270 million speakers over 5 continents, official language of 29 countries and many international organization. French is a language widely spoken and understood all around the world. Of course, speaking French in Canada or in the South of France are totally different experiences. Contrasting cultures, unusual accents, and local expressions are some elements that give French language this fascinating international dimension.
As a very idiomatic language, French speakers often use proverbs, sayings, and expressions in daily life. To make sure you don’t get lost in translation during your round-the-world trip, here is a selection of some local idioms from French speaking areas!
North of France
“Why do simple when one can do complicated?” could be the motto of this northern French expression. Litteraly, this sayings means “To be in socks’ feet” and is simply used to say that you are wearing socks.
This expression really makes sense in the area of France where the weather is often terrible. People from the North of France are use to the cold, grey skies and rainy days all over the year. Therefore, it’s logical to hear this local expression which expresses the usual - but still irritating - rain shower
Normans are often presented as hesitant people in France. Myth or reality? This idiom, coming from Normandy and meaning “Maybe yes, maybe no”, gives some clues about the answer!
Animals are a great source of imagination when it comes to expressions and proverbs. “To be as frank as a donkey moving backward” is one of them. Easy to picture, this saying is used to qualify a dishonest person.
South of France
You don’t like to drink Pastis? You dare to criticize the city of Marseille? If it’s your case, people from the Côte d’Azur will probably tell you that you are “fada”. Don’t get too offended, it just means that you are crazy!
This particular saying smells like lavanda, sounds like cicadas and feels the Mediterranean sun on your skin. More than a simple expression taken from a pétanque game, this sentence is a great representation of the southern French culture. For the story, in a pétanque game, “tirer” and “pointer” are two different ways to throw your ball.
Belgian people know how to party! So well that they have their own expression when it’s time to go out and have some fun. If, while in Belgium, you are asked to “Aller à guindaille”, do not hesitate, you will definitely have a great night!
Did I already mention that Belgian people like to party? The quality of beers in Belgium can be one of the reason for this national enthusiasm to gather and have fun. If you are especially thirsty and choose to drink your beer down in one go, you could proudly say that you just did an “à-fond”!
When it comes to sayings and expressions, people from Quebec offer a great source of fun and imagination. The simplest actions in life become a whole new adventure. Instead of asking you to take a chair, you will be offer to “pull yourself a log”!
Some French expressions are typical from a specific place. But in some case, a saying is the same in different countries, with only a few changes. If you are planning to get well dressed in France, you will “put yourself on your 31”. But if you are in Quebec, you better “put yourself on your 36”!
Now, wherever you go in a French speaking country, you can sound like a local. But don’t forget to say it with the right accent!