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July 2015

International words that will give you wanderlust

Non-English words that describe what it means to travel

If you travel often, you’re likely more than acquainted with the various psychological states of the voyage. Such feelings range from the initial stages of excitement to the tinge of homesickness that accompanies leaving familiarity, from the empowering emotions of simply being in a foreign place to the overwhelming power of wanderlust that follows with returning home. We are likely more than capable at expressing such emotions in our native language, but cultures around the world have their own words not often easily translated back into home tongues. Today we’ll take a look at five international words that exemplify what it means to travel.

Hiraeth (Welsh)

From Wales comes a word that represents a homesickness or nostalgia for a place that can no longer be reached, or one that possibly never existed. The word doesn’t just apply to physical places but temporal ones as well. If you’ve ever looked back at childhood and marveled at how much nicer it was back then, you might be struck with hiraeth. The word is similar to the popular Portuguese term saudade, a feeling of longing, nostalgia, or melancholy.

Fernweh (German)

The aforementioned term wanderlust describes the pressing desire to travel. It is not specifically a need to go to a particular place; it is the want of the act of traveling itself. While homesickness refers to the longing to return home, the German term fernweh is its opposite. It is a longing for faraway places, the curiosity for different cultures, languages, scenery, and, of course, cuisine.

Trúnó (Icelandic)

What’s the best way to escape the chill and long winter nights of Iceland? Get indoors for a warm drink and intimate conversation. Such private moments of engaging with others are known as trúnó in Icelandic. Implied is the aid of drink, and topics usually cover something deeper than how cute puffins are or how hákarl (Icelandic fermented shark) tastes like inhaling ammonia. Often you may hear personal things you never wanted to hear...

Boketto (Japanese)

Generally speaking, Asian cultures tend to value silence and meditation more than their Western counterparts. It is not surprising, then, that the Japanese should have a word for such moments of sage reflection. Boketto is the act of looking longingly into the distance. And when the sun sets gloriously over Mt. Fuji, who dares break the silence and look away?

Hygge (Danish)

Perhaps the greatest single reason for learning a new language and traveling is experiencing the company of others of another culture. The Danish have a brilliant term for finding comfort with others: hygge (pronounced “hooga”). This concept is particularly important during dark Danish winters, calling forth cozy displays for the holidays. But whether you’re with friends in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen or back home at your local café, the concept remains the same.

What is your favourite travel-related word? Let us know on Facebook and be sure to “like” our page to get updates on new culture and language learning articles!

Picture: (c) Fotolia, Gerhard Reus

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