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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Funny Taiwan

I still have a lot of "catch-up" posts I'd like to make, but I thought I would break it up a little by doing a bit of a different post.  Plus, it's just more fun for me and probably for you too.

So, partly because of cultural differences and partly because of language differences, there are a lot of things in Taiwan that end up being funny to us.  There's the constant "chinglish" (this website calls it "engrish," but is a good example nevertheless), the funny situations we get in because we're fish out of water and just a zillion other funny little moments.  In this post I'd like to share some of them!

Possibly the funniest chinglish I've seen since being here is this next one.

Do you see anything amiss at this intersection?

Do you see it yet?
So wrong.
 Another funny chinglish phrase we saw was when we were at the zoo in Taipei.  We went to one of the food stands and it had a menu in chinese, with English translations.  One of the items on the menu was "presently explodes the hotdog stick."  We've been wanting to try it ever since.

Most of the time I would say that the funny chinglish we see is on people's t-shirts.  It seems to be a strong fad for people to wear shirts with sections of text in English.  Usually they seem to be trying to say something pretty or romantic, but it just comes out sounding totally random.  It's impossible to figure out what they are trying to say.  I've seen old women wearing shirts that say something really dirty, like "sex cat" with a picture of the playboy bunny.  They just think they're wearing a cute bunny shirt.

The other abundant source of hilarious chinglish is, of course, the things my kids at school write.  I'm going to start photographing some of them.  They can be SO hilarious.  I don't want to leave here without having recorded a good amount of the hilarious stuff we see.

Ok, enough about chinglish.  Next is an example of a funny cultural difference.  Pretty soon after we got here we noticed that the symbol associated with buddhist temples seems to be........the swastica.  Yup.  Exactly the same.  So, quite ironically every time you look at a map there will be swasticas next to the temples.  There are also abundant swasticas in and around the temples, which just seems so wrooooong. One day I was walking past a pillow store and saw this display in the window:

America, English...Nazi Germany!!!

This shopkeeper seems to have gotten a little confused, because I think whoever originally made this pattern actually intended it as a nazi pillow (because of the colors), but the shopkeeper had no clue.  Such an interesting sight!

Another funny thing is that the first day I was in Taiwan, as I was waking up I heard something that sounded like the ice cream truck.  I was so excited!  I quickly pulled aside the curtain and looked out only to discover that it was a......trash truck.  Biggest disappointment of my life.  Here trash trucks play tinny music as they drive around so that people can find them and throw their trash in the back of them.

It's also funny to hear familiar things in chinese instead of English.  Two moments in particular come to mind.  The first is when Tom and I were trying to sing "Angels we Have Heard on High" in pinyin (romanized chinese) from our pinyin hymnbook.  We got to the "allelujah" part and just burst out laughing in the middle because in chinese it's "roooooooooooooooooong yao."  Just try singing it that way.  It's hilarious.  Reminds me of "A Christmas Story" when they go to the chinese restaurant on Christmas and the chinese employees sing to them.

The other moment was when we were in church and they put on a video where President Hinckley was talking.  There is NOTHING quite like watching sweet President Hinckley talk with a deep, harsh sounding mandarin voice.

There is SO much more I could say in this post, but it's getting a bit long, so I'll end with a couple of stories of where I've done something that was hilarious in Chinese.  The first was when I was teaching one of my younger classes (7 or 8 year olds) and I was trying to teach them the  word "design."  It was one of their new vocab words.  In the middle of teaching it, they all just burst out laughing in the way you do when you're not sure if you should laugh but you can't help it.  I asked the chinese teacher (who's always sitting in the back) what was going on and she informed me that design sounds exactly like, as she put it "pig s***" in Mandarin.  It was a rough lesson.

The other one was just a day or two ago when I was trying to buy some food.  I was trying to figure out how much a certain item was, so I kept trying to say "how much is this?" in Mandarin.  For some reason they looked really confused and continued to not tell me how much it was.  I had no clue what was going on and was getting a bit frustrated.  I walked away thinking, "geez!  why wouldn't they just tell me how much it was???"  A few minutes later I realized that instead of saying "duo chao chen," which means "how much is it"  I'd been saying "doo ei boo chee"  which means "I'm sorry."  This whole time I'd been emphatically point to the picture of the food and saying "i'm sorry!  i'm sorry!"  Crazy foreigner.

Alright.  Hope you've enjoyed.


  1. Lol!! Kevin as many times made those kinds of mistakes. He said he tried asking for the bathroom one time and instead kept asking ,"What's your name?" Keep the stories coming!

  2. So! Funny! Love the stories and always pictures. How did your Thanksgiving go? Love the trash truck music. You'd think someone would tell them about the KKK.

  3. Hilarious post! I actually lauged out loud a couple times. :D