Spanish expressions which mention other countries In the Spanish language, we have a few expressions which make reference to a different countries or nationalities.

I do not know if this happens in any other language, I am not quite sure because sometimes when I am talking with my students they are quite surprise about these expressions, but in Spain, we have some very common daily sentences which involve other countries, are you curious whether your country is on the list?

Have a look and find which countries are on the list of Spanish expressions which mentions other countries


Spanish expressions which mentions other countries



-Cabeza de turco– Turkish head

In English…”to be the scapegoats”, we could use it in several context, always that there is someone who blame but it is not the real responsible for the mess.

Example-if when you were at school it was a guy who was the funny one, and did not care much about study, probably he was the one to blame when something wrong happen during the lessons, even if sometimes he was not the guilty one, but it served to calm the teacher has she had someone to blame.

-Recuerdas a Mario, pobrecillo, siempre cargaba con las culpas, era el cabeza de turco de la clase.-“Remember Mario, poor guy, he was always the one to blame…he was the scapegoats”

-Hacerse el sueco-to make the Sweeden

Used when you say in English someone is playing dumb

Example-If you have a friend who never pays, he is always busy when is time to pay, if you are fed up with it you will say

-Simón, te toca pagar a ti, !no te hagas el sueco!-“Simon is your turn to pay, do not play dumb!”


-Salir de Guatemala y meterse en Guatepeor–  Leave Guatemala to end up in Guateworse

Actually in English we can find something similar “Out of the frying-pan into the fire”

It is used when we change from a bad situations and end up in one worse, so the change results in a worse situation than the previous one.

Example-If your friend is looking for a new job and she tells you the conditions of the new job, and they do not look as great as you would have expected from a job upgrate. You could warn her saying

-No lo sé Ana, a mí no me parece tan bueno, ten cuidado y lee bien los terminos, a ver si vas a salir de Guatemala y te vas a meter en Guatepeor…-“I do not know Ana, it does not sound that good to me, watch out and read the terms carefully, see if you are going to go out of the frying pan into the fire”

A lot of times it is quite common to hear “Ir de Guatemala a Guatepeor” with no change in the meaning.


-Ser el ultimo de FilipinasTo be the last one of the Phillippines

It is a really colloquial expression used when someone arrives late to a meeting, because they would miss part of the meeting, and it might be important

although nowadays you can used as well with one of your friends is really late.

Example-if in your time is always someone who is late for the meetings and misses the first part of them, and some of you always need to explain him the part he missed, probably you and your friend would start to call him “el último de Filipinas”

If you are in a meeting and that person arrives late again, probably someone will say

-Ya podemos empezar, está aquí el último de Filipinas-“ We can start now, here it is the one who was missing”

-Cuento chinoChinese tales

When someone tell us something we do not believe, or in another words is trying to “bullshit” you, we say they are telling “chinese tales”


You and your friend are talking about some other friend who is talking about travel around the world, but you both know he won’t do it.

¿Qué piensas sobre Juan y su nueva idea de dar la vuelta al mundo? !Me da mucha envidia! –“What do you think about Juan and his idea to travel the world? I am so jealous!”

-!Eso son cuentos chinos! ¿Cómo va a dar la vuelta al mundo? !No tiene ni tiempo, ni dinero!-“ That is bollocks, how is going to do it? He does not have the time, nor the money”

Appart of these expressions we also use nationalities to name some objects/things, why? I am afraid I can’t give you an answer, because I do not have a clue, I guess it is another of the Spanish wonders. But the thing I can give you is the names so you can use it next time you use/see them and leave your Spanish friends speechless


-ChilenaA Chilean

If you like football this is a basic, even when nowadays chilenas aka scissors kick, are not that common any more…

-Tortilla francesaFrench omelette

Or what it is the same….a plain omelette 🙂

-Llave inglesaAn English key

Interesting you would think,  what have this key to make with England? Well…nothing actually, una llave inglesa is not different from an adjustable wrench

-AmericanaAn American

As well as a person from America, an Americana is what you would called a blazer.

-Montaña rusaA Russian mountain

If you are a fan of theme parks, you probably know that as cool as it sounds “montaña rusa” it is just a roller coaster

-Arroz a la cubanaRice Cuban style

It is just a way to prepare the rice, it is white rice with a fried egg and tomato sauce, and sometimes fried banana.

HOMEWORK-Hit the comments below and let us know where are you from and if in your language have some expressions like these ones, I know quite simple today isn’t it? But to make it a bit more challenging….let’s do this in Spanish, at least the part about where you are from, something simple, like “Hola, mi nombre es Blanca  y soy española”, do not be shy, get involve!

As usual…back to you now, it is your turn, and I would love to hear from you

-Have you hear the expressions above before?

-Have you used any of them?

-Do you know any others?

Looking forward to reading your comments.

Have a good one!-!Buen día!


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8 Responses to “Spanish expressions which mention other countries”

  1. Daniel Bolton

    Soy estadounidense y sé de ir a la americano, que significa que cada quien paga por si mismo… en ingles es to go Dutch.
    También hay un anericano, un café negro que mezcla agua y espresso en vez de café.

    También en ingles se dice French kiss cuando se mete la lengua de boca.

    • blancadt

      Tienes toda la razón Daniel, todos los que has comentado son ejemplos buenisimos.!Muchas gracias por compartir! 🙂

      • Silvia

        o quê tal el cholo andando en su moto, y ve a una chica bonita, y le dice
        “¡ Japón, esa!”

  2. Zoe Dillon

    Buenas tardes mi nombre es Zoë y soy inglesa. Algunos expresiones en ingles son tostada francésa – pan cocina con huevo, la linterna china que es una linterna de papel. También la gente dice disculpe mi francés cuando ellos juran pero no sé por qué

  3. Joanne

    Hola, mi nombre es Joanne, soy inglesa y vivo en alemán. Hace bastante tiempo escuché ya la expresión Montaña rusa. Todos las otras he leído ahora mismo por la primera vez. En ingles hay unas expresiones similares pero pienso que no haya tanto en ingles como en español. Otro ejemplo en ingles es “to talk Double Dutch”. Eso significa que alguien habla de una manera complicada y eso es muy difícil a entender.

  4. Gloria.

    La “llave inglesa”posiblemente fue llamada así por su origen. Sólo hay un problema ,porque el inventor -Johan Peter Johansson- era en realidad sueco.

  5. Eva

    Se me ocurre también FILETES RUSOS: que son hamburguesas sin pan, y ENSALADILLA RUSA similar a la potato salad.


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