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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • I’m sorry, what did you say?

    January 22nd, 2009 by Russell Viers

    I was in Nizhny Novgorod awhile back speaking at an event for Adobe and I was joking with my good buddy Roman Menyakin about the instructions in the elevator and how they just didn’t translate as I’m sure they had intended.

    We exchange a few stories of things we had seen and heard over the years, like the Russian friend of his who would say “this is sh** of bull” all the time.

    Anyway, a week or so later we were in Kiev together and he was in a restaurant with a great sign that, again, was poorly translated. He shot a picture of it with his cell phone and emailed it to me. It read “For the things left without a supervision, administration of responsibility does not carry.” I took the liberty of adding the comma and correctly spelling one for the words to make it more clear.

    So as I travel, I like to read the way things are translated and, sometimes, I get a nice little chuckle out of it.

    Once in Peru I was eating at a restaurant that offered “Pig Sandwich” on the menu and in Switzerland an inn offered “Plate of Dry Meat.”

    My wife’s good friend from Peru tells the embarrassing story of how, when she was VERY pregnant, she traveled to the US on business. She was lost in the airport and needed help so she approached the most official looking man she could and, in her best English said, she was “looking for an intercourse.” Confused, the man corrected her saying that’s probably not what she meant to say and she demanded “Yes, I need an intercourse RIGHT NOW!” The nice man figured out what she REALLY needed was the concourse.

    While in Nice, France with another friend of mine the conversation turned to these bad translations. He told me he “collects” them and has an entire list of them that he has seen with his own eyes over the years.

    So I share them with you now, with a thanks to Jim Petrucci.

    In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

    In a Leipzig elevator: Do not enter the lift backwards and only when lit up.

    In a Belgrade hotel elevator: to move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number for wishing floor.  Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.

    In a Paris hotel elevator: please leave your values at the front desk.

    In a hotel in Athens: visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 daily.

    On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

    In a Hong Kong supermarket: for your convenience we recommend corteous, efficient self service.

    Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: stop:  drive sideways

    In a Swiss mountain inn: special today no ice cream.

    In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: we take your bags and send them in all directions.

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

    Two signs in a Majorcan shop entrance: (1) English well talking. (2) Here speeching American.

    In a Bangkok dry cleaner’s: drop your trousers here for best results.

    Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking

    Outside a Hong Kong dress shop: ladies have fits upstairs.

    In a Rome laundry: ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

    In a Tokyo bar: special cocktail for the ladies with nuts.

    In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

    In the office of a roman doctor: specialist in women and other diseases.

    Extracts from translations into English found in European travel brochures

    the bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore; soon you will feel the pleasure in passing water.

    You will know you are getting near the hotel, because you will go around the bend.

    The manager will await you in the entrance hall.  He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

    This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome.  Of course we are always pleased to accept adultery.

    Highly skilled nurses are available in the evening to put down your children.

    Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others.

    But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar.

    We organize social games, so no guest is left alone to play with himself.

    At dinner our quartet will circulate from table to table and fiddle with you.

    Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts.

    In winter every room is in heat.

    Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity.

    You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.

    Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition.  If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid.  Please take advantage of her; she will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear.  If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

    When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope.  You will struggle to forget it.

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