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French phrases that change meaning depending where you are in France

People from the south have a whole host of unique phrases

Chaler means to transport someone from one place to another in Provence Pic: goodluz / Shutterstock

There are lots of regional phrases which mean different things depending on where you hear them in France, or simply mean nothing to people from different areas.

This is patly due to the regional languages that used to be spoken across France, with certain words and expressions still being commonplace even if not many people still speak these local dialects.

In other cases, it is simply the use of a standard French word in a different context.

Have you heard any of the expressions below in recent conversation? 

Trop kiki 

Trop kiki comes from the south of France and is used to describe something being cute, in a similar way to trop mignon or trop mimi

However, this is only the case in the south of France. 

Elsewhere in France, kiki can be used by children to describe their reproductive parts, meaning that if you say trop kiki to a Parisian, they may not understand the sentiment you are trying to convey.

Une poche 

In the south of France, especially the south-west, poche is often used to ask for a bag in the supermarket or a shop. It could also be called un sachet in the south east or un pochon in the west of the country. 

However, ask for this elsewhere in France and you might have shopkeepers confused, with une poche usually referring to a pocket.

Read also: 13 shortened words and phrases you will hear in spoken French


While normally collègue is used to describe your work colleague, if you hear someone from Marseille talking about their collègue, they are likely to be referring to their mates. 


Again, this is a word that comes from the south of France and is actually very useful for those living in the heat of the southern French coast. 

It refers to the sticky sweaty feeling you get when you are in the sun, but if you tell someone from another part of France je pègue partout, they may not know what you mean. 


This one can be confusing… in the south, après is often used instead of avant, in cases where you have already done or said something, or where you might say ‘after all’ in English.

Je te l’ai dit après ! (I told you before!) 

Il me tarde 

In the south, il me tarde can be used as the equivalent of j’ai hâte (I can’t wait) which is heard elsewhere in France. 

Un brave 

If you hear someone in the north of France talk of un brave, beware! It is not necessarily a compliment and has nothing to do with being courageous. 

Un brave in northern France refers to a person who is kind but not the sharpest tack in the box. 

Elsewhere in France ‘brave’ is usually meant in the English sense of the word. 


This simply means discuter (to discuss) in the south of France - you tcharer with your friends. 

It comes from the Occitan word ‘charrar’ (to speak or discuss), which was the main language spoken in the south of France for much of its history.

Read more: 7 words and phrases from the South of France


In Provence, chaler means to transport someone from one place to another, for example il va te chaler sur son scooter means he’s going to bring you on his scooter. 

Once again, however, you will not hear this word used in other areas of France. 


A person who is described as drôle in the north of France is not necessarily funny, rather someone who is elusive and a bit bizarre. 

If you describe someone as drôle elsewhere, it means that you find them to be a funny person. 


In the North of France une ducasse is a fun fair, otherwise known as a foire aux manèges elsewhere in France. 


This means juice, right? Not necessarily. In northern France if someone talks about having a jus, they may well be talking about a coffee! 

Related articles 

Nine words and phrases from Brittany

Greeting kisses in France: 5 regional phrases 


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