17 Phrases That Instantly Make You Sound More Cultured And Well-Traveled

17 Phrases That Instantly Make You Sound More Cultured And Well-Traveled

We all want to appear knowledgeable and well-traveled, even if our passport is woefully blank. Dropping a few foreign phrases does more than show off linguistic skills. It suggests a curious mind, an appreciation for other cultures, and a broader perspective on the world. Below are some effortlessly chic phrases that subtly signal you’re a cosmopolitan citizen of the world.

1. “Bon Appétit!” (French)

Far classier than “enjoy your meal,” this French staple translates to “good appetite!” Whip it out before a shared meal at home to impress guests, or use it discreetly at a restaurant. It subtly suggests you’ve dined in Parisian cafés, even if your most exotic meal was takeout Pad Thai.

2. “Salud!” (Spanish)

couple toasting wine outdoors

Raise a glass and say this cheerful Spanish toast instead of the basic “cheers.” It means “to your health!” Perfect for any celebratory drink, implying you’ve picked up some local lingo on those sun-drenched Spanish vacations (that may or may not exist outside your imagination).

3. “Ciao!” (Italian)

This versatile Italian word means both “hello” and “goodbye.” Dropping it casually into conversation has an inherent charm. Even a simple “Ciao for now!” when leaving a friend sounds infinitely more chic than a plain goodbye. It hints at leisurely Italian strolls and impromptu espresso dates.

4. “Joie de Vivre” (French)

two friends gossiping at coffe shopShutterstock

Meaning “joy of living,” this paints you as someone who embraces life. Try, “Her enthusiasm is infectious; she has such joie de vivre!” It’s more sophisticated than “lust for life” and implies you’ve observed those who appreciate the finer things, both big and small.

5. “C’est la Vie” (French)

When things go sideways, a fatalistic “c’est la vie” (“that’s life”) is far more elegant than grumbling. It suggests a worldly understanding that life has ups and downs, and you navigate them with a touch of nonchalant French flair, even if you’re secretly panicking inside.

6. “Saudade” (Portuguese)

This untranslatable word embodies a mix of longing, melancholy, and profound nostalgia for something absent. “That song fills me with saudade” is far deeper than “it makes me sad.” It positions you as someone with a complex emotional vocabulary and hints at a past rich with bittersweet experiences.

7. “Inshallah” (Arabic)

two men laughing and chatting on city street

Meaning “God willing,” this is commonly used in Muslim-majority nations. Incorporating it respectfully (“Hopefully I can visit next year, inshallah”) shows a touch of cultural sensitivity. Avoid using it flippantly, as for many it holds deep religious significance.

8. “Hygge” (Danish)

This embodies the idea of cozy contentment, especially in simple moments. “Let’s have a hygge evening with tea and candles.” With Denmark often topping “happiest countries” lists, it paints you as someone who prioritizes well-being and savors life’s quieter pleasures.

9. “Wanderlust” (German)

man texting at outdoor cafe

Far from basic travel envy, this German word captures a deep, restless desire to explore the world. Try, “Her wanderlust inspires me to get out of my comfort zone.” It paints you as adventurous and hungry for experience, even if your budget currently limits you to armchair travel.

You may also like: Religious Beliefs That Science Has Debunked (But People Still Cling To)

10. “Smorgasbord” (Swedish)

two female friends talking in a coffee shop

While referring to a literal buffet, it can be used metaphorically. Describing a situation as “a smorgasbord of options” is far more evocative than “I have a lot of choices.” It paints you as a curious individual who appreciates diversity and abundance in experiences.

11. “Pura Vida” (Costa Rican Spanish)

young man and woman chatting on park bench

Literally “pure life,” this embodies positivity and the simple joys of living. Use it as an exclamation — “Pura Vida!” — or sprinkle it casually: “That beach town sounds like pura vida living.” It suggests a zest for life and aligns you with the laid-back, optimistic vibes of Costa Rican culture.

12. “Ubuntu” (Nguni Bantu origin)

Two young Men Exchange ideas in a Cafe

A core concept in South African philosophy meaning “I am because we are”. It emphasizes humanity, interconnectedness, and community. Saying “It takes a village – that’s the spirit of ubuntu” is far more impactful than simply saying teamwork is important. It hints at a global awareness of different philosophical worldviews.

13. “Komorebi” (Japanese)

Attractive young couple in love sitting at the cafe table outdoors, drinking coffee

This beautiful word has no direct English translation but describes the way sunlight filters through leaves. Use it poetically: “I love the komorebi on a forest walk.” It makes you seem observant and attuned to the subtle wonders of the natural world, hinting at a refined sensibility.

14. “Lagom” (Swedish)

Embodying “just the right amount” or balanced moderation, this Swedish concept is key to their famed contentment. “That house is lagom – not too big, not too small.” It signals you value quality over excess and have a grasp on what truly leads to a fulfilling life.

15. “Wabi-Sabi” (Japanese)

This celebrates the beauty in imperfection and impermanence. “Her garden has such wabi-sabi charm” shows a nuanced aesthetic far beyond basic “pretty or not.” It implies you see value in authenticity, age, and the inherent grace of things as they are, not some idealized standard.

16. “Sobremesa” (Spanish)

The delightful art of lingering at the table after a meal, engaged in conversation. “Let’s not rush, let’s embrace sobremesa.” It positions you as someone who savors connection and prioritizes good company as much as the food itself, hinting at those leisurely Spanish lunches we all secretly crave.

17. “Il Dolce Far Niente” (Italian)

Translation: “the sweetness of doing nothing.” This Italian embrace of mindful idleness is the antidote to hustle culture. “A vacation where I practice il dolce far niente sounds heavenly.” It implies understanding that true relaxation is an art form vital to a well-lived life.

Enjoy this piece? Give it a like and follow Bolde on MSN for more!

Josh grew up in Connecticut and thought he could never be happier away from big bodies of water until he moved to Minneapolis and fell in love with it. He writes full-time, with his lifestyle content being published in the likes of Men's Health, Business Insider, and many more. When he's not writing, he likes running (but not enough to train for a marathon even though his buddy won't stop asking him).