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Languages & Cultural Blog

The Coolest Travel Idioms in the World

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Apart from being just downright fun, idioms are also a window into a language’s cultural origins and an amazing way of blending into a new place as a local.

What is an idiom? This is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements. In other, a bunch of words put together in an unusual way to mean something completely different!  

In the spirit of summer and all the upcoming vacations to be enjoyed, here is a list of some unique travel-themed idioms from languages around the world.

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One example is the English phrase: "It's raining cats and dogs."  If you hear this when you travel to the U.K, it means that it's raining really hard. Allegedly this comes from the days lack of street drainage in the seventeenth century, literally washing away stray cats and dogs through the streets.

Read on for some more fascinating idioms from around the world.

Language – Indonesian

Idiom - Sambil menyelam, minum air (while driving, drink water).

Meaning – accomplish two things at once.

Example – “While driving, John could drink water, making him one of the more efficient executives at the office.”

Language – English

Idiom – jump on the bandwagon.

Meaning – deciding to do something when it is already successful or fashionable.

Example – “So many people are trying to quit smoking that I might as well jump on the bandwagon and quit as well.”

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Language – Arabic

Idiom – laisa lii fiiha naqa wa la jamal (I don't have a camel in the caravan).

Meaning – this matter doesn't concern me.

Example – “If Tom didn’t have a camel in the caravan, he would rarely pay any attention to the matter.”

Language – English

Idiom – in the same boat.

Meaning – people who are in the same unpleasant or difficult situation.

Example – “Suddenly Paul was in the same boat as any other worker who had lost a job.”

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Language – Kashmiri

Idiom – Virvin naaow to chirvin dél (a drifting boat with the bark peeling off)

Meaning – going to the dogs (often used to depreciate a defunct government facility/institution).

Example – “They sat in the bar the night before the election, moaning that the country was a drifting boat with the bark peeling off.”

Language – English

Idiom – like ships that pass in the night.

Meaning – people who meet fleetingly and who are unlikely to see each other again.

Example – “I met a girl today who was visiting from Canada, but she's going back home soon and like two ships passing in the night, I don't think I'll see her again anytime soon.”

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Language – German

 

Idiom – Katzensprung (A cat's jump).

Meaning – A short distance away.

Example – “The shopkeeper’s home was a cat’s jump away from his shop, making his commute easy.”

Language – English

Idiom – my way or the highway.

Meaning – there is no alternative way to the way I want to do things.

Example – “He has a "my way or the highway" approach to leading his government and his party.”

Language – Russian   

Idiom – Exatj zajcem (to ride as a hare).

Meaning – to travel a train without a ticket.

Example – “His attempt of riding as a hare was unsuccessful and he was fined heavily. ”

Language – English

Idiom – off the back of a lorry

Meaning – stolen goods.

Example – “I don't know where he gets this stuff - probably off the back of a lorry.”

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Language – German  

Idiom – Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof (I only understand the train station).

Meaning – I don’t understand a thing about what that person is saying.

Example – “’I only understand the train station,’ thought Rachel to herself during the mathematics lecture.”

Language – English

Idiom – mile a minute.

Meaning – At a very rapid pace.

Example – “Taylor was so excited to tell me about her first day at school that she was talking a mile a minute.”

Language – Russian

Idiom – Галопом по Европам (Galloping across Europe).

Meaning – To do something hastily or haphazardly.

Example – “He wrote his essay like he was galloping across Europe and it subsequently resulted in a poor grade.”

Language – English

Idiom – paddle one's own canoe.

Meaning – If you paddle your own canoe, you do what you want to do without help or interference from anyone.

Example – “He decided to paddle his own canoe and set up his own business.”

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Language – Korean 

Idiom –오십보 백보 (50 steps are similar to 100 steps).

Meaning – the two alternatives are equivalent or indifferent.

Example – “I can take the bus or the subway to get home; during rush hour 50 steps are similar to 100 steps.”

Language – English

Idiom – drive up the wall.

Meaning – If somebody or something drives you up the wall, they do something that greatly annoys or irritates you.

Example – “All that noise from the neighbors was driving Susan up a wall.”

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Language – Italian 

Idiom – facile come andare in bicicletta (as easy as cycling).

Meaning – very easy.

Example – “She said writing stories was as easy as cycling for her.”

Language – English

Idiom – hit the road.

Meaning – to begin one’s journey.

Example – “As Mary saw the storm brewing, she decided to hit the road to get home as soon as possible.”

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Language – French

Idiom – Y aller par quatre chemins (To get there by four paths).

Meaning – avoid getting to the core of the subject.

Example – “Let's not get there by four paths and discuss this matter.”

Language – English

Idiom – drive a hard bargain.

Meaning – A person who always makes sure they gain advantage in a business deal.

Example – “Be prepared for tough negotiations with Dan. He drives a hard bargain.”

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Language – German

Idiom – Auf keinen grünen Zweig kommen (to not arrive on a green branch).

Meaning – to not make progress.

Example – “We are not arriving on a green branch!" shouted the the tutor to her student.

Language – German

Idiom – Eulen nach Athen tragen (taking owls to Athens).

Meaning – to do something that is obvious.

Example – “Mr. Smith is so rich he doesn't need any more money. To give him a gift certificate is like taking owls to Athens.”


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