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Lost in translation

I stood at the doorway to the restroom in Casablanca, Morocco, and puzzled over the scene before my eyes. The toilet consisted of a hole in the floor, two raised footpads, a water spigot and a bucket. And I thought: How do I work this?

Bathroom plumbing, poorly translated signs, strange transportation, truly bizarre foods: When you travel, sooner or later, you’re going to run into a situation that simply leaves you scratching your head. But with any luck, you’ll also be laughing about it.

In a new slide show on Bing Travel, we examine 12 confusing and amusing travel moments. There’s the “Male Man” sign outside a restroom in Shanghai, China, that may make you wonder just how many kinds of men there are. In places like Osaka, Japan, the subway system may make you question whether you’ll ever find your way home. A visit to a Turkish bath in Istanbul gives the traveler pause: Do I wear a towel or my birthday suit? And in South America and southern Europe, a plumbing fixture called a “bidet” may seem like a tempting place to stash a six-pack of beer, but it was in fact designed to clean your private parts.

Have you ever had a confusing or amusing “lost in translation” moment when abroad? Share your thoughts with other travelers in the comments section.


  • I live in the U.K. and always struggle to understand how a country so close to us still has holes in the floor for a toilet. I hate travelling through France and stopping off at the motorway services along the way - I still can't use their 'toilets'. I also have a lot of friends in Spain and find some of their little customs bizarre. Like the need to have a cured pig leg on a stand in the kitchen with a teatowel draped over it that has been passed down through the family. Household members, and even neighbours then pop in and cut chunks off the ham and feed their faces. Lucky they can even get to the meat with all the flies buzzing round it. France and Spain aren't even that far away and their customers differ greatly to ours.

    I am booked on a cruise out in Orienatal Asia at the end of the year and can't imagine the weird and wonderful I am going to see out there! I am keeping my eye out on a cruise forum to get any bits of advice that might prepare me for my holiday of a lifetime. Think I am going to have to bite the bullet and ask!

  • am shocked that they'd still use pit latrines in Casablanca, it is a modern city with lots of tourists, surely there are hotels with modern toilets!

  • I bought a long sleeve shirt for my 5 year old son in Hong Kong with writing printed all over the shirt.  After several years wearing the shirt, I realized that one of the sleeves have "FRIDAY NIGHT LOVERS" printed on it.  I cut the sleeves off.

  • I've been to the U.K. and never came across any restroom that didn't have an actual toilet in it. ever.

  • Get over your precious behinds. It's only one generation in parts of the US that "outhouses" were common. They were simply a hold dug deeply with a small door in and out. Fancier ones had two holes and even a small step for children. A can of lime sat nearby to occasionally sprinkle down the hole to keep down odor and flies. You are only two or three generations from looking for a log in the forest. Fill in the rest, but check the leaves you choose for Charmin because poison ivy is not charming.

  • U.K. I've been traveling for years and the first time I went to Italy I came across not 1 but 2 places, cities apart, where there were holes in the ground to use the restroom. They are also very common in Hong Kong, India, and Mainland China.

  • Although online translators have definitely helped to make other languages more accessible, they are probably not the best tools for translating menu items... particularly these tasty items on a Beijing menu:

    "Person carries valuables on jade belt"

    "Burns the volume bacon juice"

    "Peasant family twice burns tofu"

    "Old Beijing explodes the stomach"

    "Buddhist ritual procedures mashed potato salad"

  • I got a good one for all in U.S of A and around the world! Everywere i go and see stores,public placeses even internet "SE ABLA ESPAñOL" This is wrong lolol i get a kick out of it! The Right Ways is " Ablamos Español" or  "Aqui Ablamos Español" SE ABLA ESPAñOL is like saying "Know Talk Spanish" its bad Grammer in Spanish.

    To me is Funny that only very few

    Americans & Latinos get this Mistake. And its used around the whole country

  • I smiled when I saw the Arabic Stop sign in the article. At least it was red and octagonal. Several years ago I visited Leningrad, Russia. While in a bus I noticed a small rectangular sign (white with black lettering) that read CTOΠ.

    I don't read or speak russian, but I do know something about Cyrillic. The 'C' is actually pronounced 'S' and the last letter is Pi (pronounced 'P'), so this is a Russian STOP sign that most Westeners wouldn't recognize! I still regret that I didn't have my camera with me to record it.

  • sounds racist to me

  • sign on a fire door in Ireland:


  • Have you ever tried bargaining in the souvenir shops of Thailand?? calculator talks for prices...if you want the price lower you have to show it in calculator.

    And when I saw this cute shirt I like, I ask the lady " can I fit this?" and I was replied "no fit" but what she mean is no fitting area LOL

  • "Se habla español" means "Spanish is spoken" or "we speak Spanish"...though there are other ways of sayng it, this one is widely used...

  • The first time I visited Moscow in 1990, I stayed at the colossal Hotel Rossia (now defunct). Thumbtacked to the inside of my door was a hand-lettered sign 'If this is your first trip to the USSR, you are welcome to it.'

  • The traveler RobinD. was shocked in the Turkish spas because of the piece of fabric wrapped around the genitals of the body and said 'A visit to a Turkish bath in Istanbul gives the traveler pause: Do I wear a towel or my birthday suit?" What is wrong with not showing off your genitals to the others? Is this, understanding of the WESTERN culture?

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