Lost in Translation

The electronic sign on the train.

Chinese version:
Translation: “Smoking is prohibited throughout the train. Thank you for your cooperation. Please call our customer service hotline, we will sincerely provide service to you.”

English version:
No smoking on the train.

Talk in Harbin

I traveled up to Harbin today to give a talk at a symposium promoting travel to the U.S. The symposium was organized by the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in Shenyang. The target audience was travel industry companies. About 300 people were there.


The theme was a pun. The literal meaning was “Discover America from the heart,” but if you say it with a southern accent, it can sound like “Rediscover America.”


There were a lot of speakers, and so not surprisingly, the schedule got backed up. I had to run out of the room as soon as I was done talking so that I could make the train back to Shenyang.

Train station slogans

Communist China is a country of slogans. I guess that chanting slogans is a way of educating a country whose population is dominated by illiterate people, so the slogan strategy was a creative idea. There’s a lot to say about Mao Zedong, but the guy understood his base.

Slogans haven’t gone away. The government uses them everywhere to promote civil virtues. The train station in Shenyang displays these slogans:

IMG_2463.JPG“Service is the Goal”

IMG_2464.JPG“Treat Passengers Like Family ”

IMG_2462.JPG“Safety High Quality New Tracks Strong Country” (this one reads like a bad fortune cookie)