Signs are the tools that we use to navigate, to stay safe, to understand the society around us. Symbols and words in North America and Western Europe are pretty well standardized these days – there may be the occasional double-take, but seldom a need to stand and think.
Not so in the Far East.
Numbers: Convention dictates that numbers on keypads arrange differently; feng shui means some numbers don’t appear at all.
Maps: Sometimes maddeningly complex, other times strikingly artistic. And place names are always evocative. “Use your imagination”, our guides always suggested.
Symbols: Much more varied than in the West, I grew especially fond of the Fred Astaire kick to signify a moving line.
Prose: Its surprising that in a globalized and connected world, translation accuracy still lags so far behind in China. The mistakes say a lot about Chinese grammar and syntax, though, so there are lessons even amidst the noise. The sign at the right appeared on mountain peaks to discourage visitors from walking over the cliffs.
Celebrity culture: More than any US president, Bill Clinton was ubiquitous,. I would have expected Nixon. And King and Buffet trump Trump in bookstores. There’s also the irony of selling “Blog Weekly” where blogs are absolutely not allowed.