As travel becomes cheaper and easier and the world shrinks accordingly, there are a lot of globe  trotting Contractors out there boldly taking the cutting edge of technology to other countries in order to earn a crust. The major task facing these intrepid entrepreneurs though is not the onslaught of new technologies but rather the age-old problem of the language barrier. But then again, if we have problems what do foreigners make of the English language and all its strange nuances?

Here is a collection of signs seen around the world.

In a Tokyo hotel bathroom: 'It is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing then please not to read notice'.

In a Bucharest hotel lobby: 'The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret you will be unbearable'

A hotel in Athens: 'Visitors are expected to complain daily at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 am'

In a Japanese hotel the kind offer reads: 'You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid' 

In a Zürich hotel: 'Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested the lobby is used for this purpose'

In a Moscow hotel room: 'If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it'

And, an old favourite from a hotel in Acapulco: 'The Manager has personally passed all the water served here'

There is perhaps an historical precedent  for two notices originating in Russia. The first was seen in a lobby of a Moscow hotel situated across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: 'You are invited to visit the cemetery opposite where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Tuesday.'

Similarly, in an article in the Soviet Weekly: 'There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years'

Eating out can often be a great source of pleasure for reasons other than sampling the local cuisine. For instance, on the menu of a Swiss restaurant was seen the promise 'Our wines leave you nothing to hope for' while, on the menu of a Polish hotel was seen' 'Salad of hotels' own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose and beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion'

If that wasn't enough to whet your appetite perhaps you'd prefer a climb to the Swiss mountain Inn that advertises 'Special Today! - No Ice Cream!'

For the more general aspects of travelling abroad perhaps the offer in a Bangkok dry cleaner's window should not be taken too literally: 'Drop your trousers here for best results'. Nor the sign in a Rome laundry 'Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time' Oh those Italians! 

It may also be better not to visit the Rhodes tailor shop that advises that 'because of the rush we will execute customers in strict rotation' although you may wish to take advantage of the Paris dress shop selling 'dresses for street walking'  or the Czechoslovakian tourist agency offering 'Take one of our horse-driven City tours - we guarantee no miscarriages.' Few could resist the offer of a donkey ride in Thailand though as the offer is 'Would you like to ride on your own ass?'

Some signs may have a worrying grain of truth in them, of course, take the Copenhagen ticket office that promises 'we will take your bags and send them in all directions' although I don't think anyone will disagree with the sign in the Norwegian cocktail lounge advising 'Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar'.

Whatever the request though, it is best at all times to respect the local customs. For example, in Germany's Black Forest we are told 'It is strictly forbidden on the camp site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.' Similarly, in a Bangkok temple 'It is forbidden to enter a woman even as a foreigner dressed as a man'.

Those of us who have tried to decipher the instructions on the latest electronic gadget from Japan will spare a thought for those staying in a Tokyo hotel: 'Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself' and, from the brochure of a car rental firm in the same city; 'When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigour'.

My favourite though, and something that seems to rear its head at least once every time I travel abroad, is the great sign in an Austrian hotel that caters specifically for skiers: 'Please do not perambulate the corridors of repose in the boots of ascension'.

I doubt I'll ever work abroad as the language barrier is all too much for me. Once while working in Paris on a day trip, in an effort to gain the grudging respect of a waiter in a  restaurant I tried, as we are so often encouraged to do, to order my whole meal in my best French. The waiter listened intently before asking "Are you English, Sir?" in an impeccable accent. Encouraged I admitted the fact, hoping my style had so confused him he had thought I was a local. "Then you speak English Sir? - Good! Shall we try talking that then?" My wife was laughing so much she had to spit her wine out...

No, I think I'll stick to a holiday in Spain this year, I have no intention of travelling any further than Majorca as I'll have no trouble making myself understood there because, over the door, of a small supermarket I have seen the welcoming sign that reads; 'English well talking - Here speecing American'   

Lost in Translation

From around the world, some notices in English that don't translate too well... Originally published in 1996 as revealed by the fact that some of these countries no longer exist!

Lost in Translation