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What is your most embarrassing language 'faux pas'?

Tell us your best food-related language 'faux pas' story, perhaps when something got lost in translation...

1y ago

I find other languages and different cultures fascinating. I also find the translation faux pas equally as interesting but also absolutely hilarious. Having spent a number of years working in hotels and generally in hospitality, I've come across many a faux pas and this got me thinking - someone somewhere must have the best story, surely? I'll start:


My first time in Spain was a family holiday many years ago. My mother, having lived there for years, speaks fluent Spanish and we both speak fluent Portuguese. There are a few similarities between the two languages and being the naive child that I was, I didn't quite think that perhaps not EVERYTHING translates. Anyway, we are at a seaside bar for some lunch and the waiter approaches our table, traditionally in a hurry, and asks for our order. I then say "una coca, por favor". He then looked at me very puzzled with an almost worried look on his face and then proceeded looked at my parents for confirmation. They're giving him a "yes...?" look. What I hadn't realised, is that whilst in Portuguese 'Coca' is short for 'Coca-Cola' like 'Coke' is the same in English, 'Coca' in Spanish actually means 'Cocaine'. A twelve year old had just ordered 'Cocaine', as a lunch appetiser.


A friend of mine from Italy told me about this. Many English-speaking tourists have been rather confused and annoyed when ordering a pepperoni pizza in Italy. Because what arrived, is a pizza with peppers on it. It sounds exactly the same, but in Italy 'peperoni' means 'peppers'. I'm sure there's been many a row in Italian restaurants across many parts of the country. Though, this was more of a 'thing' back in the old days, as restaurants in tourist hot-spots have caught on!

Last one from me...

The year before last I spent some time in northern France, in the Normandy region. Beautiful part of the world. I'm lucky enough to have a good friend that has a family home in the area. What I particularly liked was the lack of tourism, as I was able to attempt to fully blend in amongst the locals and experience true French culture. Anyway, some of our party spoke fluent French and there's me, the enthusiastic linguist (or at least I try). We are sat in a restaurant enjoying some lunch, when the waiter comes and asks whether everything was 'OK'. So, I respond with "Oui, je suis fini". There was raucous laughter. What I had meant to say was "yes, I have finished". What I actually said was along the lines of, "yes, I am going to die". Must have been some good grub, then...

So, over to you. What's your most embarrassing food-related language faux pas?

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Comments (12)

  • This didn't happen in public, and not to me, but this kid in my high school German language class said "Ich bin full", he was trying to say "I am full" during an exercise related to restaurants/food phrases.. but apparently "full" in Germany means pregnant lol

      1 year ago
  • My brother does not like Mayonnaise. Few years ago we were in China at Guangzhou airport ordering at McDonald’s. Now the word NO is said as Meiyou. My brother being the expert linguist that be thinks he is goes to the counter and order a chicken burger and says Mayo Mayo trying to say no Mayo. Obviously the the lady at the till was confused beyond belief and placed his order and gave him a burger with extra Mayo 🀣

      1 year ago
  • In Hawaii eating at an asian restaurant, thought i ordered miso soup...pretty sure i got some other weird soup, i could not recognize many ingredients, but it was still pretty tasty πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

      1 year ago
  • Bwahaha.

    Unfortunately I'm not very well travelled, but I think I got something wrong in Paris, because the waiter smirked.

      1 year ago
  • Lol...too funny

      1 year ago