Some phrases can have different meanings depending on where you are, as people understand and interpret words in various ways depending on their culture or location. 

A netizen recently asked, “What phrase in a foreign country caught you off guard?”. The responses below were too interesting for you to miss!


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“One that admittedly confused me is ‘If my grandmother had wheels, she would’ve been a bike,’ or some variation. A lot of languages have their version of this phrase.”


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“Happily shocked that the Indonesian language has a word for ‘So cute I sorta want to squish it but not really’ (Gemas), two words for ‘See, I did tell you so’ (Nah kan?), and one word in Japanese for ‘You and this bad habit of yours!’ (Tuman!).”


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“In Canada, I’ve heard that, as well as the more ‘polite’ forms of ‘Screwing the pooch’ and more obliquely ‘making puppies.’

It confused me the first few times until it started to make sense from context. I still don’t know why it means what it means.”


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“Irish guy here; one of my friends got some odd looks when he moved to Canada and asked people if he could ‘Bum a fag’ translates to borrow a cigarette.”


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“English speakers hearing Hebrew as a new immigrant are always shocked to hear mothers telling their crying children to die! It takes a while to learn it means, ‘Enough,’ like, ‘Stop crying now, that’s enough.'”


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“In the United States, if someone says they ‘Need to see a man about a dog’ or ‘Drop the boys off at the pool,’ it means they need to poop. I’ve heard both from coworkers for the first time years ago, and was thinking, ‘You’re just gonna leave work mid-shift to do that?'”


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“My South African husband calls our mixed breed mutt dog a ‘Pavement special.'”


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“‘See you later’ means ‘See you someday’. 

In my country, albeit not English speaking natively (Philippines), this phrase means to see you later that same day, not tomorrow, not anytime in the future.

I was caught off guard when my manager would say see you later at the end of the workday; I thought they expected me to be back by evening.”


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“My ex-husband from Scotland was in front of my parent’s house (in the United States) and was petting and talking to my parents’ cat, saying ‘Puss Puss’ instead of Kitty Kitty.”


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“The Chinese have some great phrases. The one I love is ‘Never play a violin in front of a cow.'” 


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“I’ve been living in Korea for a long time, and it struck me how often the language phrases things negatively. 

For example, in Korean, you don’t say, ‘Did you see mom?’ you say, ‘You didn’t see mom?’

Also, you don’t say ‘I did something wrong;’ you say ‘I didn’t do something right.'” 


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“In Britain, they say ‘Knock up the neighbor,’ which means come calling (knock on their door). I told them in the United States. You might get in a lot of trouble if you knock up the neighbor (get them pregnant).” 


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“I’m a Russian speaker. A common phrase, ‘Let’s not decide without having all the necessary data,’ goes as ‘Let’s stop divvying up the pelt of a bear we’ve yet to capture.'”


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“In Thailand, they have a word ‘Farang’ which translates to ‘white person.’ But it’s more like black people saying ‘whitey’. They presume every single white person is super rich, and so there’s a very negative class connotation with being white in the country. 

Often, there will be a ‘Farang Menu’ for white people with significantly higher prices.” 


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“Not a foreign country. This is a southern phrase. ‘The devil’s beating his wife’ means that it’s raining while the sun is shining.”

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This article was originally published on Mrs. Daaku Studio.

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