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Traveling to Asia and working out of our offices — Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, back to Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — never gets old.

Even after 50+ trips to the region, I still come across life-is-better-than-fiction moments in regard to language.

Here are the top three from my latest trip.

Marketing is Alive and Well in China

Marketing in China - Children's Food store selling candy

The above photo depicts the front of a store in Shanghai called “Children’s Food.”

I’m thinking such a store capitalizes on all parents’ quest to give their kids the best — the best education, the best nutrition, etc.

Not quite.

It turns out “Children’s Food” sells candy.

Row after row after row of every type of candy you can imagine.

I never thought of malt balls and gummy bears as children’s food. With that said, I admire the owner’s pluck in putting a positive spin on candy.

The Arrival Card as a Springboard into Storytelling

China Immigration Arrival Card

Every country requires the completion of an arrival card, which in combination with a passport allows one to pass through customs.

This particular landing card caught my attention, specifically the area called “purpose of visit.”

I’m cruising through the list — business, sightseeing, visiting friends or relatives — which all make sense until the eighth choice, “settle down.”

What do you suppose this means?

That after a nomadic life or perhaps after a lifestyle best described as decadent, a check of this box indicates the person is going to “settle down”?

Weird.

Guiding Proper Behavior on an Elevator

Chinese elevator behavior guideline

I got a kick out of this sign that adorned the elevator in a service apartment where I stayed.

Of course, smoking isn’t allowed on the elevator.

And I personally appreciated the reminder “to press the button lightly” (bottom row, middle) since my index finger can get impatient and downright aggressive when it comes to pressing stuff.

But I must confess to tapping my deepest reservoirs of restraint to follow the rule “no jumping” (top row, right)

The idea of jumping in an elevator never occurred to me until seeing this sign. I’ll leave the psychology behind the “why” to the professionals.

Before its demise, the Far Eastern Economic Review published the wonderful “Traveller’s Tales” column, a forum to share amusing “communications” from all over the world like the one below.

Far Eastern Economic Review published the wonderful "Traveller's Tales" column - communication

If you’ve come across this type of fodder during your own travels, send it my way. With enough content, I’ll cobble together a follow-up post.


Comments

  • Evelyn

    Ah, I know EXACTLY where that Children’s Food store is. Literal translation.

    That “Settle down” choice applies to me, but not in China. 🙂 There were times when I’ve been tempted to put a check mark next to that but then, I remembered that I have to deal with immigration and humor doesn’t quite work in China.

    The “No jumping” reminder is meant for badly behaved Chinese kids, which applies to most Chinese kids. Well, I did jump in an elevator once, just that I was no longer a kid then and was told never to do that again — it destabilizes the elevator. Not sure if that’s true but I hey, I’m not a badly behaved Chinese kid.

    Reply
    • hoffman

      Good hearing from you Evelyn.

      I think that’s a good call to NOT test the sense of humor of Immigration.

      And if a child or adult for that matter jumping on an elevator destabilizes it, I’ll take the stairs.

      Reply

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