Hilarious Translations in Hotels around the World

June 22nd, 2013

Hotels have to cater to a wide variety of languages and travellers, and sometimes they skimp and save some money by using free machine translation ... with hilarious results.

Lord knows I don’t miss aeroplanes much, but I do sort of miss hotels. Hotel living, for a short period of time, is kind of fun. There’s the luxury of having someone else clean up after you, the mystery of the hotel bar where you might meet anyone, and can listen to a dozen different languages, and the thrill of being somewhere new. Along the way, I’ve encountered some document translations in hotel signs and documentation that could only be described as hilarious, and when I encountered such a thing I took a quick photo on my phone for a keepsake. Here’s some of my favourite examples.

Decorum

Some of the strangest mistranslated things I’ve seen had to do with enforcing the correct behaviours – often with ominous implications. For example, at one hotel in India I saw a sign that sternly instructed “No spiting on the walls.” I’m still not sure whether I’m more worried about the fact that “spiting” might be an actual thing in India, or that spitting on the walls might be an actual thing in India.

While travelling through Ethiopia once, I found this waiting for me in my room: “To call room service, please open door and call Room Service. Please call quiet, people may sleep.” It’s almost like a comedy sketch, except with the admonishment to be polite about it.

In China, I once encountered a sign that read “Good apperance please no watermelon please.” While I was comforted that the hotel was making an attempt to keep everyone looking good, I was haunted by the fact that due to my lack of Chinese language skills I might be watermelon and not even know it.

Incomprehensible

Of course, with those examples some of the humour comes from actually being able to figure out what they meant. Sometimes, that isn’t an option.

In Kyrgyzstan (don’t ask me why I was there) I was sternly instructed “No entries in upper clothes” and spent a good deal of my time there fruitlessly trying to find someone who could explain to me what “upper clothes” meant in that context.

In South Korea, I was informed that “Measles not included in room charge,” which was initially a relief until I started to wonder what in the world they’d actually meant.

Of course, it’s easy to make fun, but I also know that high quality translation is difficult work and it isn’t cheap. While I can understand why a hotel might want to save a few bucks, they should think about what that Google Translate-produced sign is doing to their image!