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Lost in Translation

Five of Erica Haldi’s favorite “unfortunate English” signs from Dresden, Germany, where she used to spend her days, and Seoul, South Korea, where she currently lives.


Erica Haldi

Erica Haldi is a British passport-holding Jamaican-American TCK who grew up in Vienna, Austria with TCK parents. She has lived in rural Oklahoma, Atlanta, Vienna, and Dresden. She is a soccer fanatic who loves to cook and try new foods. She and her Kiwi-born Swiss husband currently call Seoul home.

Many TCKs are avid photographers. We can’t help but try to capture the moment, since our worlds are always changing. In this series, we ask you to sift through your photo libraries to tell us about the way you see the world. Submit your five photographs, and why you chose them, to This is Erica Haldi’s “my five.”

There’s something fascinating about signs in a city. They don’t just explain where to turn or what to buy, but also provide a little bit of a social commentary on the nature or pulse of the city you’re in. With globalization, we’ve gotten to experience different cultures, products and people. This has also meant that the global economic language, English, has become integrated into other languages. Here are five of my favorite morbid, suggestive or just plain unfortunate English signs from Dresden, Germany, where I used to spend my days, and Seoul, South Korea, where I currently live.

1. Nightworker With darkened windows and a glowing, pulsing neon sign that says Nightworker, you might expect to hear that I had to weave my way through a throng of scantily clad, heavily made-up women to take this picture, but you’d be wrong. This is a corner store open far past the hours that normal stores in Germany are open.

2. Public Viewing Germany recently played host to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. If you look closely, you’ll notice that this sign is proudly advertising a public viewing at a local swimming pool. No, no one has died, nor is the match a funeral. This unfortunate Denglishization is for a public broadcast of each of the games on massive screens so that eager fans can follow the games en masse.

3. My Malling Story Say this one out loud once or twice. That’s right. A “mauling” story. Shop here at your own risk and tread carefully, lest a hungry, bewildered Grizzly bear claws your face off. Here a group of stores has come together to create a shopping experience loosely comparable to that of shopping at a mall, and taken the liberty of “verbing” the word mall. You’re welcome.

4. Severance Hospital Despite knowing full well that this hospital is an highly-acclaimed university hospital, there’s something about its sign that just doesn’t inspire confidence in me, as if things are bound to come to an ugly end. It may be the sign’s implicit threat severing one of your limbs, or the thought that a hospital stay there might sever your physical relationship with this world. I’m not sure. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

5. A Twosome Place While the name is undoubtedly intended to conjure up images of a cozy, romantic rendezvous over mugs of delicious coffee, this Seoul cafe shop might leave some English speakers thinking of a double entendre. But trust me, they have awesome coffee.