11 bizarre international idioms that get lost in translation, comically drawn by Paul Blow

Just as different countries often possess quirky workplace habits, many countries use phrases that are completely unique to their language and culture.

Office supplier Viking decided to delve a little deeper into the subject and teamed up with award-winning British illustrator Paul Blow to uncover the idioms that can get lost in translation, causing misunderstandings between international colleagues and business partners. Creating illustrations for eleven phrases in eleven different languages, the results are surprising and amusing.

"Most countries have common phrases and sayings with meanings universally understood by natives, but not all idioms are translatable, especially not literally," said Charlotte Corner of Viking. "This is something the members of our international team experience each day when they hear idioms in English for the first time, or when they employ a beloved phrase from their own culture to a confused reaction.

"Many international idioms don't have an English equivalent, so the intended idea can't be expressed properly. For this project, we asked our international colleagues to share their favourite idioms in their respective mother tongue with us – focussing on phrases that sound bizarre or surreal when translated literally into English."


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