Popular English Idioms and Their Curious Origins [Infographic}

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

the origins of popular idioms.jpeg

(See the full infographic below!)

If you’ve ever studied abroad or travelled to destinations with the intent to absorb as much of the culture and language as possible, you’re well aware of how difficult it is to learn the intricacies of each spoken word and phrase.

All languages have their own unique phrases and idioms, often derived from local or cultural customs, historical events, important figures, or religious traditions, that don’t have a direct translation. There are approximately 25,000 idioms in the English language alone, all of which have been widely adopted in everyday conversation. We often use these phrases liberally without understanding their root or original context. Some of these idioms were quite literate all the time they were conceived, making their origins that much more interesting to study.

Invaluable created this visual that outlines the origins of some of the most common English expressions, the countries in which they came from, and how we use them in our everyday speech.

Check it out, and become a little more aware of the words we speak everyday!

English Idioms Infographic
Popular idioms and their origins

Your Guide to Love Holidays Around The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Love is celebrated differently in different cultures around the globe. Those of us from North America have Valentine’s Day, White Day is celebrated in Asia, and Lover’s Day in Brazil.

Here are just a few of the other romantic holidays that are celebrated in different countries throughout the year!

Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St. Dwynwen’s Day)
January 25

This day of love honors the Welsh patron saint of lovers, St. Dwynwen. As the legend goes, she was a fourth century Welsh princess who became a nun after suffering a broken heart. She then spent the rest of her days praying that true lovers would find the blissful happiness that she couldn’t.

Couples celebrate by exchanging gifts and planning dates filled with romance.

White Day
Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China
March 14

White Day started in the 1980s and is celebrated exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. On this day, men give women gifts that are usually (you guessed it) white. White chocolate, flowers, candy, marshmallows, cookies, jewelry, or lingerie are all gift options.

In these countries it is tradition for women to give men gifts on Valentine’s Day, and the expectation is that on White Day men will reciprocate with a gift that is two, or even three, times more expensive. 

love holidays around the world

La Diada de Sant Jordi (St Jordi’s Day)
Barcelona, Spain
April 23

Also known as the Festival of St George (the patron saint of Catalonia), this is the ultimate day for lovers in Barcelona. The legend says that Saint George killed a dragon to save his princess, and then gave her a beautiful red rose that magically sprouted where the dragon’s blood had been spilled.

On this romantic day, the streets of Barcelona become filled with fragrant flowers and booksellers, as it is tradition for men give their ladies a red rose, and ladies to give their men a book.

Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day)
June 12

Lover’s Day falls on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day — the saint associated with young love and happy marriages. Celebrations tend to be similar to Valentine’s Day with gifts of chocolate or flowers being exchanged, and romantic dinners planned. 

(Fun Fact: Brazilians don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because it falls too close to Carnival.)

The celebrations usually expand to the streets with parades, carnivals, samba dancing, and more community fun.

Tu B'Av
15th day of the Hebrew month of Av 

This holiday, celebrated during the Hebrew month of Av (which covers days in both July and August), has only recently become a romantic holiday in the Jewish tradition. It was historically a matchmaking day for unmarried women who would dress all in white and dance in the fields outside of Jerusalem, while male suitors would watch and pick a wife from among them. 

Today, the holiday is marked with the exchange of cards and flowers, and is also considered to be an ideal day for proposals, weddings, or vow renewals.  

Dia de Amor y Amistad (Love and Friendship Day)
September 20

This day is less about romantic love and more about celebrating the love between close friends. It was established in 1969 as a way to help boost Colombia’s economy, as there were no national holidays in the month of September. 

Friends usually gather together for dinner and a game of “secret friend” — similar to “secret Santa” — which involves drawing names and buying gifts to exchange without your friend knowing it was from you.  

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Your guide to love holidays around the world

The Most Interesting New Year's Traditions From Around The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Smashing plates, burning effigies, and preparing traditional meals — ringing in the New Year looks very different from country to country and culture to culture!

Some celebrate New Year’s Eve with cocktails and sparkly dresses, others light fireworks and eat black eyed peas, and there are even cultures that wear white and carry suitcases (really!).

Every culture around the world has their own, unique traditions and ways of ringing in the New Year, each representing the hope of a better, more prosperous year to come!

Invaluable created this fascinating infographic that details different New Year’s traditions and festive treats from countries near and far. It talks about why Brazilians wear white, why it’s customary to eat 12 grapes in Spain, and explores many other unique traditions.

Check it out below!

Sources: Infoplease | List25 | WorldStrides | CNN |  History

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New Year's Traditions From Around The World

15 Spooky Folktales, Creatures & Objects From Around The World [Infographic]

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Telling spooky and scary stories has long been a part of human culture. We’ve been telling all kinds of stories since our most distant ancestors drew rudimentary pictures on cave walls, but the most intriguing tales are the ones that raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

We are universally fascinated with the macabre — this is one of the reasons ghost stories are so popular. Have you ever found yourself drawn to a horrifying or thrilling movie even though you don’t like to be scared? As humans, we have an innate morbid curiosity.

This near obsession with dark legends can be seen in chilling folklore that exists in different cultures across the globe. Especially captivating myths have even extended across cultures, like El Chupacabra and the Headless Horseman. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool — it’s impossible to keep such eerie tales to ourselves.

What’s more, some creepy objects are said to be cursed, usually causing harm or death to those that come into contact with the item. Spooky paintings are credited with fires and mortality while ancient objects are believed to be cursed.

If sinister fables pique your interest (as they naturally should), check out the spooky infographic below that Invaluable created showing 15 ominous folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world.

Spooky folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world
Spooky folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world

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Spooky folktales, creatures and objects from around the world

Thinking of Making a Big Move? Your Guide to Life in Other Countries

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different country? A country across the globe with vastly different cultures, living standards, and social norms?

There can be major differences in how people live within your own country, much less across the world, but this cool new generator from HireAHelper makes imagining what life would be like in another country a little easier.

Pick any two countries and compare statistics like the amount of free time people have on average, median income, and the number of active internet users.

For example, if you compare the United States to Australia you will see that Australians make 16% less on average than Americans, and also have an average of 6% less free time. However, they have 22% more money saved and are 20% less likely to be obese.

Here are some more examples. 


CANADA compared to FRANCE



12 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit The Yonghe Temple (or Lama Temple) In Beijing

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

Located in the middle of Beijing in China, the Yonghe Temple aka Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery aka Yonghe Lamasery aka Lama Temple is a complex made up of a maze of elaborate arches, stunning tapestries and massive temples, opening to expansive courtyards filled with people praying and fragrant smoke filling the air from burning incense. 

Planning your visit to the Lama Temple

CNY 25 (approx. $4) and free for children no taller than 1.2 meters (3.9 feet).

Opening Hours
April to October from 9 am to 4:30 pm; November to March 9 am to 4 pm.

Getting There By Subway
Take Line 2 or 5 to Yonghegong (Yonghe Temple) Station, get out of the station from Exit C. Walk south about 400 meters. The temple is on the east side of the road.

Getting There By Bus
Take bus 13, 116, 117 or 684 and get off at Yonghegong Station.

The Lama Temple is considered to be the most magnificent Buddhist temple in the city and is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. The complex was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng

The complex is covered in detailed paintings and elaborate carvings like these doors that are the entrance to one of the main temple buildings where visitors can observe the monks chanting. 

The noise of tourists and traffic is left outside the temple walls, and the air is filled with the hypnotic sounds of chanting and small, colorful prayer flags flapping in the breeze. 

Large drums echo across the complex when played by the monks. 

Covered passageways allow monks to move between the buildings above the crowds of tourists and worshippers. 

A man sits on scaffolding repairing one of the doors of the temple. 

Tibetan monks have darker robes than you see other monks in Asia wearing and wear elaborate headpieces. 

On my visit I was able to move freely through the buildings — being white in Asia, I was often stopped from entering religious complexes — and observe the worshippers performing ritual prayers.

About halfway into the complex, I found myself the sole foreign observer of a large, tapestry filled temple full of monks, sitting in lines and reading from heavy looking prayer books.

The sound of their voices mixed with the heavy scented air was hypnotizing and after taking a few flash-less photos, I pressed my back into the wall, not wanting to disturb them, closed my eyes, and let myself be carried away by the sound of their voices.

The stunning Statue of Tsongkhapa is surrounded by painted pillars and elaborate tapestries that hang from the ceiling of the temple and line the walls. 

Monks in their formal garb chanting — one of the most enchanting sounds I have ever heard. 

Visitors can wander from temple to temple through vast red corridors — from the shadow to the light. 

The Statue of the Maitreya Buddha was entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 1990 for being carved out of a single white sandalwood tree that stands an astonishing 26 metres high! 

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The Yonghe Temple (Lama Temple) in Beijing
The Yonghe Temple (Lama Temple) in Beijing

Traditional Temporary Tattoos: The Art of Henna

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

I have always been intrigued by the art of henna  — I've gotten a flower, a swirl, or a nonsense design put on one of my limbs more times than I can count while wandering a local summer festival, or hanging out at the beach. 

What I didn't know was the history behind the art, which is something that I discovered recently when chatting with a local henna artist (and a bit of research after the fact) while she drew a beautiful design on the back of my hand. 

Henna has been used for more than 5,000 years to dye skin, hair, fingernails, and even fabrics in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. The act of giving intricate henna tattoos is called Mehndi and is traditionally only done on women — never men.

Why henna is not drawn on men

According to the artist I spoke to, these intricate designs are usually applied the night before (sometimes a few days before) a women's wedding day. The elaborate designs cover her hands and feet (often up to her knees and elbows) and tradition goes that as long as they stay on the skin the women does not have to do any housework.

It isn't until the dye disappears that the new bride steps into her new role as a housewife. 

Don't worry though guys, here in the Western world, the rules are a bit different. It is completely ok for you to give henna a try. The artist I met told me that she often gives men tribal or sun designs on their arms or backs. 

And, in some hot desert cultures, both sexes use henna, not for its beautification factor, but its cooling one. Apparently soaking your hands and feet in a paste of henna helps to cool down your core temperature. 

The henna paste goes on black, but dyes your skin a brownish-orange color if left on for at least 5-7 hours

What is henna?

The leaves of the henna plant are crushed and mixed with different oils in order to make the creamy paste that is applied to the skin. My artist used eucalyptus oil and cloves (which left my hand smelling like a spa for the rest of the day).

When applied the paste looks dark brown or black, and stays on the skin until it flakes off naturally (between 5-7 hours), or — in my case — you have to rub it off before you go to bed so you don't wake up with a henna-tattooed face. 

My henna tattoo once the paste was rubbed off.  

This natural dye is completely harmless, and does not discriminate (it works on all skin types).

It works best on the hands or feet, and lasts anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on the type of henna used and how you take care of it (for example if you exfoliate the tattoo every day it won't last as long).

Oh, and it will leave tan lines, so if you lay out in the sun with your tattoo exposed, you will extend the design's shelf-life a little longer. 

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The art of henna