A Travel "Vignette of Vignettes"

How to Protect Yourself from English as a Second Language When Traveling Abroad

A Specialist in Women and Other Diseases

A Bob Djurdjevic Column, July 1990

A July 1990 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle carried an interesting collection of commercial signs which an international traveler may get to see in foreign countries. The countries in which these signs were reportedly displayed ranged from Japan to Romania, from Bangkok to Copenhagen, from Mexico to Yugoslavia... But, they all had one thing in common. They were obviously written by persons to whom English is a not a native language. Except, of course, if some of them were outright inventions by clever English-language writers -- a possibility for which the Chronicle also allows. The Chronicle said it had traced the origin of these expressions to an Air France memo, but otherwise said it could not guarantee their authenticity. Nor can I. But, we can guarantee you a laugh or two, especially if you have traveled internationally...

From Rome, Italy: The headline of this vignette is a sign outside a doctor's office in Rome, Italy: "A specialist in women and other diseases."

All Over China: A few years ago, Coca-Cola reportedly introduced a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in China. Its proud slogan trumpeted the message - "bite the wax tadpole!"

From a Hotel in Tokyo, Japan: "It is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such a thing is please not to read notis."

From a Hotel in Bucharest, Romania: "The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable."

From a Yugoslav Hotel: "The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid."

From a Swiss Restaurant Menu: "Our wines live you nothing to hope for."

From a Hong Kong Dentist's Ad: "Teeth extracted by the latest methodists."

From a Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 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 wising floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order."

From a Rhodes, Greece, Tailor Shop: "Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation."

From an Austrian Skiers' Hotel: "Not to perambulate the corridors during the hours of repose in the boots of ascension."

From a Bangkok, Thailand, Temple: "It if forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man."

From a Norwegian Bar: "Ladies are requested not to have children at the bar."

From a Copenhagen, Denmark, Airline Office: "We take your bags and send them in all directions."

From an Acapulco, Mexico, Hotel: "The manager has personally passed all the water served here."

From a Polish Hotel's Menu: "Salad a firm's own make; limpid red better soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country's own fashion."

From a Zurich, Switzerland, Hotel: "Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for that purpose."

From a German Park: "It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married to each other."

From a Moscow, USSR, Hotel Room: "If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it."

From a Macao Store: "Sorry! Midgets will always be available tomorrow."

From a Car Rental Brochure in Tokyo, Japan: "When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor."

From an Unknown Tailor's Store: "Drop your trousers here for best results. Ladies may have a fit upstairs."

So, there you have it -- the "vignette of vignettes" -- by this traveler's standards anyway...

For  American ladies, I hope you will a good sense not to drop your trousers when traveling overseas.  And to remember to have all of your fits at home, before going abroad.  And to avoid the "specialists in women and other diseases," except in Rome, of course.

For American men, unfortunately, I don't have that much to offer by way of exciting, new advice. "Don't steal towels, since you will be forced to read the notis not to do it," I suppose is one. I also thought that, "don't enter a woman if dressed as a man," could be a useful tip, especially in the Middle East.

But there are some things which are the same world over.  As that Danish sign said at an airline  office: "We take your bags and send them in all directions." And sometimes, they even arrive in one piece at the checked location.

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