Signboards in China – The Funniest Translations


Maybe it’s not fair to laugh. We all make mistakes, especially in languages that aren’t our first. On the other hand, there’s no reason to take life too seriously either and having a giggle about translations is just that, a giggle.

During our first two stays in China we only occasionally came across a serious attempt to make us foreigners understand what they wanted to say, however, most of the time we were left to figure it out on our own. In a country where we couldn’t read the signs and had a hard time getting ourselves understood, we immensely appreciated those efforts.

With that in mind, do enjoy some of the funniest signs we came across our first two journeys in China (Xinjiang Province, Yunnan Province, and Tibet).


A beautiful but indeciphrable script.

Instructions, or marketing?
Especially in public transport I appreciate the translations.


Whereas in off-the-beaten-track regions we never found signs we could read, in tourist areas we did come across explanatory panels in English (well, sometimes).

Read More: Signboards in Pakistan

Signs of Prosperity

In one place it was possible to go up a mountain hill by cable car. The top was at about 5,000 meters and so they sold bottles with oxygen. Awesome. However, we can’t stop making fun of ridiculous marketing – you couldn’t just buy oxygen, but HEALTHY oxygen, at that. Imagine buying unhealthy oxygen…

Read More: Signboards in Iran

Coen’s Favorites

An Apple Store and a Patatje Oorlog – Coen had landed in heaven.

Patatje Oorlog is Dutch for ‘Small French Fries War’ (talking about odd translations…). If you would see that on a sign in the Netherlands, you might wonder what the writer of that sign had been drinking (or smoking), right? Well, just to explain, so you know: the ‘war’ element promises you that the French Fries are covered with peanut sauce as well as mayonnaise.

Read More: Hiking the Great Wall in China

Edited to add in September 2018: During our third journey we came across many more local people who spoke English and Google Translate helped a lot too to get ourselves understood.

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Thank you for your support — Karin-Marijke & Coen

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