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Completely unrelated words in English are often much closer in Asian languages. If said in the wrong tone in Mandarin, asking someone for a bowl of wonton soup could actually result in you asking someone if they were a bastard. Slightly more serious than naming a chinese restaurant, ‘Fu King’.

In Malaysia, these three short sentences are all a man need say to his wife to call off his marriage. Instances have even been observed where husbands have done so via text message.

Chewing gum is to Singapore,

Chewing gum plagues most cities worldwide. It’s under tables, on the pavement and now it’s on your shoe. To prevent its streets from becoming gummed up, Singapore banned all chewing gum. It is currently illegal to buy it, sell it or bring it into Singapore in more than personal use quantities.

what heroin was to Glasgow.

Petty? Ridiculous? Tell me that the next time you’re scraping the stuff off your sole.

The infamous swastika symbol is still widely used in the Asian region. Having origins in three major religions, the symbol when used in Asia, is able to brush aside the negative image given by Hitler’s Nazi party. People still incorperate it in cultural and religious art for its original meanings.

Both clockwise and anti-clockwise versions of the symbol are used frequently. Some Vietnamese taxi drivers even put swastikas on their jeep wing mirrors for luck and prosperity.

Even the preconception of beauty differs the world over. In the west, many people try to maintain that perfect tan and even go to great lengths, damaging their skin in artificial sunbeds to achieve it.

In the East, facial whitening cream and face masks are widely used products. Many women covet a pale white and blemish free complexion associated with wealth and class.

The durian, a pungent Asian fruit, is banned in public places in Singapore, much like smoking is. In addition to its spiny outer husk, the durian smells like you would not believe. The phrase ‘you can smell it a mile away’ is particularly apt in this case. The city takes this nasal pollution so seriously, you can even receive a hefty fine for selling the local delicacy in a non-designated public place.

Don’t be so bloody rude.


Some languages don’t require translation.

All words and images are Copyright of Christopher Wise.