My sister is in Shanghai this week for work and I forgot to ask her an important question before she left.  I want to know if people in China have tattoos of English words that they can’t read, prominently displayed on themselves. 

I’ve spent a total of 36 hours in Tokyo, and the better part of two weeks in Thailand in my life and never saw an instance of this but it must occur.  Sure I saw quite a bit of Western advertising adorning the shirts of many of the locals, but at least it wasn’t permanent.  We were able to take our pictures, or point and laugh behind their backs and be done with it.  I admittedly bought a t-shirt myself for Chang beer during my visit that I cannot translate to this day. 

This guy has no idea what his tattoo says nor any way to verify that the artist does either

What I don’t understand is America’s fascination with having symbols from a different culture permanently stamped on their body.  The classic example of this was when I was in college I was a summer camp councilor for a summer and one of the more righteous girl councilors had the Chinese symbol for “Independent” tattooed on her shoulder.  Imagine her surprise (and my delight) when one of our foreign exchange campers from Japan asked her one day why she had “lonely” written on her back.  It was awesome.

So Sis, while traveling abroad – and spreading the good word of of course – keep your eyes peeled for Americanized ink on the pedestrians around you.  If they’re half as smart as they’re marketed to be, I think you’re search will come up empty.      

P.S. – Have you ever done a Googe Image search for the word “tattoo”?  There are things in there you can’t un-see.