Les “intraduisibles”

Too French for translation

#8 Auberge Espagnole

In French auberge espagnole is an idiomatic expression that literally refers to a place where one has to bring one’s own food. The expression appeared in the eighteenth century and derived from the bad reputation of Spanish inns and apartments. At this time, it was advised that visitors brought their own food, either because the establishments did not provide it or because the quality of the produce offered was very poor.

An equivalent does indeed exist in English to describe meals composed of several different people’s contributions: potluck. The term auberge espagnole has nevertheless a wider usage in French and is applicable to any idea or situation, whereby one manages to find something of interest or of comfort. The French phrase therefore carries positive connotations that can only be rendered in English by longer expressions, such as “you will get from it as much as you put in” or “it is up to you to make it a good experience”.

The term auberge espagnole was popularised in 2002 by the French-Spanish film of the same name directed and written by Cédric Klapisch. The comedy drama follows the adventures of Xavier, a French student, as he leaves his country for the Erasmus programme in Barcelona. Despite initial reservations, Xavier experiences unforgettable events and ties lifelong friendships. L’Auberge Espagnole forms the first part of the trilogy, followed by Les Poupées russes and Casse-tête chinois.

Watch the trailer: