Subscribe to Newsletter

Words you should think twice about using when going abroad

Don't be a Gary: useful phrases to know if you're heading overseas.

The team at language learning app, Babbel have put together common English words that mean something COMPLETELY different overseas. Here are just a few that could be very useful to know in advance:



  1. TUNA

If you find yourself in Spain or the Czech Republic and you’re looking for sushi – be careful not to ask for a tuna roll. The fishy favourite means cactus in Spanish or a tonne in Czech.

Actual translation:

English: Tuna                     Spanish: atún                     Czech: tunák  


  1. ANGEL

If you happen to refer to someone as an angel in a complementary way or in terms of a spiritual being with wings and a long robe in Germany or the Netherlands, maybe think again. In German, Angel translates to ‘fishing rod’ and in Dutch it translates to ‘sting’.

Actual translation:

English: Angel                    German: Engel                   Dutch: Engel


  1. GIFT

You might think you’re being kind by offering some a gift in Norway, but watch out! Gift in Norwegian means married, so you could be offering a lot more than you think.

Actual translation:

English: gift                         Norwegian: give               German: Poison


  1. SLUT

The derogatory term sometimes used by English speakers to describe a female with loose sexual morals actual means ‘End’ or ‘Final’ in Swedish, so don’t be surprised if you venture to a cinema in Sweden while on holiday and see SLUT appear on the final screen! 

Actual translation

English: Slut        Swedish: Slampa


  1. FART

Lets face it – whether you’d like to admit it or not, you might need to use this one! The vulgar word commonly used in English for intestinal gas means ‘good luck’ in Polish or ‘speed’ in Swedish. Oddly, in French fart translates to pet in English. 

Actual translation:

English: Fart                     Polish: pierdni?cie                         Swedish: Fisa



The English word commonly used when referring to food stuffs have a completely different meaning in FrancePreservatif means condom in French! 

Actual translation:

English: Preservative    French: conservateur



While some governments are trying to make smoking a thing of the past, the French definition of the word is totally different meaning tuxedo

Actual translation:

English: Smoking           French: Fumeur


8.  GARY 

Watch out Gary’s of the world, if you introduce yourself and say ‘I’m Gary’ in Japan, it sounds like ‘I have diarrhoea’ in Japanese. 

Actual translation:

English: Gary                      Japanese: ????


Can you think of any other examples like these? Let us know below.


Published: 15 October 2018

comments powered by Disqus