As Valentine’s Day is slowly creeping up on us, it’s time to learn how some of the other cultures express their love for one another. Some of them are sweet, some of them are funny but definitely all of them are very interesting to discover and-who knows?- maybe some of you can even apply them in day-to-day life if your partner comes from a different culture to yours. That would be a nice Valentine’s Day surprise.
Researching for this article was definitely fun, given that the idea started when a couple of us were having lunch together and decided to have a multicultural brainstorm about what we call our significant other.
Mostly, terms of endearment are pet-names or nicknames that we give to our loved ones (lovers, partners, friends, family) and they symbolise intimacy and closeness between two people. They are used in private or in specific situations but research has shown that they do not reveal the true relationship between two people.
It was interesting to find that some cultures (such as the Dutch) tend to have more of an abstract humour while the Spanish or Italian ones (generally considered the ‘romantic’ ones) have simpler or more straightforward expressions.
The French like to associate their loved ones with food and call them ‘petit chou’ which is the equivalent of ‘sweetheart’ and means ‘little cabbage’. Another interesting one from the French is ‘ma puce’ which means ‘my flea’ and it is considered to come from historic times when removing fleas from one another was a pleasant and sometimes intimate private process.
Staying in the area of food-related pet-names, ‘chuchuzinho’ is what you would call your love in Brazilian or Portuguese. In its original form, ‘chuchu’, it means squash, and the ending ‘zinho’ makes it a diminutive which emphasizes fondness.
In the Japanese culture, it is considered very attractive when women have an oval, egg-shaped face and that is why one popular term is ‘tamago gata no kao’, which means ‘an egg with eyes’.
So we’ve had vegetables and eggs, now it’s time for some fruits – in Indonesian, ‘buah hatiku’ means ‘the fruit of my heart’ and it can be used for lovers but it is more often used for children nowadays.
If you’re more conservative and you prefer the classics, you may have in common more than you think with the Spaniards– ‘cariño’ (honey), ‘mi amor’ (my love), ‘corazón’ (sweetheart), ‘guapo/guapa’ (handsome/beautiful), or the more intense version, ‘mi vida’ (my life). Italians tend to stay in the normal boundaries as well with pet-names like ‘amore’ (love), ‘tesoro’ (darling), ‘cuore mio’ (my heart).
While some cultures choose to associate loved ones with delicious food or sweet words, others give them names inspired by wildlife. For example, in Arabic, the image of a beautiful woman is often associated with gazelles and so, a man may say to a woman ‘Laki uyounul ghazal’ (you have the eyes of a gazelle).
Perhaps the most interesting one is the expression the Chinese use to show their loved one how much they mean to them. ‘Chen yu luo yan’ means ‘diving fish swooping geese’ and it is said to come from an old story that talked about the greatest beauty in Chinese history , a woman named Xi Shi. It is said that she was so beautiful that the fish in the pond forgot to swim when looking at her so they dived to the bottom. Likewise, it is said that the geese that flew over another great beauty called Wang Zhaojun were so struck by her beauty that they would forget to flap their wings and would end up swooping to the ground. Considering this, when a Chinese person wants to express his love for another, they say ‘Chen yu luo yan’.
In Russia, they associate the person they love with the delicate dove, calling you ‘golubchik’ (голубчик) if you are a man, or ‘golubushka’ (голубушка) if you are a woman, both meaning ‘little dove’.
Germans tend to have quirky and cute phrases like ‘Schnuckiputzi’ (cutie-pie), ‘Zuckerschnäutzchen’ (sugar–lips) and the cutest one, ‘Knutschipuh’ (smootchie-poo).
They produce it, consume it and love it. Dutch people go as far as calling their women their favorite candy dropje (liquorice). Nationalism or tradition? They also use ‘Mijn poepie’ – a quirky Dutch term for ‘my little poop’.
How do you call your loved one? Maybe it’s a classical one or something that has meaning for the two of you – let us know in the comments. Or perhaps you’ve heard some unusual ones during your travel – we’d love to hear about that too!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! To help you celebrate, here’s how to say ‘I love you’ in 99 world languages…
(You can click the infographic to have a closer look.)
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The other day I discovered this article online. I already knew that Bradley Cooper spoke French, but was pretty happy when I realised that I could also listen to Johnny Depp, Ben Affleck and Colin Firth speaking various other languages too (French, Spanish and Italian, respectively). Being Grazia, the article is aimed at a female audience and only features male actors, but there are many famous women who also speak languages – Mila Kunis (Russian), Gwyneth Paltrow (Spanish), Natalie Portman (Hebrew) and Shakira (everything), among many others.
Here’s Bradley in action. I don’t speak French, unfortunately, so I have no idea what he’s saying, but it certainly sounds pretty good.
It’s easy to assume that movie and pop stars only speak English, because we only ever see them speak that language at the cinema or on TV. And let’s be honest, who hasn’t assumed at some point that because they’re rich and beautiful, they’re also lazy and probably not prepared to make the effort? As a result, we tend to be very surprised and make a big deal of it when we realise they do speak another language – even though, just like the rest of us, they went to school, go on holiday, have in-laws from another country to impress and sometimes may even need another language for work. So why is it so surprising?
Now – go to YouTube, search for ‘Bradley Cooper French’ and read some of the captions. Many of them say something along the lines of, ‘As if he couldn’t get any hotter…’ or ‘Bradley Cooper just keeps getting sexier!’ Which made me think – does speaking another language really make us sexy? And if so, surely this would be the perfect argument to encourage young people to keep going with languages at school? Never mind that they can get a better job, earn more, travel the world – if we could tell them it’ll make them more attractive to that girl/boy they fancy, maybe they’d be more interested.
But of course not all men are Bradley Cooper or Johnny Depp (more’s the pity). So I have to wonder – is it the language that’s sexy, or the person speaking it? If Bradley Cooper were just Bradley from next door, would we be so impressed? I’m not sure that we would.
And also, why doesn’t this apply to all languages? If my experience of watching The Big Bang Theory is anything to go by, guys speaking Klingon tend not to have the same effect on women (for the most part – I know to some ladies it’s very attractive).
I’d love to hear what you think about this. Do you like someone more if they speak another language? Or is it just a nice bonus, which only applies to someone you already fancy? And will you be learning some French to impress your partner this Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments below 🙂
Valentine’s Day is here again, and like a lot of people, I’m a bit fed up with it. I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve received over the last few weeks, inviting me to use Valentine’s as an excuse to buy everything from chocolates to an iPad – I even got one suggesting I should hire a private jet (yes, really) to surprise my loved one.
Here in the UK, Valentine’s Day is very much a day for couples, and has become known as a very commercial holiday. The usual traditions are cards (sometimes anonymous), flowers, chocolates and candle-lit dinners. But not all countries celebrate in the same way (or even on the same day). Here are a few alternatives:
If you thought celebrating Valentine’s once a year was enough, think again. In Japan February 14th is just the start, when women give chocolate to the men in their life. This doesn’t have to be just boyfriends and husbands but can also include co-workers and friends. Then on March 14th, which is known as ‘White Day’, the men give the ladies a gift of greater value (sounds good to me!). Going one step further, in South Korea, the 14th of every month is a love-related day of some kind. On April 14th, anyone who didn’t get a gift in February or March is expected to go out and eat black noodles in recognition of their single status.
In some areas of Latin America, Valentine’s is known as ‘Dia del Amor y la Amistad’ (Day of Love and Friendship). It’s celebrated with ‘Amigo secreto’ (Secret friend), which is similar to the Secret Santa tradition at Christmas and involves buying a gift for a friend selected at random.
In Catalonia, Spain, loved ones exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day and also on 23rd April, which has become known as ‘El Dia del Llibre’ (Day of the Book) because it’s the day that both Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare died (in 1616). Women traditionally give men books as gifts, while the men reciprocate with either a book or a rose. Bookshops and cafes hold book-signings and public readings to celebrate the day.
Finland celebrates ‘Ystävänpäivä’, which means ‘Friend’s Day’. Although it is becoming an increasingly popular day on which to get engaged, the main focus of the day in Finland is to celebrate friendship of all kinds, and presents are exchanged between friends as well as lovers.
And finally, France. A (now banned) custom used to be held, known as the ‘loterie d’amour’. Single men and women would enter houses facing each other and call to one another until they were all paired off. Afterwards, any women who were left single would build a huge bonfire and burn images of men who had hurt them, whilst screaming abuse at them. Eventually the ‘loterie’ was banned by the French government. I wonder why.
So, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, wherever you are and whether or not you’re part of a couple – we all have special people in our lives, so let’s celebrate them 🙂 Will you be doing anything special or unusual to celebrate? Let us know!