When you travel to a foreign country you want to explore all the unique sites, attractions and neighbourhoods in that country. Sometimes you want to see the traditional tourist spots and sometimes you want to immerse yourself into the place’s culture and feel like a local. For those of us whose primary language is English we often discover that while the main language in most countries around the world is not our language, many of the signs are in both the local language and English or to make life easy for tourists there are just helpful pictures.
I will admit that I get a kick out of seeking out these helpful signs, which, while they mean well, the message sometimes gets lost in translation. Sometimes it’s not even a translation issue but culturally it may look funny because of how strange it seems. Then there are some signs that are not meant to be funny at all, there is no translation issue and for no apparent reason I just think they are funny.
I will share a bunch of those signs with you here. Some of these photos are from my travels and some are photos people have sent me or posted on social media that just make me laugh.
I will begin with my most recent trip to New Zealand with my family. New Zealand is an English-speaking country, but I think they have a great sense of humour there and they also like to be very clear with locals and tourists about what the message is.
The first memorable sign from that trip was at our motel in the town of Turangi, in the centre of the North Island. The owner of the establishment was quite clear about what was NOT allowed to be cooked:
Turangi is near a ski resort, Mt. Ruapehu, and since it was summer there (early January), of course the resort was closed for the season. We had torrential rain and the scheduled hike was cancelled, so we decided, during a heavy downpour, to drive up the mountain and check out the ski resort. We came upon the beginner area, called Happy Valley Snow Park, and with buckets of rain pouring down I jumped out of the car to capture a few great signs.
Matthew soon joined in the fun seeking out interesting signage and we hit the jackpot at the volcanic hot springs at Rotorua. They wanted to make sure we understood just how hot and dangerous the pools were….
Then we just got silly a few days later, as we boarded, then traveled on the ferry boat that brought us from the South Island to the North Island.
Actually, we saw a few really fun and informative signs throughout New Zealand’s South Island:
Another favourite spot for great signs is Hong Kong. The majority of the local population speaks various Chinese dialects, but because of Hong Kong’s long-time connection with Great Britain there is a lot of English. Maybe some of the signs have translation challenges and maybe some are very clear but make no sense to someone like me. I traveled to Hong Kong a few years ago with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law and we found a few memorable signs.
British humour is admired the world over, and I have had the opportunity to visit the UK a few times in the last 20 years. I regret that I did not take photos of most of the funny signs I saw, and the two that I have I think may only seem funny to my family. But still they make me chuckle.
It is quite normal in Israel to see signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Most of the time the signs make sense, but this one was definitely lost in translation. The Hebrew sign says “Sakana! Borot Bakveesh.” The problem here is with the word “borot” which means HOLES in English. However, the word “boroot” means IGNORANCE in English. Oops.
You won’t find this sign on a highway in Canada….
My brother-in-law, Leigh, has racked up the air miles the last few years for work and visited some far-off places. He showed me quite a variety of interesting signs, some too disturbing to post here. But here are a few of my favourites:
This photo is courtesy of my friend Richard, who posted it on Facebook last week. It needs no description. Thanks Richard.
I love to seek out these signs when I travel, and yes, it’s fun to have a chuckle when I find them, photograph them and share them with family and friends. I know it is immature, okay it’s flat out childish, but I like it just the same. How about you? Have you seen any memorable signs in your travels? Share them with me on Facebook, Tweet me @AliciaRichler or comment here. I look forward to seeing what you have to show me.