Lost in Translation

Chinese Stop Sign

In a minute we’re going to have a laugh together, but first I would like to announce that the winner of the giveaway I ran on my interview with Lorna Lee is… Anne Woodman! Congratulations Anne! You are now the proud owner of a copy of Lorna’s book ‘How Was I Supposed to Know?’ (or you will be the proud owner of it soon). If you didn’t win, but would still like to get your hands on a copy (and who wouldn’t, right?), then the buying details are on this page of Lorna’s blog.

Now, that laugh I promised…I don’t usually do this on my blog, I prefer to write my own stuff, but as an antidote to the slightly melancholy tone of my last post, some simple laughter at other people’s expense is in order. I always laugh at these however many times I read them, and I’m sure even if you’ve seen them before, you too will laugh again. Some mistranslations from around the world…

IN A BUCHAREST HOTEL LOBBY: The elevator is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

IN A PARIS HOTEL: Please leave your values at the front desk.

IN A TOKYO HOTEL: Is forbitten to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis.

IN A HOTEL IN ATHENS: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.

IN A YUGOSLAVIAN HOTEL: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

ON THE MENU OF A SWISS RESTAURANT: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

IN A JAPANESE HOTEL: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

IN AN AUSTRIAN HOTEL CATERING TO SKIERS: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

ON THE MENU OF A POLISH HOTEL: Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.

IN A HONG KONG SUPERMARKET: For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.

OUTSIDE A HONG KONG TAILOR SHOP: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

IN A RHODES TAILOR SHOP: Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.

IN AN EAST AFRICAN NEWSPAPER: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.

IN A VIENNA HOTEL: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.

A SIGN POSTED IN GERMANY’S BLACK FOREST: It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.

IN A ZURICH HOTEL: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

IN AN ADVERTISEMENT BY A HONG KONG DENTIST: Teeth extracted by the latest methodists.

IN A ROME LAUNDRY: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

ADVERTISEMENT FOR DONKEY RIDES IN THAILAND: Would you like to ride on your own ass?

IN THE WINDOW OF A SWEDISH FURRIER: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.

IN A SWISS MOUNTAIN INN: Special today – no ice cream.

IN A BANGKOK TEMPLE: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.

IN A COPENHAGEN AIRLINE TICKET OFFICE: We take your bags and send them in all directions.

ON THE DOOR OF A MOSCOW HOTEL ROOM: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

AT A BUDAPEST ZOO: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

IN THE OFFICE OF A ROMAN DOCTOR: Specialist in women and other diseases.

IN AN ACAPULCO HOTEL: The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING A JAPANESE HOTEL AIR CONDITIONER: Cooles and Heates – if you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.

FROM A BROCHURE OF A CAR RENTAL FIRM IN TOKYO: When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

– English well talking.
– Here speeching American.

FROM A HOTEL BROCHURE IN ITALY: This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact, crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.

IN A NAIROBI RESTAURANT: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.

HOTEL IN GERMANY: It is our intention to pleasure you every day.

HOTEL IN SOUTH KOREA: Choose twin bed or marriage size; we regret no King Kong size.

HOTEL IN ITALY: Suggestive views from every window.

HOTEL IN ITALY: If service is required, give two strokes to the maid and three to the waiter. It is kindly requested from our guests that they avoid dirting and doing rumours in the rooms. Hot and cold water running up and down the stairs.

HOTEL IN THE CANARY ISLANDS: If you telephone for room service you will get the answer you deserve.

HOTEL IN FINLAND: Instructions in case of fire – If you are unable to leave your room, expose yourself in the window.

Have you seen any funny signs on your travels?

Picture credit: Chinese stop sign by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC


58 responses to “Lost in Translation

  1. A friend just sent this to me in an email — I love the Paris elevator best –leave your values at the front desk


  2. I’m off to visit Japan…JAPANESE HOTEL:You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid. my problem .. do the chambermaids know this is allowed… I have had a good chuckle at these.. and then wonder how often people may have laughed at my English… but one we see often on out roads… SOTP… amazing how many there are…


    • Yes, it’s probably best to check that the chambermaid is fine with the arrangement first, just to be safe.

      I’m sure I’ve been laughed at many a time when I’ve tried to communicate in a language other than my own!


  3. Here speeching American. These are great, Vanessa!

    And I’m so excited that I won! I WON! I WON! Yippee! I can’t wait to read Lorna’s book! And also: I never win anything, so I’m over the moon! And speeching American.

    Thank you, Vanessa! ; )


  4. Hilarious and informative post, my friend!


  5. Those damn Finlanians. Always looking for an excuse to get naked.

    Oh, and congrats to Anne! I sensed I was out of the running for the book once I started dismissing the merits of non-dairy cheese. It’s a long story.


    • You have experience with Finlanians then?

      Let me assure you, that you were still very much in the running, everyone’s name went in the hat, so your anti-non-dairy cheese comments played no part in the selection of the winner. Hmm, the merits of non-dairy cheese, maybe there’s another blog post in that…


  6. These are great! I always look forward to having my underwear flattened when traveling, followed by having my teeth extracted by the latest and hippest Methodists.


  7. Anne has all the luck. Drat.

    We must me related somehow. We think alike sign-wise. What are the odd that we would do posts on funny signs within hours of each other. Do we have the same mom?


  8. These are too funny and most entertaining. I can excuse the non-English speaking countries and can laugh at myself trying to talk a foreighn language, but how do we manage signs like the ones Robin collected?
    Anyway, good for a giggle while having my coffee today. Teehee. Thanks for sharing.


  9. I’m imagining someone saying the German phrase with a German accent — great!


  10. Those are funny. Thanks for sharing.


  11. When I was a student in Austria, I was studying German. Because of this, one of my friends asked me to write down some translations for him. He planned to visit a person in Germany whom he believed was a relative. He asked me to write down for him: “I think we are related” among other sentences. He came back from his visit saying that everything I’d written for him was wrong. The only one I can remember translated to, “I believe that families exist.” Fortunately, the wife of the relative spoke a bit of English. After much bewilderment, they got along, but discovered they weren’t related at all! I blame my friend’s accent. 😉


  12. First of all, check out Engrish.com. That has to be one of my favorite sites. Most of the pictures are from Asian locations, but there are a few European ones. My favorite sign was one in Knoxville, Tennessee, outside of a tattoo parlor: TATTOOS DONE WHILE YOU WAIT. I was driving to the airport, and I almost stopped and backed up to make sure that’s what I saw.


    • Thanks John, I just went to have a look at engrish.com, that’s great, bookmarked! I’ve heard of that Tattoos done while you wait before but assumed it was a joke, I guess not then! There was another one like I heard about in a shoe shop I think, something like ‘Have your feet measured while you wait’.


  13. Oh, thanks for the great laugh, Vanessa! 🙂 After I wipe the tears from my face, I’m sharing this on Facebook!


  14. Congratulations to Anne! (Are you going to post a review when you’ve finished Lorna’s book?)

    I remember a lot of these from a paperback(!) my family had when I was a kid. They still make me laugh! When I was in Japan last year, we saw some more Engrish like this. I’ll have to see if I can find any of the photos, for a laugh. 🙂


  15. They are brilliant. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Too many favourites to pick any one out. I do like things that are lost in translation.


  16. It was especially funny to me, because I’ve never seen any of them before. On the matter of speaking Engrish…I mean American…I once visited Paris and tried to speak French. I’d get out maybe one sentence and they would look at me in disgust and start speaking English to me. The rest of the country was more forgiving, and seemed to be appreciative of my efforts, but Paris, forget it.
    In the matter of signs, my sister and I are always on the lookout for twisted signs and headlines. You know those restaurant signs they have to put the individual letters up on? Probably my all time favorite is NEW EMPLOYEE BENEFIT. WORK OR GET FIRED. Then there was CHEFS GRILLING AFTER 4:00 P.M. Really? How long does it take to grill a chef? And how do they taste?


    • Glad you liked them! I do actually speak French quite well and I found it annoying several years back when I went to Paris with an old boyfriend (well, he’s an old boyfriend now, he was a current boyfriend at the time! Just thought I’d better clarify). Anyway, we obviously looked so British because as soon as we walked into any shop, the assistant would say “Ello, can I ‘elp you?” before we’d even opened our mouths!


  17. Checkout my blog to day for a shout-out directed at your magnificence, young lady!


  18. Again, thanks for the interview, Vanessa! These were very funny.

    I think I was at the San Deigo Zoo and saw a make-shift sign near a “Please Don’t Feed the Animals” sign. It read “Please Don’t Feed the Tourists Either.” 🙂


  19. Congrats to Anne! And those are great translations. Perfect for an early morning chuckle. I have to say the Paris one is probably my favorite. 🙂


  20. Pingback: The Vocabulary Holding Zone | Vanessa-Jane Chapman

  21. I loved all of these, Vanessa, but this was my favorite: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”


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