In my line of work, when you write an article for publication, you should try to fill gaps in the existing body of literature. Basically, write stuff that no one else has written about, or failing that, at least add some new information or write about the topic from a different angle. Keeping that in mind, we can see that the signs in Hanoi have been well-documented and commented upon (for nothing amuses us expats more than funny English, inadvertent puns, and odd advertising). Hanoi signs even make “most popular” sign lists, thanks in large part to the “Try cock today please” sign (at least they said please). However, I propose that I still have something to contribute to this body of work. See if you agree.
The signs in Hanoi add a level of fun and, at times, absurdity to daily living when you snap out of your routine long enough to notice them. And I’m all for absurdity. So here are some of my favorite signs around the city.
Many of the signs that stick out involve kids. There are the child models creepily posing like adult models (a la Little Miss Sunshine), like these cuties:
This kid in particular is clearly my favorite, as he appears to be a Vietnamese-Mexican cowboy.
There’s also Quang Huy, child chef extraordinaire. He nailed the iron chef look of pride and confidence. He specializes in duck, if you’re interested.
At first the following sign doesn’t raise much attention. The grandparents appear to be playfully admonishing their oblivious and deliriously happy adult children. But the boy, he’s giving an evil death stare as if he’s plotting his entire family’s annihilation. Or less dramatically, he’s just warming up to his future role as the perpetually annoyed teenager.
Everyday, I get a taste of home as I drive by Arnold Schwarzenegger, pre- California governator days (circa 1970s).
I also get to enjoy his present-day replacement beefcake (this model comes with shorter hair).
Although by now it seems normal, the amount of signs featuring white people really surprised me when I first arrived. Why is Britney Spears gazing at me from my café table, and what is Hilary Duff doing on the local salon sign?
Hey, do I have something in my nose? And have you seen my shirt?
Then there are the always entertaining propaganda posters, of which I most enjoy those involving drugs and/or HIV.
Pow, take that drugs!
Be careful to avoid those bags of HIV.
Meet Social Evils Snake, vomiting the likes of: HIV/AIDS, massage, gambling, drug addiction, injection, prostitution, motorcycle racing, alcohol, violence, superstition, “beer hugs” (not to be confused with bear hugs), and embezzlement.
Speaking of mascots, I like these guys:
I don’t have a common categorical theme for the next few.
There’s something about these creepy feet that really bother me. The eyeballs in the toes, for instance.
Mr. Bossman is not happy, but his coworkers don’t seem to mind.
While I don’t think this sign is grammatically incorrect, “English skills for key persons” sounds weird, right? Perhaps it’s the persons vs. people usage that confuses me. “Persons” has never seemed right to me, possibly because it’s written frequently but almost never spoken. Either way, there’s something off about naming a school “Cleverlearn” and then marketing it to “key persons.” How does one know her own level of key-ness? Must you be clever as well or is that a skill imparted upon you? I’m also curious about how they have reinvented English learning. Perhaps by combining random words together to amplify their effect (clever + learn > clever & learn).
Who put ecstasy in the noodles?
Every inch of what? (No, this sign isn’t located next to the COCK store.)
The sign that inspired this post (and that will never cease to amuse Mitchell, who was the one who pointed it out to me and demanded that I write about it).
And finally, the king of my sign collection. Protecting babies just got easier with our exclusive line of sunglasses. Aviator sunglasses are out, Roman soldier sunglasses are in. I could go on, but really, need I?