Lost in translation: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This month’s Travel Link Up topic, ‘lost in translation’, had me reeling with memories of funny and irritating things to have happened on holiday. We’ve all got a story where we were misunderstood or messed up some instructions when encountering a foreign language – and all the travel bloggers taking part in this month’s topic had a few to share! I’ve got 3 standout moments that have had me smiling, confused and also sobbing my way around Times Square. Hmmm.

The Good

I love it when you come across signs that just don’t make any sense to you, and signs that lift a smile. When we were in Barcelona, I kept seeing things that made me giggle or go ‘what the heck?!’ Here are a few examples:

bongos barcelona | this city life

No hablo Espanol, so this looks to me like you’re not allowed to take bongos into the park? OK then!

happiness station | this city life

Every ice cream shop should be called a Happiness Station – it’s actually the perfect translation!

lost in translation | this city life

Everywhere I go I get myself a brand new ‘Starbucks name’. This time the Spanish thought I was called ‘Sholly’. Nice try, Barcelona.

The Bad

rome coffee | this city life

When in Rome, do as the Romans do – but for God’s sake learn how to order your coffee! My husband is a big coffee fan (me, not so much. I’ll take tea thanks.) so as soon as we found a café he got straight into ordering. ‘Un caffé’, he asked. A few minutes later he got an espresso pushed in front of him. ‘Hmm,’ he whispered at me ‘I kinda wanted a long coffee with milk…’ Next time we sat down for drinks he had another go…’latte please?’ He thought he’d got it that time – until a glass of hot milk appeared, with no coffee. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life! Luckily, he struck it the third time. With a bit of sense we realised it’s not just coffee in Italy. There are soooo many variations. So he asked for a menu and finally decided on Lungo – phew!

The Ugly

lost in translation | this city life

My first holiday with my husband (then boyfriend) was to New York – and incidentally was my first time on a plane! I was so excited, this was the first holiday I’d planned without my parents and it was going to be so much fun! We’d rented an apartment on Avenue A and made a complete itinerary of things to do. But the excitement faded when we woke up the day after arriving to a knock on the door – it was the police chief asking why we hadn’t paid our rent for the last 3 months. ‘Whaaaaat?’, we were completely confused and tried to explain that we were on holiday and had booked the flat through a rentals website. The chief didn’t much care and told us we had 10 minutes to pack our stuff and go – we were being evicted.

So that’s how we found ourselves wandering to the nearest police station with the night before’s pants on, make-up streaming down my face because I thought we’d been scammed. The first station we got to couldn’t help – they didn’t look after the ‘precinct’ where the ‘crime’ happened. Two stations later we filed a police report and went to try and find the civil courts to start making a claim! Some holiday this was turning out to be. Eventually we managed to get hold of the woman we’d rented the apartment from. It turned out that the woman we met on the first day to give us the key wasn’t actually the owner; she was out of town and had asked her friend to take her place for when we arrived, but neglected to reveal that she’d skipped rent and was illegally subletting. We did get our money back (phew), but lost 2 days of our holiday and ended up forking out for a new hotel. Moral of the story? Don’t rent a New York apartment from a ballet dancer….or something.

Have you ever got lost in translation? Tell me in the comments!

Some images via Unsplash

please note: some header images are from unsplash.com


    • Charley W
      5th March 2015 / 8:29 pm

      It was pretty awful! Thankfully it all worked out and I’m desperate to go back to New York and do all the stuff we missed!

  1. 5th March 2015 / 12:30 pm

    omg that rental story is horrific! We found it hard to order coffee in italy too, but once we got it right, man they make amazing coffee!

  2. 5th March 2015 / 9:58 pm

    Dittio for the ‘Happiness Station” – such an excellent name.
    Nightmare story for your first New York trip! Yikes!