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November 18, 2011

Words mean different things in different countries

If you plan on selling any of your items overseas, even in other English speaking countries, you had better learn the different meanings of the words in those countries. England is so very different with words and slang that you can sometimes shoot yourself in the foot with puzzling advertising.

Take for example the word hamper, in the USA a hamper is something you put laundry in. In England a hamper is a gift basket. So if you saw the words food hamper it would be for a gift basket of gourmet foods not a place to dump your canned foods in. So sending someone a hamper in England would be the same as sending someone a flower or gift delivery here in the USA. Hampers in England come in a wide variety of occasions so to them the word hamper is synonymous with gift.

So if you were trying to sell laundry hampers to people in England and wondered why you got no sales, you now know.

Language terms can be tricky in advertising. What might seem to someone in the USA as a harmless word could be insulting in another country. That also works in reverse as well.  So before you venture out into the world of international sales, I have some advice. Find a friend, either in person or online who lives or has lived in the country you plan on advertising to. Have them read your ad copy and give you their input. Ask them specifically about the wording of the ad and would it make sense to your potential customers in that country.

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