Your Truth is in Another Language.
Isn’t it odd how our truth might elude our primary language? Sometimes you have to go halfway across the world to find the perfect word. I loved the French expression “joie de vivre” so much that I named my boutique hotel company after that exquisite phrase.
There is no comparable English term, in my opinion.
Here are five “foreign” expressions that just might redefine how you live (or at the very least jazz up your vocabulary a bit).
- “Hoka Hey.” This is a Siouan language "phrase" spoken by the Lakota people of the Sioux tribes. “Hoka Hey" is an exclamation in Sioux, similar to the American expressions "Let's do it!" or "Let's roll!" Some people think it means "it's a good day to die" because the Lakota Sioux leader Crazy Horse famously exhorted his troops by shouting “Hoka Hey” on the way to battle. Hoka Hey can be translated to mean living a life in such a way that should it be your last day, you will, indeed, feel it’s a good day to die. The Latin aphorism “Carpe Diem” has a similar flavor.
- “Santosha.” This Sanskrit word that’s often spoken in the yoga world means “Always content.” It’s so alien to American culture because it indicates a lack of desire for what others have. When you meet someone in this state, you can feel their deep inner peace, freed from cravings and desires. When you are free from such influences, you’re also free to pursue your own calling without fear or manipulation. Sign me up for some Santosha!
- “Imua.” Hawaiian for “to move forward with strength.” To be resolute in what you take on. It also expresses a deep commitment towards a feeling, idea, or cause. The term Imua was made famous by King Kamehemaha I who unified the Hawaiian Islands. Before battle, Kamehameha would call out to his warriors, “Imua e nā poki‘i a inu i ka wai ‘awa‘awa, ‘a‘ohe hope e ho‘i mai ai.” For those who need a translator, it means, “Forward my young brothers and drink of the bitter waters; there is no turning back.”
- “Flaneur.” This is a concept that feels almost un-American but it’s often the way Americans experience Paris. Flâner is a verb meaning ‘to stroll,’ but a flâneur is a person of leisure who enjoys wandering the streets—soaking in the city and surroundings while appreciating its beauty. The word offers a sense of aimless, in-the-moment joy.
- “Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga).” Let’s finish with this warm-hearted Danish word that encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through the simple things in life. Go to Copenhagen this time of year and you’ll feel the cultural pull of this word—scented candles, a fire burning, some hot cocoa, and a small group of friends gathered around intimately talking about their lives. There’s something embracing about this word, and some even say it’s the Danish version of a physical hug, something we all long for these days.
What are some of your favorite words or phrases that capture a feeling not easily expressed in English?