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 favourite 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!