Japanese meat…banned in China?

Posted in Curious English, Health and Medicine, Japan at 7:06 pm by Benjamin Ross

Lately, the hubbub in the press has been all about the safety of products originating from China.  As I was leaving Japan, I ran into this sign at Narita Airport.

China prohibits carry-on beef from japan

I had been previously unaware of any Chinese restrictions on transporting Japanese beef. However, I guess you have to run a pretty tight ship when you are selling to distributors like the one pictured below.

Really Safe Meat

Maybe they just have to massage all of the cattle in-house now…安全第一



The Foreigner Card, Don’t Leave Your Home Country Without It

Posted in Business 'n Economics, Curious English, Fujian at 11:16 am by Benjamin Ross

Have a look at this card which came into my possession the other night when I was out bar hopping in Fuzhou.

prada bar card
Chinese foreigner card

For those of you whose eyes are as bad as mine, here’s what the writing says:

外籍卡使用须知  The foreign card usage beard know  

This card is a foreign card, only for foreigner. 此卡外籍卡,限外国人使用

Can get to present 3 bottles of beers for specify everyday with this card. 凭此卡每天可获赠3瓶指定的啤酒

End explain power to return the prada bar all.  最终解释权归PRADA BAR 所有

The “Prada Bar,” a popular watering hole in Fuzhou, employs a marketing strategy which has been growing in Second Tier cities across China where foreign faces still number in the hundreds.  It works in three steps.  1) Attract foreigners to the bar with free beer.  2)  Next will come the Chinese girls, who are interested in foreign guys as well as English practice.  3)  Finally, the wealthy Chinese businessmen will swoop in after the Chinese girls.  The bar owner will lose money up front, but ultimately makes his buck when the Chinese businessmen spend hundreds of RMB on expensive bottles of imported whiskey.   

In China, bars are costly, out of the price range of an average working citizen’s salary.  A Fuzhou bar owner told me, “If a bar’s prices are too cheap, Chinese people won’t go to it.  They will think it’s a second-rate bar.  They might lose face if they take their friends there.  If the prices are expensive, it will give customers a better impression.”

With Westerners the logic is reversed.  In a city like Fuzhou, in which the foreigner population is only large enough to support 1 or 2 “laowai bars,” the crowd of foreigners usually follows the drink specials.  Whoever is selling Tsingtao’s for 10 RMB has a shot at attracting the crowd of white, black, and brown faces.  More expensive than that, and only Chinese patrons will show up.  Since the foreigners generally will only pay 10 RMB for beer (some bars sell them in upwards 30 RMB), there isn’t much profit to be made off this demographic anyway.  Instead, bar owners are oftne better off using the foreigners as loss leaders to attract the high-rolling Chinese businessmen.

In Wenzhou, a Taiwanese businessman who goes by the name “Cowboy Eric” has opened three night clubs around a country Western theme.  Cowboy Eric speaks fluent English, dons an oversized cowboy hat, and can be seen leading patrons in drunken renditions of “La Bamba.”  In each bar, foreign patrons are greeted with free 6 packs of Tsingtao and occasionally complimentary steaks.  All three of his bars are filled to the brim every weekend, with droves patrons often spilling over to the outside.         

As China’s foreign population increases, special priviledges for foreigners are likely to become less prevalent.  Whereas in small urban centers like Fuzhou and Wenzhou, using foreigners to attract Chinese patrons has proven succeessful, in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, these marketing efforts have little effect.  Foreigners there are an every day occurrance, nothing out of the ordinary, and certainly no reason to patronize a bar.  For me, although I have seen the “free beer for whitey” strategy practice for several years, the Prada Bar is the first bar I have known to have an official policy, not to mention one backed up by membership cards.  I can’t help but wonder if I were Chinese whether I might feel a little knee-jerk resentment knowing foreigners get free beer simply on account of their nationality. 



Enjoy The Free Happiness!

Posted in Curious English, Random Goofiness at 8:09 am by Benjamin Ross

Enjoy the Free Happiness

I was filing through my China pictures the other day and discovered this shot, from the Fuzhou Forest Park, one of my all-time favorite examples of Curious English. The Chinese literally means “Enjoy the happiness of free people” but I imagine this didn’t sound as poignant to the sign makers as “Enjoy The Free Happiness.” Here is what I was able to deduce from this billboard. Please feel free to add if I have missed anything.

-Happiness is best expressed through bar-b-cuing.

-Happiness is available and abundant.

-The Happiness must be consciously enjoyed to be taken advantage of fully.

-Westerners like to drink beer out of red cups and grill lobsters.



Branding and Advertising in Japan

Posted in Curious English, Japan, Travel Log (Asia) at 7:31 am by Benjamin Ross

During my 3 day stint in Japan I brought my little Canon IXUS850 pocket sized camera everywhere I went, taking pictures of anything which caught my eye. Not surprisingly (for anybody who has been to Japan) I found myself taking a lot of pictures of Japanese advertising, be it posters, storefronts, or simply the products themselves. Here’s a sampling.

US Hyper Convenience Mart
I did not know the US was thought of as convenient, especially when paired up against Japan. Nonetheless, we have the Hyper Convenience US Mart where everything is 100 yen (a little less than a dollar).

Calorie Mate Block
Here’s another product which comes out of Tokyo’s ubiquitous vending machines. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but if the claims on the label are accurate, then this is some pretty powerful stuff.

McDonald's McPita
Nobody does advertising like McDonald’s, especially when it’s for a new product such as the McPita.
Michael Moore Sicko Japanese
Apparently Michael Moore isn’t only making his presence felt in the US. This poster was in Shibuya Station, one of the busiest subway stations in Japan.

Hello Kitty Poster Tokyo
It just wouldn’t be Japan without Hello Kitty, now would it? These posters were tacked up all over town. Unfortunately my Japanese reading only goes so far as the Kanji I know from Chinese, so I am not sure what this poster is for. Anybody care to translate?

UCLA bar Tokyo
This was the bar I went to on my first night in Tokyo. It’s called UCLA.

Hot Men's Box
hmm…not really sure what the owner of this bar was trying to imply when he named it…maybe it’s better off that way.

Nude Rump
This one seems to be a little more obvious.

Jesus Diamante
For those looking for a more wholesome establishment, may I recommend Jesus Diamante?

Shalom Relaxation Salon
What? Too Christian?….Ok, then how about the Shalom Relaxation Salon?

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Engrish
I know one this isn’t really advertising, but it was just too good not to post.



Curious English in the Capital City

Posted in Beijing, Curious English, Travel Log (Asia) at 5:09 pm by Benjamin Ross

In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government has launched a campaign to rid Beijing of all improperly translated English signs and replace them with correct ones. Based on my recent trip to Beijing, it appears they still have a lot of work to do.

My parents get their first taste of curious English just outside the Forbidden City.
Once we were inside the Forbidden City, I took immediate alarm to the impending perilous hills inside.
Behold…the Perilous Hills!!!
Fortunately, there was a “way out.”
Everybody likes to get noticed from time to time, even this lonely sign at Badaling.
Anybody know where I can find a “help protect the railings” bumper sticker?
This shot was taken 2 years ago at Simatai, so I’m not positive whether or not it is still there. Nonetheless, it takes the cake.

note: Did anybody else notice that in the aforementioned China Daily article they misspelled “Chinglish” in the first line? Irony at its best.



Chinglish Spam

Posted in Curious English at 12:47 pm by Benjamin Ross

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For the record, I am against spam in all forms. I classify it with junk mail, telemarketing and syphillis, as things I could unequivocally say the world would be much better off without. In my life, I have received a lot of spam–usually in English, sometimes in Chinese, occasionally in Polish. This message, however, was the first authentic Chinglish spam I have ever received, and it came in the form of a comment to my blog. I know we all like to laugh at Chinglish sometimes, even though we ususally can figure out what it means. This message, however, has me completely stumped. Anybody care to translate?



Some things are better off when left untranslated

Posted in Curious English, Linguistics at 11:16 pm by Benjamin Ross

This is a shipping box I saw in a restaurant tonight. Did they really need to translate (or should I say transliterate) the Chinese into pinyin? I can’t imagine “texianweijin” and “fuzhoukangyoumaoyiyouxiangongsi” would be any more comprehensible to a non-Chinese person than the characters themselves. FYI: The content of the box is “special fresh MSG.”



Curious English…Fuzhou’s latest “Western” Restaurant Menu

Posted in Curious English, Food and Drink, Random Goofiness at 11:45 am by Benjamin Ross

There are many people in China who speak English quite well. There are also many who don’t. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) these are often the people charged with the daunting task of translating menus. Recently a new ‘Western’ style restaurant opened in downtown Fuzhou, and their menu is nothing short of hilarious. Let’s check it out…

Chinese menu chinglish

Let’s begin with “the shiitake mushroom slippery chicken food.” Literally this means “mushroom slippery chicken rice,” or in more distinguishable terms, mushrooms, chicken, and rice. I still have no idea what “shiitake” is. (Thanks to everyone who wrote in to inform me that shiitike is in fact the correct name for a Japanese mushroom) The next item is actually Yangzhou fried rice, or as it’s known in the West “Yangchow fried rice.” “Yangzhou” is the name of a Chinese city, but the character 州 (zhou) by itself means “state.” For some reason the “authors” of the menu felt the need to directly translate the second character of Yangzhou, but not the first. They also changed “fried” to present tense and thus we get “Yang state fries rice.” I’ve never heard of the third dish, but I’m sure there is a better translation than “the potato pig’s feet young food.” The fourth item is another supposedly Western dish which I haven’t heard of. The characters are directly translated to “west juice beef food,” and below is it’s companion “west juice pork food.” The final item is probably the most ridiculous of the bunch. The first characters are “tai shi” which means “Taiwan style.” Most Chinese characters have multiple meanings, and the “tai” (台) from “Taiwan” also is a word for “table.” Apparently simply calling it “Taiwan style” wouldn’t cut it, so instead we are left with “Table model three cups of chickens food.” I would have left it at “Taiwan style chicken and rice” but that’s just me.

China menu chinglish

Next we have “The mixed sea food surface.” This mistake is obviously a mistranslation of the character 面 (mian) which in addition to “surface,” also means…ding dong…knock knock…anybody home? McFly?…NOODLES! The next one I’m a little unsure of the Chinese (any help?) but it certainly isn’t how I would normally write “Rice noodles with beef.” But to top it all off, we are left with “Taste to scold the seafood chum salmon young surface.” Sounds a bit threatening to me. Again, apparently in English “surface” and “noodles” are interchangeable.

Chinese menu

For some odd reason, the translators of Chinese menus love to take names of dishes and transfigure them into statements in the present tense. This has me completely baffled, as in the Chinese language, there is no concept of tense at all. Go figure.

Chinese western food

Here’s “The new aristocrat sandwich,” which is the literal translation for the Chinese characters which also mean……”new aristocrat sandwich.” I’m not sure exactly what this is supposed to imply, nor am I sure how many aristocrats enjoy sandwiches during their fine dining, but at least it’s better than the “Burns the beef sandwich.”

Chinese restaurant

Now we have another ridiculous translation faux pas. The character 日(ri) means “sun.” It also means Japan (日本). The character 本 (ben) coincidentally is also my name in Chinese. Another meaning for 日is “day” or “date.” The second character on the menu item 式 (shi) means “style” or “type.” Hence we get the “Date type eel food,” in lieu of “Japanese style eel with rice.”

And if your eel isn’t keen on the “Date type eel food” why not give him some “Fresh river eel food.” Personally, I buy my eel food at the pet store. It’s much more economical that way, and I’m cheap. Maybe it’s an American thing. Below that we have one of my own personal favorite dishes, curry chicken with rice. Unfortunately, they didn’t even try to translate “curry,” instead they just threw in 咖 (ga) which is half of the Chinese name for “curry,” into the English definition. Oh, and by the way, in addition to eel food, they also have chicken food, pig food, and eggplant food.

For the third item, the translator must have known a thing or two about Western eating habits, which is probably why he simply transliterated “tian ji” rather than translating it into English, which of course would be “frog.”….and if you’re ordering frog, then allow me to recommend some “Fish fragrant eggplant food” to go along with it.

Second from the bottom we have “Steak pork food” yet the Chinese characters mean “BEEF steak rice.” Granted commissary management may not be the most demanding field of expertise, but come on, can’t you at least tell the difference between a cow and a fucking pig? If that wasn’t ambiguous enough, try the “Lucky example pig food (sweet hot sauce).”

Now that we’ve already found food fit for ourselves, our pigs, our chickens, our eels, and our eggplants, it’s time to order something for the little’uns…hence the “child wraping meal.” Is it just me though, or does “The child beefsteak” come across a little suspicious…especially in a country with overpopulation and problems with infanticide? And what about the “child chicken arranges?” What is a “child chicken” and what is he arranging? As for the item on the bottom, the Chinese characters really means Australian style children’s steak. “Sha Langqian” is not how any of those characters are pronounced, and I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean…maybe it’s better we don’t ask.

Here’s another option made specially for aristocrats. This time it’s the “New aristocrat greatly mixed platoon.” And here I was all this time thinking aristocrats only ate “The new aristocrat sandwich” and “Lucky example pig food.” Boy was I wrong!

chinese steak

And last, but certainly not least, we have my own personal favorite, the “Ding bone beefsteak.” I don’t think I even need to mention the explicit innuendo provided here. I’ll leave that to you.

So there you have it. Next time you come to Fuzhou, and want to try out some authentic Western food, give me a call, and I can take you out for some “table model three cups of chicken food” or some “Yang state fries rice.” It’s up to you. The choices are endless.

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