Travel theme: Signs

16 Aug

Last week my post on leading lines got lots of comments and when I saw this week’s theme at Where’s my Backpack? I knew that I would have to join up again.  The theme is signs.

Living in China I have the opportunity to see all kinds of signs that I typically wouldn’t see at home.  The ones I find the most amusing are the signs where the English translation either makes me shake my head or is entirely misleading.  I went through my pictures from the last couple of years to pull together these four signs that continue to make me laugh each time I look.

There’s a lot to be said for a good peer reviewer!  Sometimes I think that if the corporate world becomes too much, I should just charge for proof reading services.  Given these examples – I think there’s a market.

In chronological order:

Export what?

This photo was taken in October of 2010 in Hangzhou, a day trip from Shanghai. It is a major tourist destination for foreigners and Chinese alike with the most famous attraction being the peaceful and serene West Lake.  The Chinese on the sign very clearly says Exit (出口) but somehow the English turned into Export.  Actually 出口 has two meanings in Chinese, one of which is Export, but that doesn’t make any sense here.

So I can litter as long as it doesn’t kill anyone?

This photo was taken during my team outing in June 2011 to Zhangjiajie, Hunan province and was posted on the window/balcony of my hotel room which was on a higher floor.  I know the intent was more of don’t throw things off of the balcony, but this translation doesn’t really capture that.  In Zhangjiajie’s defense – it is an up and coming tourist site made much more popular after the movie Avatar and when we went there were more Korean tourists than other western faces.  On that note though – the sign above has no Korean translation.

I am way too tall!

Taken on a weekend trip to Shenzhen in November 2011, we were touring a large Russian air craft carrier which is permanently docked in the bay.  From the photo you can see that it is not likely that I will be seeking employment on a submarine any time soon, but the sign really made me crack up.

The Chinese stated there is very, very common (当心碰头)and can be found in every single subway station and above most escalators where there is an overhang.  I’d translate it as “Careful of hitting your head” or “Watch your head” so the “Beware…” added an extra smile to my face.  When is the last time you saw the world “Beware” in an English speaking country?

I still don’t understand this one – the English really doesn’t make sense

My final contribution was taken this past June and is in Sheshan, on the outskirts of Shanghai, where there is an observatory and Shanghai’s oldest Catholic church.  From the picture it looks like this is a place to throw rubbish, but the Chinese is – please don’t litter here.  It’s another variation on my “killer littering” above, except even less clear.  I don’t know how a foreigner is supposed to interpret this, but it definitely made my day!

Which sign is your favorite?

If you’d like to see other people’s interpretations of the travel theme, please click on the Where’s My Backpack link at the beginning of the post.

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28 Responses to “Travel theme: Signs”

  1. Tex August 16, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    In 1967, one of the most eye-catching and unforgettable signs was scrawled on a piece of cardboard stuck on a fence near the entrance to the magnificent gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. It said in English: “Help build new churches.” As if the old ones were not good enough for the sign’s creator.

    • gkm2011 August 16, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      That’s great – what a sign! And obviously you still remember it many years later. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Kristin August 16, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Haha, I love the killer littering sign! that’s a killer sign…! And the Export sign… You think that is maybe for unwanted visitors? Go straight to the export department!
    Signs are actually much more fun to read than one would think, I agree. I remember a conference in Southampton after which I decided to go for a walk to clear my head. However, our hotel was located in an industrial area – not ideal for nice country walk. Luckily, I found those park like company premises that were open to the public. Everything was paved, manicured lawns, and the whole thing was rather tiny. Nevertheless, the whole area was plastered with signs that said things like “Wildlife can be dangerous”, “Attention: Deep Water” (on a bridge over a puddle) and “Attention: Aggressive Swans”. Honestly, I couldn’t stop laughing, it was one of my best walks ever!

    • gkm2011 August 16, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

      That sounds like quite a walk. I think they could have used one of the “Beware” signs there as well. I think a lot of the time we just fix the mistakes or ignore the ones that don’t make sense. 🙂

  3. expatlingo August 16, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    I love the last one. It’s like they used a computer translation program, but decided to run it sequentially through Russian, Korean and German before the final twisted translation to English.

    • gkm2011 August 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      That may have been it. I actually had to think for a little bit before I caught the meaning. That together with the trash can symbol made for the perfect combo.

  4. Madhu August 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Hilarious! English signs in India are bad enough, but China was a class apart 😀

    • gkm2011 August 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      I agree – and all but the first littering sign were in large tourists areas with lots of foreigners. The proofreading market shows promise.

  5. ailsapm August 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    These are hilarious, gkm2011, that killer littering is priceless. xxx

    • gkm2011 August 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks! It is such a visual sign – I could see little pieces of paper attacking me or something.

  6. David August 18, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    If I had a penny for every time I saw a “no naked flames” sign in Beijing, I’d be rich!

    • gkm2011 August 18, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      That’s a pretty good one. Did you take a photo? Or should I ask – are “clothed” flames ok?

      • David August 19, 2012 at 6:43 am #

        I do have a picture. I assume since it specifically says that naked flames are not allowed, clothed flames must be OK.

      • gkm2011 August 19, 2012 at 7:43 am #

        Great photo. I guess you’re right – I’ll have to keep my eyes open for clothed flames then.

  7. Naomi Baltuck August 19, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    I love this! My son brought back a stack of tee shirts from China with similar signage.

    • gkm2011 August 19, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      I’ve seen those before – we even ran into a guy in Boracay wearing one – but his was just characters and he didn’t realize he was saying something like “long live socialism!” Thanks for stopping by.

  8. eof737 August 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    That last sign is priceless. 😉

  9. buildingmybento September 4, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I’ve noticed a lot of t-shirts that take chinglish to well, not a whole new level but more of a parallel level. Also tourist buses. Sometimes Chinese can be read from right to left (as you know), so it’s kind of amusing to see t-shirts/English translation of tourist bus companies where English (or pinyin) is written backwards. Just take a mirror with you as you amble the Shanghai streets and you’ll be the next talk of echinacities expat corner!

    • buildingmybento September 4, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      And then there are these: http://buildingmybento.wordpress.com/tag/t-shirt/; but the export one is a good one!

      • gkm2011 September 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

        Thanks for the link! Yes, the export one made me laugh.

    • gkm2011 September 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

      That is very true- I did a post where when we were in the Philippines there was an Australian tourist who on his shirt was proclaiming the virtues of the communist party. That was pretty funny too. 🙂

  10. abc in shanghai September 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    they’re all good finds. and just think … several thousand very bad chinglish signs (so i understand) were taken down and replaced with more meaningful ones – either the ones we find today were missed or just plain (still) bad translation.

    • gkm2011 September 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

      Yes – I think 5 or 10 years ago it would have even been more amusing!

  11. sarahinguangzhou October 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    In the park in GZ there’s a sign that says “No frolicking in the Spring”. And Spring is capitalized, as if they’re talking about the season rather than the nearby lake. Can’t read the Chinese but I think it’s kinda cute.

    • gkm2011 October 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      That is great! I wonder what the Chinese says?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Follow-up post on Travel Theme: Signs « 中国 Jumble - September 11, 2012

    […] through my photos looking for something else, I found two more signs that fit very well into the Signs post that I posted several weeks ago.  They were taken when my family visited China in the summer […]

  2. The fifth quarter update « 中国 Jumble - October 16, 2012

    […] Travel Theme – Signs was another contribution and it merited the most comments on a post that I had this month.  So much so that I posted a follow-up to the theme several weeks later.  If you didn’t comment so far – please click this link and let me know which sign is your personal favorite. […]

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