When you live as an expat (or privileged immigrant), you meet people from all over the world. One of the best parts of living and working overseas is learning from others you meet. You learn different perspectives, different customs and since I’m terrible at learning different languages, I at least learn the different slang expressions. The following are just a few of my favourites.
Lah (Malaysia) – This Malaysian word is difficult to translate into a literal meaning. It is as difficult to explain and as culturally significant as “eh” is to Canada. It’s use transcends boundaries and meaning and logic becoming an integral part of the spoken language. The following are some examples of how it may be used.
According to Urban dictionary: ” [Lah is] a slang used mainly by people of South-East Asia (Malaysia and Singapore mainly) to complement almost any sentence available in a social conversation. Examples include:
A: Hey, can you lend me five ringgit?
B: Sorry lah, I need money to pay for my cab and lunch-lah.
Can (Malaysia) – Rather than answering yes to request, Malaysians simple respond with “can”. It’s quick, efficient and to the point.
A: Can you help me for a minute?
What to do? (Sri Lanka) – When a situation is beyond your control or you simply don’t feel like creating extra work for yourself, the phrase “Karana mokada?” which translates as “What to do?” is your stand by. This is a great phrase when used properly, but can be extremely frustrating when someone uses it in a situation when there is a clear action to be taken.
Level best (Sri Lanka) – This is better than your best. It’s almost like giving 110% – impossible!
Proper (England) – Only the English can get away with asking for a proper tea or going for proper exercise. The rest of us just settle.
Chilly Bin (New Zealand) – a container in which you can keep drinks and food cool. In Canada, we would refer to this as a cooler. Example: “Shaun and Hannah took the chilly bin of beers to continue the party from one house to the other.”
Aiyo! (all nations) – a universal term of calamity both large and small.