Nationality Idioms

I run across many nationalities in English idiomatic expressions. I think those idioms are rather curious and I wonder whether they are frequently used by native speakers. Are some of them considered to be politically incorrect nowadays? 🙂

Let’s start with poor Dutch. They seem to be the least favorite. 🙂


  • go Dutch(with somebody) – to go out for fun together but have each person pay for himself.

e.g. The girl knew her boyfriend had little money, so she offered to go Dutch.

Compare: Dutch treat – A meal in a restaurant or an outing at the movies, concert, or theater where each party pays his or her own way.
e.g. “I am willing to accept your invitation,” Mary said, “but it will have to be Dutch treat.”

  • in Dutch in trouble.

e.g. George got in Dutch with his father when he broke a window.

  • double Dutch – speech or writing that is impossible to understand, and that seems to be nonsense

e.g. These instructions are written in double Dutch.

Compare with in plain English – simply and clearly expressed, without using technical language;

  • Dutch courage – the false courage or confidence that a person gets from drinking alcohol.

e.g. It was Dutch courage that made the football fan attack the policeman.

  • Beat the Dutch/beat all to be strange or surprising.

NOTE: ‘beat all’ has been replacing ‘beat the Dutch’ expression. (Good! :))

e.g. Look at that weird hairdo of hers. She beats the Dutch!

  • take French leave – to leave work without asking permission first/ the act of slipping away from a place secretly and without saying good-bye to anyone.

e.g. It’s getting late, Rob whispered to Janet. Let’s take French leave and get out of here.

  • Russian roulette a game of chance in which one bullet is placed in a revolver, the cartridge cylinder is spun, and the player aims the gun at his own head and pulls the trigger.

e.g. Only a fool would risk playing Russian roulette.




not for all the tea in China/not for all the coffee in Brazil – not even for a great reward

e.g. I wouldn’t do your job. Not for all the tea in China!

This idiom has already been mentioned in this group before. But I decided to include it here.

  • as American as apple pie – used to say that something is typical of America.

e.g. Basketball is as American as apple pie. It was invented in American and is perhaps our favorite sport.

too many chiefs and not enough Indians – used to describe a situation in which there are too many people telling other people what to do and not enough people to do the work

  • Indian giver (an ethnic slur; avoidable!) – a person who gives one something, but later asks for it back.

e.g. John gave me a beautiful fountain pen, but a week later, like an Indian giver, he wanted it back.

  • the Indian sign – a magic spell that is thought to bring bad luck; curse; jinx; hoo-doo.(often used in a joking way)

e.g. Father says that he always wins our checker games because he has put the Indian sign on me, but I think he is joking.


Please, write your own examples using these idioms. Maybe you know some other ‘nationality idioms’.

Look forward to your comments and examples.


  1. I saw that the title of post is “Nationality Idioms”.
    And also, I saw that one of the above idioms is similar to an Iranian proverb.
    So I decided to compare the Iranian proverb with it.
    One of above idioms says:
    Too many chiefs and not enough indians.
    Iranian proverb says:
    Too many pots ( saucepans, or pans) and not lunch or dinner.
    It means that there are too many pots in a big house that you believe that there are too many foods inside them, but finally, you understand there isn’t any lunch or dinner.
    The proverb wants to describe a situation that someone pretend doing something, but there isn’t anything.

    1. Nice example, Bijan.
      I think your proverb is very close to English “too many cooks spoil the broth”, which means that when too many people are involved in an activity, it will not be done properly.
      You wrote – “…that there are too many foods inside them…”
      “… that someone pretend doing something…’
      Please, find your mistakes here.
      See you,

  2. Bijan, all,
    ‘food’ – uncountable noun – things that people or animals eat.
    ‘food’ – countable noun – a particular type of food, e.g. gourmet foods, frozen foods, dietary foods…
    example sentences: Avoid rich foods like pastries.
    Campaigners are challenging the safety of genetically-modified foods.

    In your sentence, you wrote not about different types of food, but just about food in the house, something that people eat, right? That’s why you should have used ‘food’ as an uncountable noun.
    Could you, please, rewrite your sentence with ‘food’?
    As for subscription, I am aware of this issue as well as Teacher Lee.
    Please, be patient. T.Lee and Ivan will fix this problem as soon as they can.

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