Complain like the French, but first learn some phrases.

The French are creatures obsessed with their food.

So much so that they invoke them comme d’hatibute in their non-chalant quotidien. They refer to food when talking about something or someone, nourish one’s nostalgia, to flirt and tease, as well as use food as a clear-cut insult.

Their great l’amour of food (as well as women) is what sets the French apart from the rest of the world and it’s no surprise that food has found their way in the French language and expressions.

Learn a few of them and you’ll never look at a cabbage or sausage the same way ever again.


A boy lifting a giant potato

Avoir la patate / To have a potato – “To be energized and get excited”



A man with flushed red cheeks

Rouge comme une tomate / To be as red as a tomato – “To be embarrassed”



A woman having a laugh and telling lies

Raconter des salades / To tell salads – “To lie”


A man with binoculars

A french expression about onion












Occupe-toi de tes oignons / Mind your onions – “Mind one’s own business”






A man losing his temper

Avoir la moutarde qui monte au nez / To have mustard that goes up the nose – “To get on one’s nerves”



An opera performance

Chanter comme une casserole / To sing like a saucepan – “Someone who really can’t sing”


A french expression about a sausage

A man wearing a sausage hat











Petit andouille / Little sausage – “The little idiot”




a couple having an argument about cheese

En faire tout un fromage / To make cheese out of it – “To make a big fuss or deal out of something”



A boy having a shower with his giant red bell pepper

Mettre du piment dans sa vie / to put spice in one’s life – “To spice up one’s life”


Learning a few is certainly one way of adding spice in one’s life. So have a go. You might just surprise yourself how fluent you can become – with french or with food.

Have you come across with these french expressions while traveling in France? Do you have a favorite? If you do, share them below mes petit choux – my litttle cabbages!



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  1. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the French language, I had to smile quite a lot at these charming expressions. “As red as a tomato” is identical to the German expression. The word salad is another one which I recently picked up in English. To make cheese out of it is cute, too. I may warm up to the French language here, so consider your mission as accomplished Jan!

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

  2. Well, some of these they don’t teach on Duolingo haha, so I’ll have to practice these with some of my friends from Montreal haha. This is so fun.

  3. I have to admit I’ve never heard of these expressions, despite being able to get by in French.
    Some are quite funny in their use of objects etc to enforce the point but some I actually guessed their meaning before reading its translation as they are quite representative of the feeling.
    An interesting and amusing article to read that brightened my day.

  4. This post made me ‘avoir la patate’ – it was so much FUN! Some of the expressions are familiar but slightly different in English – the face as red as a tomato, we have a Big Cheese and we really ‘know’ our onions (although we’re not sure we mind our own business with them) but some, such as the salad lie, I’ve never heard of before and they are just wonderful. So enjoyed this – it certainly spiced up my day!
    Mitch & Colin from Very Tasty World

  5. What fun! I love learning sayings and idioms in different languages but the French seem to excel. My personal favourites are “chanter comme une casserole” and “raconte des salades”. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of (appropriate) opportunities to use either.

    These are the things I want to learn in language classes!

    Lyn |

  6. Oh my gosh I love these. I can’t wait to use some of them… unless you’re completely pulling our leg and I’ll just get laughed at, in which case well played! I love how they incorporate food so much in these phrases. And “to tell salads” is just hilarious because I think of myself having salads is just a lie about being healthy to balance my chocolate habit. Maybe the French are onto something