course Michel, come on I’ll show you, it is just a Katzensprung away! So? Isn’t it the cutest phrase?
I dare you to say it’s not the cutest.
8) 天涯海角 (tiān yá hǎi jiǎo)
A phrase once again coming from China (Ah, I have to say, they do have some nice idioms) which means more or less literally the edge of heaven and the corner of the sea, to talk about a place faaar far away. It’s also a beautiful way to refer to a great distance between two people.
9) Český turista
Okay, it really isn’t the nicest one of my article - far from it - but I thought it would be interesting to show that some phrases can take their origin in Modern History. Indeed, Český turista is a Slovak phrase, and was therefore created after the separation of Czechoslovakia. It refers to someone who is more used to an urban lifestyle, so not quite suited for a rural lifestyle, or someone who is under-equipped to navigate their environment. If I were a bad mouth, I’d use the opportunity to say that in Brittany, we call them Parisians. But I am a nice person, so I’m not going to say it. No, no, don’t thank me, it’s only natural.
10) Avoir le mal du pays
Come on, one last French phrase for the road. Avoir le mal du pays is the perfect opposite of Fernweh, which we have discovered earlier. Of course, This notion can be found in many languages. Das Heimweh, to be homesick… Some people will never feel it, others are suffering so much from it that their only cure is to move back to their home country.
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