Valentine’s Day is almost here and so are the bizarre translation fails you might encounter on a romantic trip around the world.
Although Saint Valentine’s life is shrouded in mystery, the patron saint of love and romance is celebrated by many countries on February 14th. Symbolised by heart-shaped gifts, chocolates, and roses, Valentine’s Day is now a global affair – with results of a 2022 IPSOS survey in 28 countries showing that 55% of adults with a partner were planning something special.
But not all countries share the same traditions of exchanging romantic gifts. Different cultures celebrate in diverse ways depending on their cultural symbols, traditions, and local ideas of love – and some are quite unusual!
The Welsh exchange handcrafted wooden spoons on January 25th, while men in Niger participate in a mindboggling male beauty pageant courtship ritual to attract a lover on February 14th! Romanian couples prefer to express their love on February 24th by picking flowers in the forest or washing their faces in the snow.
With so many cultural takes on Valentine’s Day, one thing is certain – there’s more need than ever for accurate translations of international marketing campaigns to avoid red faces and ridicule when things go wrong.
Let’s see how some other cultures express their love on Valentine’s Day.
A potentially catastrophic translation fail by a chocolate company in 1953 led to a role reversal on February 14th. The marketing campaign inadvertently promoted the idea that women should buy ‘duty chocolates’ for all their male friends and colleagues. It was 30 years before ‘White Day’ was introduced on March 14th for men to return the favour.
Duty-bound Japanese women have begrudgingly accepted this ‘romantic’ set up for 70 years, while chocolatiers must be thrilled by the mistake as half their annual sales come from Valentine’s Day.
China celebrates Valentine’s Day six times a year, including February 14th. But the romantic equivalent is Qixi, or the ‘Seventh Night Festival’, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Easy to remember? No, us neither so to clarify, that’s August 22nd this year!
Couples express their love with elaborate gifts and gestures, enjoying a romantic holiday, delicious meal, or romantic nature walk.
You might come to a bit of a standstill in this park though.
And pressing this light switch in your romantic getaway’s hotel room could cause some adverse side effects.
South Koreans celebrate love on the 14th of every month including Kiss Day in June, Hug Day in December, and Black Day in April when singletons comfort each other over a bowl of black noodles.
Most Latin American countries celebrate the ‘Day of Love and Friendship’, extended from couples to friends who receive gifts too.
Perhaps a romantic, yet cremated, cream of vegetable soup for Valentine’s is a bit niche, but we’ll go with it!
A confectioner’s marketing campaign was embraced by the passionate Argentinians and a whole week in July is dedicated to ‘Sweetness Week’ where kisses are exchanged for sweets.
And finally, to Paris – ‘the city of love’, one of the top destinations for a romantic minibreak. Chocolates are popular, but the main tradition involves exchanging letters and cards. Dating back to the 15th century, it’s thought the Duke of Orleans wrote the first ever Valentine’s card from jail.
The French freely express their feelings whenever and wherever. But we strongly advise you to heed this airport departure lounge sign at the end of your romantic weekend away.
We hope you enjoyed this Valentine’s interlude and our light-hearted look at different celebrations.
But there’s obviously a serious side to highlighting these errors, especially when expanding your business overseas. As we’ve seen here, accurate translation, localisation, and proofreading are crucial to strike the right tone with culturally appropriate messaging.
If you’re planning an international Valentine’s Day marketing campaign this year, we’re here to help with your translation requirements. Contact Bubbles today to discuss your Valentine’s Day marketing plans.