For members


French expression of the day: Mal du pays

To all the foreigners in France - or any other country for that matter - the French have a very poetic way of thinking about homesickness.

French expression of the day: Mal du pays
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know mal du pays?

It's a canny way of expressing that you're missing your country of origin.

What does it mean?

When translated word for word, mal du pays means 'pain of country' or just ‘country pain’, which actually is a pretty poetic description of what being homesick feels like.

Anyone living abroad will have felt that occasional sting of pain when thinking about something that reminds them of their country of origin. 

Tu as mal du pays  – Are you feeling homesick?

But contrary to 'homesick', mal du pays actually gives word to that shot of pain that can come so abruptly following a smell, a sound or a gesture that reminds you of home.

A Brit living in any French city might have felt hit by mal du pays when thinking about the spicy curry place just around the corner of their former apartment, knowing that the Indian places in in France have tailored their spiciness level to their customers' sensitive taste buds (ie curries here are rather bland in comparison).

Ca m'a donné du mal du pays – It made me feel homesick.

A US resident might feel a tingle of mal du pays after having run into a fellow Californian on holiday in Paris, a nostalgic reminder that small-talk with strangers is a little less enthusiastic in France.

J’ai un peu mal du pays aujourd’hui – I'm feeling a little homesick today.

And no delicious French pastry could prevent a Scandinavian from feeling a sting of mal du pays when imagining sinking their tongues into the sugar sprinkled crust of a Swedish signature cinnamon bun.

Mais t'inquiète, ce n'était que du mal du pays – But don't worry, it's just a little homesickness.



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For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women