Food Terms To Avoid Abroad

Whether you're traveling abroad or practicing your foreign language skills, beware of false friends. No, we don't mean the frenemy who's always talking about you behind your back. (Although you should be careful there too!)

We're talking about words in one's native language that may resemble others in a foreign language, but are in no way related. You can get into quite a bit of trouble with these "false friends." For example, while a puff pastry sounds delicious in English, the word puff resembles the German word for brothelOops!

As you can see, false friends can lead to humorous mixups. We've compiled eight English food-related words that would be embarrassing if uttered overseas. (And watch out—in Spanish, embarazada means pregnant, not embarrassed!)

peaches

Ah, sweet peaches. Georgia—the proud Peach State—plants, nurtures, and harvests the sweetest peaches in the country. Nothing wrong here in the USA. But a Georgia peach farmer traveling in Turkey would have some explaining to do. Peach would translate as “bastard” over there. That's one word you shouldn't utter overseas … unless you don’t mind cruising for a bruising.

salsa

Nothing like a big bowl of chips and salsa at a barbecue, tailgate, or parked in front of the TV—just you and the bowl and a whole lot of noshing. If you had salsa in Korea, however, you’d have "diarrhea" … and a considerably worse afternoon.

cookies

Ask for a cookie in Hungary, and the waiter will throw you out of the restaurant, especially if your question is “Do you have a cookie?” That’s because, in Hungarian, the same word (or combo of sounds) means “small penis.”

ghee

Ghee is a Hindi-derived word used in English as another way to say “clarified butter.” A common ingredient in Indian food, ghee is also trending in the US as a healthy fat. But, in Kurdish—a language spoken in parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria—ghee means “sh*t.” Not a beautiful golden color. Also not edible (we should’ve said that first).

bite

“Can I have a bite?” Careful now! While in English, a bite means a morsel of food, in France it means “penis” (again with the male organ, although this time, size doesn’t matter). In all honesty, you’d be fine saying this out loud, because the French pronunciation of bite is [bee-teuh]. But the spelling is identical, which could get tricky.

preservatives

People across the world are becoming more health conscious, taking the time to read food labels and find preservative-free food. Not everyone wants to eat salad dressing containing a chemical also found in antifreeze. Just know that, when in a French-speaking country, asking for “preservative-free” food will be interpreted as “condom-free” food. Reminds us of wrangling bananas in sex-ed class.

fish sticks

OK, we’re stretching this one a little bit, because fish sticks only sounds a lot like something else really bad in German. Our advice: if you just can’t control your mad craving for fish sticks in Germany, take great pains to enunciate carefully. Otherwise, the waiter could very easily hear “I’d like to order a big plate of f*** you, please.”

gerber

Finally, for those of you traveling to France—or any French speaking country—with baby chicklets in tow, you’ll want to be aware that Gerber (as in the baby food brand) means “to vomit” in French. For that very good reason, the brand hasn’t made its way across the pond.

Some might agree that the grey and orange mush masquerading as peas and carrots indeed looks more like puke, but Gerber turkey and chicken sticks are pretty tasty. You’ll have to stay in the US to eat them though.

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