Category Archives: Culture

San Diego, I miss you!

By | blogpost, Culture | No Comments

San Diego, you are America’s finest city. Your weather continues to be at a perfect shorts-and-t-shirt temperature. Your 70 miles of beaches spread out uninterruptedly. You are an integral part of thousands of surfers’ lives, who now dream about you, as they are only allowed to enjoy you from afar. The never-ending dispute between the local La Jollans about human rights and the rights of the seals is a moot issue. Funny, though, the seals keep peeking over to get a glimpse of any human activity on the beach. I miss the runners, the bikers, the hikers, and the kayakers. I miss the traffic. Yes, the traffic. It proves that we are all enjoying San Diego. The Naval aircrafts are receiving no attention. Downtown at night, a normally bustling fun and happy-go-lucky place sits empty with the ghostly sound of silence. Our skyline lights up an empty bay. Oh, how much I want all of this to end; I will cherish you more than ever then.

If you’re thinking about moving to San Diego, all of the above is a fat Lie. Cost of living is second to none, and you need to spend a minimum of $100 per year on sunscreen.


Confronting the Coronavirus from a Cultural Perspective

By | Culture | No Comments

The coronavirus is affecting people on a global level. However, the way each country has been treating it says a lot about their culture.

Let’s start with China, where, as we know, COVID-19 got its start. Chinese government both controls and censors the media. In 1975, Typhoon Nina claimed the lives of close to a quartermillion people. There was no mention anywhere in the press about this tragedy. It was as though nothing had happened. The government silencing anything that may destabilize the community has happened again, but this time, at the center of it is the coronavirus.

It took Beijing weeks to acknowledge this virus even existed. Once the Chinese masses realized that, in fact, a virus existed, officials had to decide what to say. They could admit to the government mismanagement and blame their superiors, or they could stay silent. The decision is obvious: choosing political loyalty over people’s safety. After all, Chinese culture is all about saving face.

The second major country to be affected by the coronavirus was South Korea. In contrast to most other cultures, South Koreans did not rush to the store to stock up on essentials, including toilet paper. They remained calm. Travel was only restricted to people coming from the epicenter of the virus in China, the Hubei region.

The South Korean government had a well-planned strategy for fighting this invisible virus: testing, closely monitoring the affected, and daily press conferences from the disease control and prevention agency. Citizens avoided crowds, closed businesses, and postponed unnecessary meetings without needing the government to force it upon them. Plus, masks are already part of daily life for many South Koreans.

So, what does this say about South Korean culture? It reinforces the idea that its citizens are prepared for sacrifice and self-discipline without government intervention.

And then there’s Italy. What cultural uniqueness can we find about the Italians that has made them more vulnerable? According to the University of Oxford, Italy has the second oldest population in the world, and the young tend to be close to the elderly, like their grandparents. It is not uncommon for younger generations to live with their parents, grandparents, or both.

The qualities that make Italians stand out from many other cultures is the love for affection, kissing on the cheeks, touching, the desire to be in close proximity to each other, and the desire to always be out socializing. These cultural traits have helped the virus cross-contaminate more than it has, for example, in China, or the US.

In Spain, the prime minister’s wife tested positive for coronavirus. Anyone would expect both he and his wife would not leave their house during a self-quarantine, right? Pues no. He went to congress as if no virus existed at all.

The Spanish culture is similar to that of Italy. Both tend to maintain closer distances with whomever they are talking with. They also tend to include the elder in their daily lives as well. While in the US your home is your castle, Spaniards love to be out and about for most of the day.

If you walk through most Spanish cities just before lunch or dinner, you have to navigate through thousands of people marching as they had a purpose, somewhere to be, when in reality, they are just enjoying walking. No wonder Spain had to enforce a government imposed lockdown so the coronavirus would not infect Spaniards on the streets.

Originally, Spaniards were not prepared to change their ways for the greater good. Why? Because cultures like the Italian and Spanish base their identity collectively. They identify by being part of a group. Spaniards are also obsessed with their finances. Even before the coronavirus, Spain’s unemployment numbers were one of the highest in Europe.

What is in the mindsets of Spaniards now? The number of unemployed in Spain rose to 3.5 million in March. This figure does not include temporary layoffs or laid off workers who have not yet filed for unemployment. A study conducted by Funcas between March 16 and March 20 shows a 9.1 point importance out of 10 regarding concern about the economy, compared to an 8.9 rating regarding concern of having been infected by the virus.

Finally, let’s praise Americans for following social distancing protocols. Compared to Italians and Spaniards, Americans were following social distancing before this phrase even existed. The other day I saw a lady carrying a yard stick just to make sure no one got within 6 feet of her.

However, while China, Italy, and Spain proved they were dealing with a pandemic, the US first dismissed coronavirus. Days later, the US decided an extreme situation called for extreme measures. Flights to and from Europe were to be halted. Lockdown has now been mandated for almost every city. For sure, high density cities like New York and San Francisco would benefit from this action. Others where people live far from each other and no one walks or comes into regular contact with others may not benefit as much from this measure.

Americans are entrepreneurial by nature. They maintain an individualistic and have an “I’ll do it my own way” kind of attitude. Americans don’t look at a group to make a decision. Every American makes his or her own choices. Culturally, this was reflected in how Americans reacted to the virus.

They protected themselves. They rushed to the store for basic needs. They are not about to look at a social-centered strategy, but at what is best for them individually. Individual rights are paramount. For example, gun stores refuse to close their doors taunting a constitutional right to bear arms.

I always say that culture plays a role in everything we do, and culture is playing a role in the coronavirus scenario. I do wish governments talked about the cultural aspects before passing down rules or laws.

Writen by: Michael Cárdenas, President

Local Concept

Six Traditional Chinese Words that don’t have an English Translation

By | Culture, Translation | No Comments

Unlike alphabetical languages such as Spanish and French, the Chinese language is a writing system that is composed of over 50,000 characters. This logographic writing system gives access to visual representations of objects and concepts. This makes the language both difficult to translate, and less precise than its counterparts. Here we present six examples of Chinese words that are hard to translate.

撒嬌 (sā jiāo)

Little girl holding flower

Leo Rivas via Unsplash

Whiny, to seek attention in a childish but lovely way.
This is an act particularly practiced by a grown-up female to her partner. It is considered as a way to show the side of her feminine character.

面子 (miàn zi)

Woman holding rose

Giulia Bertelli via Unsplash

Surface (literally), referring to dignity or self-esteem.
For example, I was just pretending to understand the conversation in French in order to save face (保全面子, bǎo quán miàn zi).

風水 (fēng shuǐ)


ROOM via Unsplash

Feng shui, known as Chinese geomancy.
The term literally translates as “wind-water”. By orienting buildings and furniture, it’s practiced bolster the harmony between individuals and their surrounding environment.

緣分 (yuán fèn)

Many hands together

Tim Marshall via Unsplash

Fateful coincidence, an interactive concept that describes good and bad chances and potential relationships.

Sometimes, it’s simply translated as “destiny”, “fate” or “luck” with a focus on the relationship two people or objects share.

幸福 (xìng fú)

Yellow book named happy

Josh Felise via Unsplash

A state of being satisfied and content with life especially when with families and significant others.

It can be simply translated as “happiness” depending on the context.

孝順 (xiào shùn)

Two elderly people sitting in their chairs

Elien Dumon via Unsplash

Filial piety, a virtue of respect for one’s parents that is commonly praised in the Chinese community.

It includes but is not limited to being a loving, dutiful and caring child, as well as being responsible for the well-being of one’s parents.

Written by: Yijen Lu, Project Coordinator at Local Concept. 

How Different Cultures Perceive Emojis

By | Culture, Translation | No Comments
Woman holding emoji balloon

Lidya Nada via Unsplash

Emojis are undeniably fun, and sometimes they ‘speak louder than words’. They enable us to add emotional context to plain text, such as humor, brevity or irony. They illustrate non-verbal cues that could be expressed in face-to-face communication including gestures and facial expressions. However, when creating content for a multicultural audience, it’s important to consider how different cultures perceive symbols, colors, and body language.

The most popular emojis around the world

Although being an “official” emoji translator just became a thing in 2017, a study done by Swiftkey in 2015 uncovered insights to how different languages around the globe are using emoji by analyzing over one billion pieces.  Here are some interesting findings:

  • Americans score highest for a variety of emojis, including skulls, birthday cake, fire, tech, LGBT, meat, and female-oriented icons.
  • Canada uses the smiling poop emoji more than any other country. It also leads in violent, body parts, money, sports, raunchy, and ocean creatures.
  • French leads in the heart emoji, and uses hearts 4x more than any other languages. The red heart is also the #1 emoji for several Scandinavian and Eastern European countries.
  • Arabic-speakers are fond of roses and flowers.
  • Swedish-speakers use the bread emoji more than any other language.
  • Scandinavian (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian) use the Santa emoji more than all other languages. (But… doesn’t Santa live in Finland?).
  • Australia uses double the amount of alcohol-themed emoji than others, 65% more drug emoji than average, and leads for both junk food and holiday.
    • Portuguese speakers actually topped Australia in the use of drug emojis (pill, syringe, mushroom, cigarette) when Swiftkey published its second report.
  • Brits use the winky emoji twice the average rate.

Emojis are understood differently by different cultures

The meaning of an emoji varies greatly depending on culture, language, and generation. Using emojis in cross-cultural communications runs the risk of being misunderstood. Here are some examples of cultural variations:

Sign of the Horns GestureIn countries like Brazil, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Colombia and Argentina, the “metal horns” can indicate that the person was cheated on by their partner.


Waving HandWhile the “waving hand” is used to say hello or goodbye in one language, it can signify the ending of a friendship in another.


Thumbs UpThumbs-up” may be a sign of approval in Western cultures; but it is considered an obscene gesture in Greece and the Middle East.


OK HandIn Brazil and Turkey, the “OK” hand gesture is considered as an insult, and is equivalent to giving the middle finger in America.


Clapping HandsClapping hands” shows praise and offer congratulations in Western countries, while in China it’s a symbol of making love.


Slightly Smiling FaceThe “slightly smiling” emoji is not used as a sign of happiness in all countries. In China, it implies distrust, disbelief, or someone humoring you. It can also convey an ironic tone of voice in other contexts.

Baby AngelThe angel emoji can imply having performed a good deed or signify innocence in the west, while it may be used as a sign of death and be perceived as threatening in China.


Eggplant Dreaming of an eggplant on the first night of the New Year means good fortune in Japan. Some people take the eggplant for what it is: a vegetable. In other countries like the U.S, Trinidad and Ireland it has a strong sexual connotation, especially by users ages 18 to 24.


PeachSimilarly to the eggplant, some cultures take the peach for what it is: a fruit. Other countries translate this emoji to “butt”.


Tips for localizing cross-cultural content with Emojis

Given that emojis are open to interpretation, using them for a multinational audience can be tricky. However, emojis have been proven to boost engagement levels, click-through-rates, and open rates in marketing initiatives. In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries made the Face With Tears of Joy emoji the word of the year. There are many benefits of using emojis in marketing, and they are inevitably here to stay.

So, what should we consider when localizing cross-cultural content?

  1. Avoid using hand gesture emojis.
  2. Avoid using only emojis to convey any idea.
  3. Make the emoji relevant to the text in order to enhance the meaning.
  4. Consider how it looks on different platforms.
  5. Sometimes it might be best to spell it out *Neutral face*.


Just being proficient linguistically is not enough to translate emojis. Context and cultural differences need to be considered, thus full localization of the content is essential.

Are you curious about using emoji in your cross-cultural content? Contact us for a free consultation.

Six French Words that don’t have an English Translation

By | Culture, Translation | No Comments

Do you ever get that feeling when you can’t find the right words to describe something? Maybe you’re not thinking in the right language. Here are six French terms with no English equivalent.

N’importe quoi 

Person holding his hand on his face

Adrian Swancar via Unsplash

Literally translates as “it’s no matter what”, but it means it’s a nonsense, but not really, it means you can’t even try to find the words for something, so absurd that something is.


Freezing cold high rise urban town

Geoffrey Chevtchenko via Unsplash

When it’s really, really cold. Even colder than cold (cold = froid). (i.e. below -4 F).


Lighthearted talk between girls

Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

To have a lighthearted talk, very friendly and unrushed with someone.


Woman tiguidou

Miguel Bruna via Unsplash

It’s a popular expression similar to “It’s all good”, but has an impressive capacity to flex into different contexts.


  1. He’s “tiguidou” = he’s great!
  2. My doctorate thesis? It’s “tiguidou” = it’s finally done, so happy!
  3. I’m “tiguidou” with you = I completely agree with you!

Déjà vu

Man realizes he is having Deja Vu

Laurenz Kleinheider via Unsplash

Most of us know this one, but did you know it originates from French? It translates to “already seen”. It’s that feeling of having lived through the present situation before.


Another noteworthy point to mention about this language is that in French there isn’t a word for cheap – only not expensive (“pas cher”). There was even a grocery store whose tagline was “the less expensive grocery store”.

Some of these words are only used in Canadian French. Can you guess which ones?

Check out these Six Spanish Words with no English Translation if you need more terms to express yourself.

Six Spanish Words that don’t have an English Translation

By | Culture, Translation | 2 Comments

Language tells us a lot about a particular culture, and there are some Spanish words that don’t have an English translation. For instance, in Spain, they use a number of sayings having to do with food. Spaniards love food. For instance, when trying to say that something takes a long time, they say that it’s longer than a day without bread. 

Here are examples of six Spanish words with no equivalent in English.


People eating a meal around a table

Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

This word is a unique part to a Spanish meal. It relates to the time spent talking and drinking after the meal is over. The largest sobremesa I ever participated in was three hours.


Wearing something for the first time

Another word that is not a part of the English language is estrenar. In short, it means to wear something for the first time. There seems to be a certain pleasure one gets the first time something is worn. Separately, in English, there is a concept of ‘breaking something in’ when wearing it for the first time, but this is not the same as estrenar.


One-eyed person

Scott Umstattd via Unsplash

Another word, tuerto, loosely translates as a one-eyed person. The word comes from the Latin word, tortus, crouket. In early times this word referred to injustice.



Christian Erfurt via Unsplash

The word desvelado means a person who is not getting enough sleep.



Sarah Swinton via Unsplash

The closest translation is a “snack”, but not really. Many Spanish-speaking countries include a small meal between lunch and dinner where you sit and have coffee, hot chocolate, pastries or a small snack. If you’re an American visiting Spain where there’s an 8 hour lag between lunch and dinner, a merienda might be just what the doctor ordered.

Te Quiero

man and woman hugging

Candice Picard via Unsplash

It’s a word used to show you appreciate someone or care about them. It’s a midpoint between I like you and I love you.

Will God Bless you when you sneeze? It depends in what Country you are sneezing

By | Culture | No Comments

sick snow white GIF by Disney

Before we discuss international treatment of “God bless you,” let’s discuss the origins of these three words. It seems that sneezing goes hand-in-hand with an old superstition that said sneezing happens when your body is trying to get rid of evil spirits. Saying, “God bless you,” is, in essence, the same as wishing a person good luck from those evil spirits.

Another superstition is that the evil spirits hurry into your body when you sneeze. Yet another popular superstition around the words, God bless you, has to do with Pope Gregory, the Great, who ruled during the black plague. He started saying God bless you to those that sneezed, since sneezing was a sign that they had the terminal disease. Most countries use similar words as God bless you. Some countries refer to good health. In some countries they don’t address the God bless you form, nor do they wish you good health.

In France, first sneeze gets you, “à tes souhaits,” which translates into “to your wishes.” The second sneeze gets you, “à tes amours,” which means “to your loves.” A third sneeze will get you, “qu’elles durent toujours,” which means, “that they last forever.”

In Korea, no one says anything after a sneeze. I guess no evil spirits in Korea.

In Portuguese two different versions are used: “santinho,” or “little saint,” and “Deus te,” which means, “May God smother you.” The Dutch, after a third sneeze, go on to say, “The weather will be nice tomorrow.” I guess they’re moving away from using satellite weather maps.

No matter what country you’re in, and what you’re told after, we can all agree a sense of relief is had after every sneeze.

Easter around the World

By | Culture | No Comments

Egg hunting, bunnies, and baskets full of candy – it’s that time of the year again. While these traditions are well known in North America, what does Easter mean for different countries around the world? And how do you say Happy Easter in five different languages?

Spain – Felices Pascuas

Easter is known as Semana Santa which means Holy Week in English. It is the biggest religious celebration of the year, and it includes a great deal of eating and drinking. Parades crowd the streets replicating the day of crucifixion, and Spaniards enjoy some time off work to spend with families and friends.

Indonesia – Selamat Hari Paskah

Portuguese missionaries brought Christianity to Indonesia, which is primarily a Muslim country. While Easter is celebrated mainly among Christians (10% of the population), Good Friday is a day-off for all. Re-enacting the crucifixion is a ceremony that mixes Filipino folk tradition with Christian devotion, and it is considered an honor to be tied to the cross like Jesus was.

Czech Republic – Veselé Velikonoce

On Easter Monday, a rather unusual tradition is carried out. Men playfully spank women with handmade, ribbon-decorated whips made of pussywillow twigs. Pomlázka means whip in English, and it has become the name of this tradition itself. It is believed that being spanked with a whip will bring health, beauty, and fertility during the next year.

Norway – God Påske

It is a holiday which many Norwegians look forward to after a long winter period of darkness. In fact, they have the longest Easter holiday in the world. Shops and work places are closed over Mandy Thursday (skjærtorsdag), Good Friday (langfredag), and the Monday following Easter Sunday, known as andre påskedag. Traditions unique to this country include heading out to the mountains enjoying sunshine, skiing, eating oranges and chocolate, as well as reading crime stories and detective novels.

Brazil – Feliz Páscoa

Easter eggs are an important part of the Brazilian celebrations, and can be found a month in advance strung across ceiling aisles inside supermarkets. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, with sprinkles, caramel, hazelnuts, raisins, cookies – Chocoholics of the world wouldn’t mind a trip to this country during Easter. They also create straw dolls to illustrate Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, then destroy them in the streets.


We would love to hear about your Easter traditions – leave a comment below!