Expat Magazine

Expat Life: Lost in Translation

By Miss Footloose @missfootloose

Expat Life: Lost in TranslationStill feeling gloomy after reading my latest post? Oh, get over it! Read this and see if it will give you a few chuckles and cheer you up.

Expats often have the wonderful opportunity to (attempt to) learn a new language. I hear your groan from various corners of the planet. I personally know people who easily and fluently speak 3 or 4 languages. No, I am not one of them. I can mess around in a few but I’m only good at two (Dutch and English). Right now I am trying to improve my school-French with an online course since I’m hoping to spend some time in France next year, inshallah, and my brain is getting a serious workout. Trust me when I say that I have the utmost respect for people who are trying to speak and courageously corrupt foreign languages, but at the same time I enjoy the fun that happens when translations go wrong. I’ve gathered a few of those lost-in-translation gems for your entertainment. If you’ve come across these yourself already, my apologies for wasting your time.

In a Bed & Breakfast in France: The genuine antics in your room come from our family castle. Long life to it.

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian orthodox Monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetary [sic] where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

Danish airline: We take your bags and send them in all directions.

An ad by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.

A Finnish hotel’s instructions in case of fire: If you are unable to leave your room, expose yourself in the window.

In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for the ladies from their own skin. (Ouch.)

Dutch Politician: We are a country of undertakers. (He meant entrepreneurs.)

In a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking. (Dress for success.)

In an Austrian hotel for skiers: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension. (I had to read this twice.)

In a Czech tourist agency: Take one of our horse driven tours—we guarantee no miscarriages.

Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

Expat Life: Lost in Translation

Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

A sign on the lion cage at a zoo in the Czech Republic: No smoothen the lion.

Notice 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. (Go Switzerland.)

Spotted in a safari park: ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR.

Of course even native English-speakers can botch it up . . .

In a Los Angeles clothing store: Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks.*

In a New York medical building: Mental Health Prevention Center.

On a New York convalescent home: For the sick and tired of the Episcopal Church.

Doctor’s note in US Hospital Chart:  Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

Expat Life: Lost in Translation

Enough already. I’ll get back to my French course. I now know the words for 1) manhole cover, 2) rocking chair, 3) dust bunnies, and 4) turnip. Clearly, I’m well on my way to being able to have a Meaningful Discussion on an Important Subject without making any funny translation mistakes. Sans doute!

*16 and 17 are neck sizes in inches.

* * *

Your turn. You know any funny ones? Make me laugh.


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