The Ridiculous Signs You Meet Abroad
When you’re at home finding a typo in a billboard is just annoying. Doesn’t someone check for those things? Did they seriously pay to have a sign put up that says, “Come eat at our restaurant – best chief in town”? Or how about those signs that just undermine themselves – pictures of smiling chickens warning you not to drink and drive? Who makes them? It’s painful.
And yet those same human errors and misjudgements strike you in a totally different way when you’re a tourist in someone else’s country. The same irritating spelling mistakes and ridiculous slogans and store names become, well… funny.
On my first trip overseas my equally inconsiderate girlfriends and I took to posing next to the very best of the worst we could find. We’d hoot with laughter and repeat the slogans back and forth to each other, while simultaneously confusing “affect” and “effect” in our own writing. Our mocking had no limits.
Even now my day is brightened and I escalate into an inappropriately loud laughing fit when I drive by stupid signs in South Africa. I understand that there are eleven national languages here and it’s quite likely that English is not the writer’s mother tongue. But it doesn’t stop me from pointing and laughing a little too much until my boyfriend does his patriotic duty and tells me to shut up.
The fact is you don’t take things so personally when you’re travelling. The mistakes that happen in other people’s countries aren’t your problem. You don’t get so worked up and offended by a little human error because they don’t represent you. Who cares if they wrote ‘somebodies’ instead of ‘somebody’s’? It has nothing to do with you. No need to cringe or worry about your country’s education system. No need to remark on the demise of society. You get to sit back and take it for what it is; funny, stupid, entertaining.
What’s more, these signs can be nice reminders that you are in the midst of the exotic. You’re used to signs that warn you to watch for crossing deer at home. How about a sign that tells you to watch for crossing giraffes? Pretty cool. And pretty entertaining. Definitely worth a picture next to, even if “giraffe” is spelled wrong.
And there’s always the off chance that you’ll have some deep connection to the unusual takes on familiar themes you find in signage abroad. It’s kind of nice to read a sign at Christmas that says “All the love in hole world to you,” instead of just “Happy Holidays.”
So maybe it’s worth remembering even when you’re at home that mistakes happen. They’re not always life-threatening or distressing. Sometimes they’re just funny.