Travel: WTF Caution Signs

While in Italy, I ended up paying a lot of attention to the informative and often cautionary signs that towns or visitor sites have posted.  I realize they’re a cultural “thing”, and what image an administrative entity may choose to signify danger in one place may not signal danger to someone else who grew up elsewhere and interprets the posted signals otherwise.  Example: what may clearly, to one culture, indicate “fire” may look, to someone from somewhere else, like a stack of french fries.  I looked back through my other photos that I’ve taken on other trips and realized, I apparently have a taste for public signage, and there’s a lot of unintentional funny going on in the world.  Some signs are just…hilarious.  Or weird.  Or too WTF-y to ignore.  Wordy.  Thumpingly moral.  Too far outside my American framework of expected public signage.  Or creatively doctored.  And so.  Presenting: various signs from the places I’ve been, in no particular order, with my interpretation following.

Seen in Rome.

I like this “no access” sign because of two things.  One, the guy on the sign is clearly yelling at you to stop, it’s like he’s saying, “NOOOOOOOOO!”  And two, I loveloveLOVE the perspective on the hand!  It’s, like, flying off the sign at you, and if you don’t listen then he will smack you down.

Seen in Rome.

Apparently, the Italians are more than happy to convey several messages on one sign.  So whatever happens, when lightning strikes, DO NOT throw soda on your meringues, because NOOOOOOOOOOOO!  They’ll melt, you see?

Seen in Florence.

I suspect this was supposed to mean “Danger” or “Watch Your Step” or something like that.  But it was right next to the Duomo and so, to me, it means that the Duomo?  Is awesome!  Exclamation point.

Seen in Murano Island, Venice.

No Pic Nic!  It’s as though they don’t want you to choose Nick and have lost all of their k’s.  So, Murano Island merchants, I understand why you want to hang “No picnic” signs in front of your stores.  I get that people will drop down on the nearest set of steps and have their lunch, impede traffic flow, they may irritate your customers and, if an area gets a reputation for being a good “Pic Nic” spot, then I’m sure that could legitimately, seriously impact business.  Who needs to step over a bunch of hungry backpackers when there are literally fifty stores in easy walking distance of any given spot on the main drag selling pretty much the same things you’re selling?  But the gnarly sign is nearly as off-putting as a lunch-wielding flashmob, and weirdly looks like a sunset.  Maybe it’s a clue, and if you say “No Pic Nic” three times fast at sunset, a genie will show up and transport you to a nice restaurant so you don’t have to make do of your own accord.  Damn.  I should have tried that.

Seen in Ireland.

This is among my favorite of the cautionary signs, courtesy of the good people of Kinvarra, Ireland.  It does kind of speak for itself, but in all seriousness, if you’re ever out driving along a road and you see this sign?  Proceed with caution, because some kind of cliff is nearby.  And remember, Americans…Europeans don’t put up forty thousand reinforced barriers to prevent you from going over the edge, you just have to be responsible for yourself.  Good luck with that.

Seen in Canada, at Niagara Falls.

Yup, those are Niagara Falls in the background.  Yup, there’s a sign telling you not to climb over the fence.  But what I really love?  Is that the fence in the warning sign is kind of ornate, with a swirly cast-iron top piece.  It’s nicer than the actual fence they have up.  So does this mean that only the fences with a great sense of aesthetics are dangerous to vault?  If so, then major sign fail.

Seen in a ladies’ room, Dublin, Ireland.

Fact: When I saw this sign, it was all I could do to not take it off the wall and hug it.  And there’s nothing like an outburst of maniacal laughter followed by the whipping out of a camera in a restroom to cause some consternation among your fellow pottygoers.  Though I did ask myself, what sort of bar was I hanging out in?  I only saw this in one restroom in Ireland.  Was I in O’Shea’s Publick House and Iniquity Den, or something?

Kids, stay off the cocaine.  If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your penile function.  This public service announcement brought to you by a ladies’ room in Ireland.

Seen in Florence.

Umm.

Errraggghhhh…

I admit it.  I’ve got nothin’.  The best I can figure is: cloudy days are banished when the phalanx of Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs (Bang Bangii?) depart.  I don’t quite think I’m right–and believe me, I’m willing to learn–but this one has puzzled me since the day I took its picture.  Anyone?

Seen in Rome.

This was a sign on a subway door in Rome.  What I like is, while the captions tell you what not to do, the pictures have no such markings except for one.  There is no circle with a slash, no NOOOOOOOOOO! hand guy.  What if you can’t read Italian and you have to determine what these images mean without benefit of words?  (Going from left to right in rows.)

1) Zero gravity can be attained by pushing subway doors outward.

2) Do not rip doors open with bare hands.

3) Interpretive dance mandatory upon exiting the carriage.

4) Your genitals can be located between here and here.

Seen in Pennsylvania.

Here’s the hometown nominee!  I love how this was doctored.  Is it simple?  Yes.  Is it kind of stupid?  Yes.  But should one of The Dark Lords of Stonehurst find himself at the Allentown rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there’s a parking spot ready and waiting for him.

Seen in Venice.

Remember the Keep On Truckin’ guy?

Mr. Keep On Truckin’ himself.

Right.  So.  I think this means, the Illuminati support your decision to keep on truckin’ over the canals in Venice.  He’s way too jaunty to be doing something theoretically forbidden.  What else could that triangle be about?  R. Crumb-imagined, Illuminati approved.

Seen at the Vatican.

CAUTION! You may have the inexplicable urge to ska-dance, and then act like nothing happened, on these stairs.  Vatican City does that to a person.

That is all.

Seen at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

I’ve probably given this sign more thought than it warrants.  I’ve even asked other people what they thought it might mean.  Thus far, the most satisfactory interpretation I can come up with is:  Do not step into the lair of the fire gull.  And indeed, I never have.

Finally, here is my favorite (thus far) cautionary sign, ever.

Seen in Paris.

(Full disclosure: the picture I took of this sign turned out kind of grainy and less than visually stunning.  This little beauty–which I assure you is the same exact image–came from the October, 2009 edition of Wired magazine.)

Greatest.  Sign.  Ever.  It achieves exactly what it’s supposed to achieve; it wordlessly expresses that one must use caution while near this sign, or else you can die a grisly and untimely death.  YES!  That a warning sign actually makes you come face to face with your own mortality, without seeming cheesy or funny, is an impressive feat.  And this sign does that in spades.  I remember seeing it for the first time, while waiting for the Metro.  Slack-jawed amazement.  I couldn’t stop looking at it.  We sanitize what could happen in our warning signs, we have electric bolts and large, attention-grabbing letters but to actually depict a body in the throes of electrocution?  Wow.  What I am, is impressed.  What I’m not, is trying to touch that power box.  I’ll leave that to the pros.

One other thing: is it me, or would this make one of the greatest album covers of all time?

Happy trails!

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322 responses to Travel: WTF Caution Signs

  1. Amy

    While I appreciate the international nominees immensely-Allentown wins!!!!

  2. Oh. My. GOD. These are AWESOME!!!

    Really, they’re like gifts that keep on giving. I keep thinking of different interpretations after seeing them. You can’t make stuff like this up.

    Of course, with the first sign, I initially thought it meant, “Don’t talk to the hand.” But I guess not…
    ;)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yeah! They do just keep on giving, don’t they? It’s an amusement goldmine. So glad you enjoyed this. Thanks!

  3. These signs are a hoot. I saw several in New Delhi, India, where most folks drive motorbikes, that said, “Helmet or Hell!” I thought that managed to get the point across.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed–and hang on for the comment ride.

    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks so much; it was quite the surprise when I walked back in the door and checked my email. For the record, I would have been *all over* the “Helmet or Hell!” signs. I live in PA, where they don’t have helmet laws for bikers. I wonder what sort of effect that sign would have here… :)

      Hugs back,
      Terri

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Glad you liked it! The Duomo IS awesome and you don’t really need to draw that much attention to it, but coming across a random exclamation point sitting in the middle of a piazza is kind of funny no matter what else is nearby.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks! The subway pic cracked me up every time I got on the train (and I am the queen of using public transportation, especially in towns I don’t know), but writing the interpretations was a real hoot.

  4. The second sign from above means that there is electricity. If a fire brakes out you should not use water to extinguish it because you will be electrocuted. The guy and his hand basically means you should stay way completely.

    The exclamation mark sign means “attention”. Maybe there was some construction and you should watch out? Not sure.

    The cliffs of Moher sign means you are suppose to stay off the grass.

    The one with the red and black car means that you are not allowed to pass, e.g. the road is to narrow or it is too dangerous. I am not sure about the clouds and sun though.

    • Rov

      The one with the red/black cars side by side with the partial sun/clouds means no passing on overcast days when it obscures vision of the road ahead.
      In the U.S. people think its illegal to pass when there is a double yellow line. There is actually no such ordinance. The double yellow line indicates that it MAY be dangerous to pass at certain times and when those conditions are present you may be cited.
      Example: in the late fall/winter Rhein all the leaves are off trees you may be able to see around a curve or bend in the road allowing safe passing. In the spring/summer when the trees have full foliage your line of sight may be blocked enough thatbyounvannot see on coming traffic and therefore should you attempt to pass you could cause and accident and therefore be citied.
      In the country where you took the sign, at certain times if the year or when the sun is at a specific place it makes it difficult to see clearly enought to negotiate passing.
      I actually think this could be of use in more countries.
      Love the post and the photos. Brings back memories if some great trips and places visited.

  5. I used to go to college in Amish country, so I was amused to see the yellow signs with a picture of a horse and buggy on it. I used to call them Amish crossing signs.

  6. Here’s what I think of that Italian double-sign no one can figure out. 1: Red cars and black cars are ok, but no other colors. 2: NO CLOUDS! CLOUDS ARE TRESPASSING IF THEY COME HERE!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      It was pretty sunny in Florence, so apparently the “No clouds!” sign was working. Those Italians, they’re so innovative. Thanks for reading!

  7. fireandair

    “Europeans don’t put up forty thousand reinforced barriers to prevent you from going over the edge, you just have to be responsible for yourself. Good luck with that.”

    This is also related to those mysterious train signs in Rome, which should read, “Attenzione: We don’t install safety doors and gap-minders on ANYTHING over here. If you try to pull these doors open while they are closing, the train will take off with your fingers and leave you on the platform. Try to get between them as they are closing, and you will be cut in half.”

    I think a large number of warning signs in Europe are often designed to warn Americans that the rest of the world is not foam-padded to insulate us from the consequences of being a jackass.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      :) While I didn’t get directly involved in a fight with a Roman subway door, I can imagine they’re pretty unforgiving. It was a real eye-opener in Ireland, when I realized I could walk directly up to the edges of cliffs and there wasn’t a single thing between me and the abyss. It was kind of a relief for me, actually, because for a long time I thought I might have been one of a very small few who thought, do I really NEED to be told not to pitch headlong into the North Atlantic? No, I can figure that out for myself. Instead, it’s just that most of the world realizes that one ought to not be a jackass. Thanks for reading!

  8. sirbuffalosushi

    The last one looks like the inside liner notes from Green Day’s “Warning” album :)

  9. This is genius! Did you stumble upon any “Do Not Wear Bib Overhauls at the Vatican” signs while in Rome? They even have string in place of the X mark over the picture.

    Love this post.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks! No, I don’t remember the bib overalls signs at the Vatican, I’m sorry to say. I remember seeing plenty of “You must dress respectfully” signs, but not specifically targeting overalls. Maybe I was too overwhelmed by my compulsion to ska dance down the stairs…

  10. Haha, love it. I have a few from my travels too – may have a search and do a buddy post. My personal all-time greatest caution sign is from japan: its picture of someone slipping on some ice, flapping about in mid-air, and breaking their arm – in the background you can see my girlfriend being wheeled into the hospital, after slipping on some ice, flapping about in mid-air, and breaking her arm. Skills.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m going to save that picture forever. The only thing I can think is: Paris Hilton, in a pretty lurid celebrifeud, called Lindsay Lohan a “fire crotch”. Maybe you stumbled upon LiLo’s dressing room.

    • mackerelskies

      Here is my expert opinion: this is some young boy’s attempt at an anatomical drawing of a female – having little to no knowledge of an actual female body – and that the fire symbol is his equivalent of the old Here Be Dragons marking.

    • Best. Sign. Ever.

      Maybe it’s the “party in my pants” sign after someone accidentally left a lit cigarette on a beanbag?

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        Hahahaha! Maybe. Is that sort of like the frantic-yet-compressed move you make when you drop a lit cigarette in the car?

  11. jenntenhaaf

    The car falling off the cliff in Ireland had to be my favorite, although I had to wonder if the staff at the falls were seeing something that we weren’t with their depiction of the gates.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I laughed for literally ten minutes straight when I saw the car-over-the-cliff sign. I had that as my Facebook profile for a while. I think it’s what started this for me. I can’t speak for what the Falls people were seeing…

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m not kidding when I say I stared at that sign in slack-jawed amazement whenever I saw it. I agree. Someone went to work wearing their “awesome” pants the day that sign came into being.

  12. Seen in Florence is beautiful. The best pic is: cloudy days are banished when the phalanx of Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs . I don’t quite think I’m right–and believe me, I’m willing to learn–but this one has puzzled me.

  13. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.
    I think that the Florence one with the two cars and “No Clouds”. Is anti-air polution. The cars are completely exhaust free and the other is a No Smoking sign (for fear of covering up the sun).

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks! It’s pretty exciting.

      So we shouldn’t smoke for fear of covering the sun? Innnnnnnnteresting. I’m so glad I quit; now I can’t be accused of contributing to the rise of a Marlboro winter. LOL

  14. Xenoia

    I use one of my all time favourite signs as my blog header. It reads ‘CAUTION: You are driving in a Wrong way,’ and can be seen in the car park at Cairo airport :D

      • Xenoia

        Thanks :D There was another good one I found in a different part of Egypt that clearly looked like a sign for ‘No trumpets allowed.’ It was on a road so not certain what the trumpet etiquette is in that part of the world.

        Anyways, after careful consideration I think I get the Florence sign now. It’s saying,’Florence is beautiful and sunny all the time since we have signs that let the clouds know they aren’t allowed here…as a consequence, no overtaking as the sun will blatantly be in your eyes and you will crash and die.’

        Just my interpretation.

  15. Thank you for your appraisal of all these signs. This gave me such a great laugh. Apparently my sense of humor had taken he day off without telling me and you just brought it back!
    jeanne

  16. scintillatebrightly

    I see tons of stuff like this in Taiwan too! Love the post.

  17. Great post! That last one from Paris is seriously amazing – imagine it, a public service sign that actually looks like a real person – wowza!
    And the puzzling sign from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland… I think it might mean “No levitating during gulls nesting season”. But that’s just me.
    As for the ones from Florence. NO. IDEA. WHATSOEVER. No overtaking, and by the way, God, no cloudy days either, thanks? I mean, I know the Italians have the Pope and all, but do they really have that much clout?

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Not only does the sign look like a person, but it’s a person getting brutalized. Damn. That’s some signage. Levitating gulls…could be, could be. And yeah, the Florence ones…totally at a loss.

  18. First of all, brilliant interpretations! My fave was the subway signs in Rome. As a person that blogs about people who routinely fail to use the brains God gave them, I can assure you, some of these signs would not work at all.

    Congrats on FP!

  19. Great post! Congrats on being freshly pressed :) in relation to the sign at the Cliffs of Moher, it warns visitors not to step over the wall and onto the grass. Due to wet grass and high speed winds and close proximity to the cliff edge there is a high risk of being swept over. There is always some poor unfortunate every year or so who doesn’t heed notice and is swept out to sea.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks! It’s pretty exciting.

      I’m sure you’re right, but they have signs with words at the Cliffs, too, telling people not to go beyond X point. Not that people listen, as I have a picture of me and about twenty other people in complete disregard of the sign… LOL

  20. hermosausaadmin

    Hahaha! That last pic made me laugh out loud so loudly in the library at lunch time that my students ran up and had to see what warranted that reaction. The kids don’t get it, but I still can’t stop giggling! Thanks for sharing these great international precautionary signs so we can enjoy them as well and congrats on being FP! ~Marianne

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      What age are your students? I’m always glad to infringe on library time (she said facetiously). Yeah, that last pic was really something. I think it needs to become a t-shirt. Thanks for reading!

      • hermosausaadmin

        I would absolutely buy it in t-shirt form! My “kids” are middle schoolers, 6th – 8th grade. They didn’t understand why I was laughing so hard, so their befuddlement only added to my giggles and tears. Their lunch time is their free time so there was no infringement. ;) I always have a full house before school and at lunch time. I never knew students would want to hang out in the library ON PURPOSE, but my kids love it here and get “purt darn” upset when it’s closed in my absence.

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        Awww, they’re adorable when they’re a little clueless that way! I have a very good friend who teaches middle school, too. I don’t know how he (or you) have the patience, but I’m delighted that there are those who do.

        Maybe I’ll look into shirts…

  21. Oh, how I love the creativity and variety of signs all over the world! Some of these had me in stitches, especially with your interpretations! As for the Florence double sign – the top one makes sense, it probably means no overtaking, but that second one makes no sense; maybe no overtaking on a partly cloudy day?? Sometimes I wonder how people come up with road signs and what logic they’re using…

    Great post and congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yeah, I was at a loss. I kind of like the person who thought only red and black cars were allowed in Florence. As for the logic…no idea. My boyfriend and I talked about that because the thing is, aren’t these supposed to (theoretically) be somewhat universal? As in, even if you don’t read the language you’ll get what the sign says? So now we’re back to…but WTF? Thanks for reading! :)

  22. Wow. Unique stuff from your fascinating travels. I really enjoyed the “Twenty’s plenty” signs in Scotland for potential speeders. I’ll take a wild guess that the red car/black car sign represents some kind of car cloning. Or perhaps, hazardous holographic cars ahead? I don’t really know. Regardless, good stuff.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Interesting. I just checked out the “Twenty’s plenty” signs. I would enjoy those, too. I mean, part of why these are so fun is because they’re in all these cool places. Which, of course, would be made much cooler with holographic cars. Mmmm, holographic cars. Thanks for the brain candy!

  23. Spoon Feast

    The Parisian sign is my all time favorite too. I have taken several pictures of it all over town.
    It is such fun to try to intrepert ‘international symbols’ used on signs. I often wonder who thought of the international symbols.
    Congratulations on Freshly Pressed!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      So glad you understand. Did you also notice the walk/don’t walk figures at the intersections in Paris? The little red “don’t walk” man is totally sporting some attitude, he’s got his hands on his hips and everything. He’s fantastic, but not the easiest thing to get a picture of because? You’ve really got to stand in an intersection to get it. Maybe next time I go, now that I have a camera with a major zoom.

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  24. I also enjoy taking photos of random signs. There is one in Paris that says “end of tourist zone.” It’s my personal favorite.

  25. lol the “interpretive dance” one is also on the metro here in Madrid! I always thought it was hilarious looking–as if the Metro de Madrid were encouraging you to bust a move as you existed the metro car!

    Also another hilarious one is the metro rabbit in Paris–I’m not sure why, but to illustrate the dangers of the metro doors, they chose a rabbit dressed in clothes with its hand (paw?) stuck in the door!

    And while I was in Vienna, I nearly took a sign of the “priority seating” picture–you know the one that tells you that you need to get up for senior citizens, people with canes, and pregnant women? The senior citizen one looked like Santa Claus!!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      There was a Santa Claus-y picture on the priority seating in the buses in Venice. And I have NO IDEA how I missed the metro rabbit. More reasons to have to go back! :) Thanks!

  26. mackerelskies

    I have no idea what that first one actually says, so all it would say to me is “STOP! Do not come in here until you have washed your hands.”

      • mackerelskies

        Possibly it just means “no high fives” or “no men with hands bigger than their heads”, but I just realized that that guy’s finger lengths are WAY out of whack. Which means… something. Apparently. Depending on who you ask. I’m starting to think that whoever designed this sign wanted to make sure every single base was covered in case of lawsuits. “Your honor, this man’s ring finger is clearly longer than his index, which we clearly indicated meant he should not step beyond the barrier. Therefore we are not responsible for the disaster that followed.”

  27. pimpchef

    Damn! You can text drugs now? Mookie – text me some Bob Marley!

  28. I always take pictures of signs too! So many bad things happen to that silouette guy I can’t help it. He’s always falling off cliffs and having boulders tumble on him and getting electrocuted.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m glad I’m not alone! My boyfriend often wonders what I find so hilarious. Luckily for us both, he’s quite patient. LOL

  29. themonsterunderyourbed

    I am sat here laughing uncontrollably! Thank you! I shall never look at signposts again!

  30. My favorite sign is in Jerusalem. It has a row of triangles then “SPIKES!” written underneath it… in three languages.

      • Ana

        reaaaally? you should be doing this more often!! just kidding. But anyway, keep on doing this awesome posts! :D

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks. I have been fortunate in being able to travel, and I am downright LUCKY to have a boyfriend who wants to go places as much as I do. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Now I’ve got to change for my fitness class (and I’m not even kidding).

  31. I loved this blog! A lot of my paintings are based on these signs within the landscape like these and I constantly take photos of them. Maybe the car and clouds sign means -“Don”t open your sunroof, coloured cars may drop on you from above.”Cheers

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Wow, I’m going to have to check out your stuff. Anytime I paint I make things that look like the weird internet troll, but I’m a fan of admiring people who can make paint happen. Thanks for reading!

      • I make paint happen but you definitely won’t recognise any signs- I have a weird troll thing happening myself when I get a brush in my hand.

  32. There are quite a few of those signs here in England! I have to learn the ‘Careful now, you might inadvertently drive off a cliff to a watery death’ sign for my driving theory exam tomorrow :).

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I want to tell you to find the most ridiculous explanation for your exam, and use that as an answer. But I can’t. I do wish you well, and remember, “Careful, you might inadvertently drive off a cliff to a watery death” is one of the few, reasonably straightforward signs out there. Good luck!

  33. Right, so if you’re falling the answer is to not fall? (Regarding the one with the figures on the stairs) We need more indecipherable warning signs.

  34. This just made my day haha when I saw that NOOOOOO! man, I instantly thought “stop… in the name of love~” (lyrics) rofl but yeah and I noticed you’ve replied to every comment!? Good job :D

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Ooh, I may have a project where I warp the NOOOOOOO! guy into a Supreme. Brain candy! And yes, if someone’s going to be nice enough to write, then the least I can do is respond. :) Thanks for reading!

  35. Congratulations!

    I thought they were all really funny. My wife and I saw one in Ohio that said ‘Drug Trafficers: call…’ I can’t remember what the number was. It seemed weird. Who should call? The trafficer? The one buying the drugs? It made us both laugh. Ohio roadsigns are like that, I guess. :)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Did you notice the “text ‘drugs'” part on the “Party’s Over” sign from Ireland? Someone else said, “Wow, now you can text for drugs!” LOL Maybe they’re calling your drug trafficker. So glad you enjoyed the post.

  36. Ever since reading this, I’ve been keeping an eye out for sign posts and found some pretty funny ones! Thanks for opening the box! haha

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Just call me Pandora. But in all seriousness, there’s a LOT of funny floating around in the world. I’m so glad you’re finding some of it.

  37. Oh my goodness! My husband and I laughed until we cried! I think the Vatican ska-dancer is my favorite! Thanks for the giggles. :)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      :D Vatican ska-dancer kills me, because the dancer is walking away from the scene of the move-busting like, “What, no? That wasn’t me.” Yeah, right. Like a person can resist getting down with the Gregorian chants.

  38. Great stuff! Here’s my suggestion for the one with two cars and the no-sun-and-clouds combo: No passing when the sun’s behind the clouds. Guess you have to alternate watching the road with watching the sky in Florence.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Oh nooooo! So complicated! Though really, it’s just as plausible as my theory about flying cars. Thanks for reading!

  39. I literally just laughed out loud. This just made an otherwise stressful day, I will be sharing this with others!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yay! I’m so glad to contribute to a de-stressing, no matter how small my part is. I’m so glad you stopped by.

  40. Hahahaaaaa! Good to see I’m not the only one who snaps shots of international signage. Now if only I had thought to make a post featuring them. ;) Perhaps I should write a post displaying my glorious collection of worldwide mullet moments captured by the camera on my trusty phone. Best ones always come from Czech Rep. or French side of Belgium. Cheers.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Two things. One: I would welcome with open arms a buddy post of more fun signage, and Two: Yes yes yes yes yes to the Czech mullet post, pleeeease! Cheers to you!

  41. nice! this is a cool post. I am 8 months into our family tour de’ US and haven’t seen any cool signs yet…tho we are hoping to go to Europe next year…I’ll keep my eyes open for new ones!! And the no sun/clouds sign might mean no passing especially on a clear day (sun blindness?)?

    http://www.travellingawesomes.wordpress.com

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      On the tour of the US from where? I’ve become convinced that the two cars actually means “No passing”, but I’m still not convinced about what in the heck the no clouds sign is about… :)

      • From where depends on what year we are talking about :) We’ve been hopping around for years, but the actual buy-a-camper-and-great-big-truck-and-hit-the-road-full-time from where would be Raleigh, NC. We are about 9 months in and love it so far….love it so much we are researching how to rv in Europe for a year or so! I love your blog….gonna try the recipe for carrot risotto soon!!

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        How fun! I’ve driven cross country a few times, but not for months at a time.

        The carrot risotto rules. Enjoy it!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      No kidding! I know I feel a loss because our road signs are nowhere near as entertaining. Maybe I’ll have to content myself with misspelled words here. ;)

  42. Hilarious! I’ve got a pretty good collection of bizarre sign photos myself. My favorite of yours: the interpretative dance on the subway. Thanks for the entertainment!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Well, do tell about your signage! Regarding the interpretive dance, I was thrilled to learn that Madrid uses the same sort of picture. And it makes no more sense with that tidbit of knowledge, it just gets funnier. Thanks for reading.

      • Lots of great ones in Ireland (like “Drive Dead Slow” or the danger signs at the Cliffs of Moher), but the funniest, most inexplicable one had to be the wordless sign in a German hotel stairwell. I wish I could just post it here because I still don’t know what to make of it. It looks like a man either marching or possibly hanging himself. Another was a postcard outside a restaurant restroom (also in Germany) that said “99 Luft-Balloons But a B*tch Ain’t One.”

  43. These are cool! Did you know that there is an organization that studies sign images that are supposed to endure for millennia and surpass language? They are supposed to be used in nuclear waste sites… you might also enjoy my blog, since it’s about travel and interpretation and the wallpaper has a sign embedded in it. You might recognize it…

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      No, I didn’t know that. Is there a name for this organization? I’d love to look into it, since there really is a gut reaction to a lot of signs. I mean…someone invented Esperanto 140 years ago, and the world was supposed to be speaking it by now. I definitely have to check out your blog! Thanks for stopping by.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Ooh, I’m going to have fun reading this! But seriously, if you don’t know if you’re a prostitute..? Wow. Thanks!

  44. OK… this was really entertaining reading. Thanks for sharing these with us all and for the laugh. I loved it.

  45. Funny, I thought the last one must be a sign for where they store the defibrilator… or suggesting that the Almighty is feeling like off-ing a few extra people today.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      With how graphic it is, I would imagine the sign for storing the defibrillator would have a few heartbeats and then a flatline on it. Or, paramedics getting ready to *clear!*, with a body lolling in the background.

  46. ha ha ha … thats the wonderfully written hilarious post … loved the wacky interpretations. Congratulations on being FP. :)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Ha ha! Maybe the kangaroo is actually serving as an emergency jack, and they’re who comes to help the unfortunate traveler change a blown tire after dark. Maybe, possibly? Though that’s certainly still Herculean. Thanks for reading!

  47. My favorite is the Paris lightening bolt. Like the Sistine Chapel. Only instead of God gives life to Adam its God takes life from. ADAM.

  48. Oh my gosh, each one kept getting better and better! I love that you incorporated the Keep on Trucking guy! I was just thinking about him the other day. I interpret the first one as “Don’t you dare high five this sign! Be serious!”

  49. Hey i liked it, I think the one from italy with the cars and banned sunshine was, one lane when its not sunny?

  50. The cliff sign (and your warning) have placed fear in my heart. And, I am simply sitting on my sofa.

  51. FANTASTIC… loved reading this and I was laughing throughout. My fav sign has got to be the four in the subway in Rome. I’ve been to the Canadian Niagra Falls not that I paid much attention to the signage then, but I was trying (unsuccessfully) to figure that sign! Oh The French electric sign I’m thinking ‘grease lightning.

    • And in ENGLAND UK. There’s a sign which is meant to mean old people crossing but it kind of comes across as … See for yourself!

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        Ooh, nice challenge. Maybe I WILL come see it myself. Though I just googled it…what’s that lady doing with her hand? ;)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m not normally a fan of taking pictures in a subway–I feel like it makes you a little bit of a target–but this one was too delicious to pass up. Thanks!

  52. I though the first sign says “Don’t give me five!” LOL

    Anyway, I had lots of laughter looking at and interpreting the signs. The one with two cars and sunny/cloudy thingy still gives me speculations what those signs really mean!

    Nice write-up! :)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m strangely relieved that the ‘no clouds’ one has everyone stumped so far. It’s not just me. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks so much!

  53. Hahaha I love these! I must say when i was in the Uk i saw a few interesting signs to say the least.. but i have the agree with you on the last one its so dramatic and detailed compaired to the other signs it really makes you stop a stare as well as cringe a little! haha

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yeah, it really evokes something visceral. Having just heard about the UK’s electricity warning/”Danger of Death” sign (which I now have to see for myself), I realize I’m a fan of a good eye-catching happy-colored yellow sign that is in reality totally grim. Dig it.

  54. Thanks for this…you made me realize I am not the only American who has had questions about signs…I have lived here for 3 years and I still have a hard time…learning all the time..

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      You know, I wondered about the shape of that sign, but for the life of me couldn’t figure it out. Great call, thanks.

  55. I love that you included the car hanging off a cliff sign- they’re all over Ireland (including in the cities). It took me a moment to work out why you thought it was odd though- they’re ubiquitous here and seem like perfectly logical signs to a populace who exist on a rather small island with a lot of unguarded/ barely-fenced cliff edges.

    And trust me when I say that the cocaine warning isn’t the oddest sign I’ve come across in Irish pubs and nightclubs! Signs for trauma counselling and cervical cancer checks, birth control advertisements, and admonishments to “drink sensibly” all appear regularly.Great post!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      They ARE perfectly logical, but trust me, in the US there would be a million barriers instead of a sign warning you not to plunk into the ocean. I love that the sign presents a legitimate warning but actually leaves the outcome up to the driver. Awesome. Now, talk to me about liminality. I’ve definitely got to check out your stuff.

  56. The one from Florence – the round sign with 2 cars is the European sign for no overtaking…it’s circular and therefore mandatory. I have no idea when they mean with the weather one…perhaps it’s a warning that there are never any clouds (though in that case it should be triangular).
    I think the fire gull one is just “Keep off the Grass” – yours sounds way cooler.

    And the last one is a more realistic version of the UK’s “Danger of Death” signage. Since the are pop-rivetted to substations, I’ve never yet been brave enough to steal one. But I want one. And yes, there really do say “Danger of Death” on them….

    Cool post and congrats on FP :-)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      WOW! Just googled “Danger of Death” signs. AMAZING. So if a sign is circular, it’s mandatory and if it’s triangular, it’s a warning? If nothing else, it will help me understand what I’m supposed to do for later across the pond.

      I’m going to stick with not entering the lair of the fire gull. Especially if it’s grassy.

      Thanks so much!

  57. Some of these designs are nothing short of pure genius or pure stupidity a fine line sometimes. Nevertheless thoroughtly enjoyable

  58. Del

    Oh god, I was in tears by the end of this post. Funniest thing I’ve read in ages, and so well-written. Thank you!

  59. Laughing out loud and attracting wome very weird looks from people nearby for doing so. #Thank you, they’re brilliant.

  60. I’m surprised you didn’t pick up the “Drive Carefully” sign in Seattle, WA. While the message is clear enough, the picture that they used for it had me chuckling for days afterward.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Now I have (further reason) to (finally) go to Seattle. I haven’t been there, that’s the problem. :) Though I did just google it, and am laughing out loud in a coffee shop. Nice! Thanks.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      OMG hilarious! The deer attack signs had me laughing out loud, and I feel so bad for that poor crying elevator man. Thanks for these!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Some of these signs had to be invented by Captain Awesomepants. Who else could come up with so much wonder? :) Thanks for reading!

  61. Selvinas

    I visited Rome myself some years ago and even though I’m European I didn’t understand all the signs and most of them looked very strange to me. It really makes me wonder who makes these signs…
    I think I saw most strange signs in the Vatican or the public transport.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      LOL This makes me both happy and sad. Maybe the sign makers need to conduct a public opinion poll, solicit feedback. Thanks for making me feel less clueless! :)

  62. Sarah D.

    Very funny! My 2 cents about the signs in Florence: The top one with two cars means “No Passing.” I haven’t a clue what the one with the cloud and sun means. Yet another thing to keep me awake at night!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yeah, pretty sure by now that the two cars does, indeed, indicate no passing. But nobody knows what the sun & clouds mean! I hate to think you’re losing sleep over this, but I hear you!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Perfect! Now you can really make ‘em start guessing about you. If you can suddenly develop some weird affectation, like having to walk around your office barefoot, then they’re sure to think you’re even stranger and much fun can be had with them.

      • I am the only woman who works here.. I could and do do many things that make them think I’m strange..LOL.. they are my playthings in the daily grind..:) Seriously though.. Thank you for the belly laughs today.. I so needed it!

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        Excellent, you make me proud. Always keep them guessing. And I’m so glad to provide belly laughs!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      It’s a mystery, for sure. Particularly for things like the ska-dancer. I want them to realize the sign doesn’t mean what they think it means. :) Thanks for reading!

  63. Hilarious!!! How great that you’ve managed to compile such a selection of weird signs!!! I was wondering about the two from Florence – the one with the two cars and then the one with the clouds and sun underneath it? Could it possibly be to warn drivers not to overtake as the risk of blinding sunlight? So when the sun comes out, you might be blinded? LOL Anyway, who knows, great food for thought though – and laughs all the way!! Thanks a mill – I’ll be back!!

    Amanda :-)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Ha ha thanks! I have a very patient boyfriend who tolerates my taste for weird cultural effluvia. Someone else said the cars/clouds sign means, basically, no passing when visibility is obscured, and that seems to make the most sense. But why would they make it look like they’ve banned the sun? So glad you enjoyed the post!

  64. No wonder you’re freshly pressed, these are hilarious, and your interpretations are belly-laugh funny :D
    As a ‘European’ I’m glad the watch-out-you-might-be-about-to-fall-off-a-cliff sign is (ahem) clear to you Americans too ;)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      You’re too kind, thank you. The “you’re about to go off a cliff” sign really didn’t leave any room for doubt. Which is part of why I adore that sign so very, very much.

  65. Nic is disappointed that he wasn’t “depicted” on the sign, but I managed to console him. And I will avoid ska-dancing on the stairs at the Vatican. Thanks for the warning. ;-)

    Seriously, though, I love your hilarious interpretation of these signs. Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks for taking care of Nic. It’s like he suffered a double disappointment, what with not being picked AND being fresh out of K’s. You’re all right. ;)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  66. xxRoxie

    I actually recognize the weird signs from Florence. They are used in Holland too, in a different way though.
    The first one means a dangerous crossroad is coming up. Usually, it means the situation is different than what you expect.
    The one with the clouds? You are not supposed to pass another car when it’s raining. When the sun is shining, you can pass other cars in front of you. ;)
    Loved your post!! I definitely think you should do one about album covers!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Ooh, album covers…or maybe movie posters…You may have given me an idea…

      OK, I think I finally get it now! It just…it made absolutely *no* sense to me when I first saw it. Thanks so much!

  67. All of these, but particularly the Vatican City sign(s), made me very happy. Thank you!

    ‘Scuse me while I grab my camera and go wander around.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Haha! Yes, you should grab your camera and wander! There’s much funny to be seen, even if you don’t find any good road signs… :)

  68. Brilliant! Funny how the signage is as varied as the language! In German I’ve found out that “Ich bin warm” – literally “I am warm” – translates as “I am gay”…

    My favourite is the parking spot for the Dark Lord :D

      • I am warm in German just idiomatically means “I’m gay” who knows why. Also “I am hot” literally “Ich bin heiss” idiomatically means “I’m horny”! Basically you can’t say much in German without sounding like a sexual deviant :p
        What you’re supposed to say is “mir ist warm/heiss” (“It’s hot/warm to me”), since it’s reflexive. There you go, one way in which grammar could potentially save you from a legal case!

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        LOL I swear, I adore grammar. Russian has a lot of those sorts of passive-aggressive constructions, as well. They don’t say, “I have..[something]”, what they say literally translates as, “To me there is…”. Go figure. Thanks!

      • Urgh I’ve taught myself some Russian and the grammar is just…horrendous! No present tense and definite/indefinite articles makes all their sentences seem so empty to me. Chinese is weirder yet as they don’t conjugate or even have a past tense apparently!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Someone else thought it looked like Jordi’s eyegear from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He could also be a cylon. Now the question is: why is an android warrior hostile to the human race trying to ban us from a particular area?

      • It’s probably the opposite of the logic in I, Robot. The I, robot robot’s decided that the only way to protect us was to enslave us. So the cylons must think the only way to enslave us is to protect us (from dangerous areas)?

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        Ahhh, make us think they’re our friends and then drop the whammy? Duplicitous and cruel. I like it.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Agreed. That’s why I made it my Facebook profile for a while. Maybe it will be my next gravatar here… LOL Thanks!

  69. Excellent! I’m going to Florence next month, I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for the funny signs :)

    Also, if you ever go to China…that’s like a whole new world for WTF caution signs!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      On a side note, I *love* the term “keep my eyes peeled”. Yes, please do take a look and see what signs are in Florence! Should I get to China, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for an onslaught of WTF-ness.

  70. This post made me laugh! I am also a sign seeker… or at least I notice signs when I come upon them, when others seem to walk on by. Interpretations are wildly different in different areas of the world, for sure! I have some pictures of signs that I have stumbled upon in my travels that would fit in well with your signs here. Great post.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yeah! They’re a fun snapshot of some kind of social sensibility. Someone sent me pictures of “cutened-up” signs warning against a deer attack in Japan. Huh??? How…what the..? I’m glad you understand. Thanks!

  71. Oh. So. Hilarious. Love the one in Ireland that tells you not to drive into the ocean (though I don’t see any ocean, only fields) and the inexplicable one in Florence…Hope you manage to figure that one out soon!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      The bay was actually quite close in Ireland, if you followed that road in the bottom corner of the picture you’d be there in a matter of a few minutes. As for the one in Florence…I’ve gotten plenty of fairly plausible explanations, but I still think it’s got to do with not flying cars while the sun is banned.

  72. Re #1, the high-fiver: I cheated and looked up the Italian words in Wiktionary. I think an idiomatic translation would be “Keep Out! Authorized Personnel Only”. Literally: “Access forbidden to (people) not assigned to the works.” I think this might have been on a construction site and the thing on Big Hand Guy’s head could be a hard hat [= “construction worker’s helmet” (for the foreigners among us)], which is usually worn in such workplaces.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      It WAS on a construction site. :) I’m sure that’s what the head gear is, but what really struck me was the artistic perspective of the hand. It’s rare that they try to include depth in a warning sign. The fact that he looks like he’s saying “Noooo!” certainly feeds my amusement. Thanks for reading!

      • Indeed the perspective makes the circle seem like a window which shows Bighand inside shouting “Go away!” The perspective effect is even greater in #2 where the hand protrudes beyond the crossbar.

    • There IS an irony here. Mr. Big Hand is intended to reinforce the primary meaning of the “Do Not Enter” symbol. But by appearing inside the circle he invokes the other use of the symbol and gives the impression that the sign is prohibiting something that he is doing. A double negative in the grammar of signs: “Passage beyond this point must not be denied.”

  73. Re #9, Subway Instructions, Panel 3: The interpretive dance expresses that walking-on-air feeling which results from stepping squarely on the empty space between the car and the platform. The dancer in the picture is only the first of a troupe who will exit the car one-by-one expressing various reactions to the first dancer, filling the stage with chaotic motion and emotion.

  74. I remember the first time flying into Europe, one of the first pictures I took was the signs for the mens/womens washrooms. Compared to how they looked at home, they seemed so funny and foreign to me.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I’m always struck by the signs indicating where exits are in buildings. There’s this little man running down stairs… :)

  75. Re #11, “Seen in Venice” or “Keep On Truckin'”: I notice that whatever Mr. KOT is walking on has at least one big gap and appears to be over water (those blue wavy lines). His back foot is on a flat surface with an edge which goes straight down into the water. His front foot is on a flat surface with an edge which curves down to the surface of the water. I think the big orange triangle is saying that you might need a giant step to go from the dock to the boat and vice versa or, at least, to be careful when boarding and disembarking. Was this sign in a context of that sort?

  76. I remeber being in Rome and laughing at the subway warning signs as well – I had exactly the same thoughts as you! They looked so silly, I especially liked the image of the person getting their butt stuck between the doors.

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I hear you. The figure looks…well, I don’t know if it’s agony, or if the subway sign dude leapt between the doors. LOL

  77. Re #13 Cliffs of Moher: If this is intended to keep visitors from falling in the ocean, it ought to look more like the sign showing a car driving into the drink; e.g., it could show the stick man falling off a cliff. Whatever is at the bottom of the red circle does not look to me like grass and unless there are a lot of visitors here, it is not obvious why walking on it would be a problem. But especially I want to find the meaning of the bird: signs like this rarely include unnecessary elements.

    I think this is an ecological sign. The landscape in the background shows nothing that looks like a tree, nothing that might ever have been a tree or even a bush. If the whole panorama around this spot looks the same and if there are birds flying around this place, those birds must be nesting on the ground (or on the crags of the actual cliffs). So it would be good to minimize the number of ignorant and clumsy human visitors walking around the meadows, accidentally stepping on the nests or otherwise disturbing the chicks. At least the humans should be told to watch out for the nests and not step on them (levitating if necessary).

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I hadn’t thought of the possibility of the nesting thing, but I was also struck by the unnecessary gull. Though I’m kind of committed to the warning not to enter the lair of the fire gull. It gives me a happy. :)

  78. Ahahah! Many of these signs are from Italy and they totally make sense to me… But I Totally understand they can look very funny!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      :) I’m glad you’re taking this in the spirit in which it was written, which is, they’re culturally outside my frame of reference and therefore, to me, odd. I’m sure visitors to the US would find plenty of weirdo stuff about public signage that I find completely normal. The trend where parents would stick “Baby on Board” signs in their car windows leaps to mind. As though I was going to ram a car, if not for that sign telling me about a baby. Weird. Thanks for reading!

  79. Ahah I’m french and I’ve seen that last sign like a zillion times, and I’d never paid attention to it…France is a dangerous country :-)
    Thx for your post, it’s brilliant!

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Thanks so much, I’m glad you liked it! I need to keep an eye out for signs around me that could be seen as weird, but when you grow up with them, they’re so commonplace…

      • True! I’ll take a look at my old Road Code, I’m sure we have some pretty weird stuff! If I see something funny I’ll send it to you if you want.

      • beyondpaisley – Author

        I’m always a fan of weird stuff, ha ha! I’d love to see more funny things if you want to send them to me, thanks! You can post them here or my email is in my gravatar profile.

  80. SlimShanaynay

    So glad you linked to this post. Cracked me up! I love the “must do interpretive dance when exiting the subway”. Hysterical.

  81. I love signs..Korea has several subway signs that are similar to the ones you posted… they are so funny.. I guess what seems common sense to one is definitely not for another.. funny stuff

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      No kidding. I live in a small town so I don’t have as many visitor-oriented graphics around me; the next time I hit a city I need to pay attention to what the signs (that are surely “normal” to me) actually look like. Because I’m sure they’ve gotta be ridiculous. :)

      • They are… some of my favorites in U.S. cities actually have been “modified” by local artists.. so you have to watch for that as well.

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