Translation:I wash my hands before a meal.
From what I know, this is true for most, but certainly not all languages. This is probably due to thinking of time as linear, so that one "faces" the future while moving toward it, as is common during motion toward somewhere/something and "faces away" from the past that is being traveled away from.
Some languages, like Mandarin, use "up" as before and "down" as after. I'm not sure why this is.
A few languages, like Aymara, use "behind" for the future and "front" for the past. This is probably due to being able to see the events of the past clearly, as if one was facing it, but not being able to see the future, as if was out of one's view.
I don't know of any languages that use "down" for before and "up" for after, but imagine that at least one has existed, even if only due to unusual circumstances.
I do use "up" and "down" in Vietnamese for saying "front" and "back" when I'm referring to parts of the house. from my understanding, kitchen, usually at the rear of a house, used to be a bit lower, one step or two, compared to the living room and bedrooms, which are usually on the front part of the house. this configuration might now be obsolete, but some still refer to living room as up and the kitchen as down, even if they are on the same level.
In fact I think most of the languages are like Aymara (and Quechua): in English too, before(=in front) is past, after(=behind) is future. The same in Japanese, the same in Hebrew. I guess sometime in the renaissance the Europeans started facing the future more than the past, but the languages still preserve the old thinking.
don't. I guess it's a construction that more than a few languages adopted. French has the equivalent with the verb "prendre": prendre une photo, prendre des notes, prendre un objet eg. de l'argent. so does Spanish with "tomar": tomar una foto, tomar apuntes, tomar objectos eg. dinero.
Actually, "meals" is the most correct translation. The Japanese is ambiguous (it could be before any meal, or could be before a specific one: we don't know because Japanese lacks both the plural/singular distinction and a mandatory article before nouns). No one would ever say this phrase in Japanese and actually mean THE (specific, aforementioned) meal. That's just bizarre.