We all know a cake with candles and your name on it. We know gifts in loud wrapping paper, and we certainly know the birthday song (and sitting there awkwardly not knowing what to do while it’s being sung to you).
However, here are some birthday traditions around the world that maybe you don’t know – and would just never expect. A cultured global translator has to know these!
1. The Global Translator in: Italy
Lots of people celebrate their birthdays by going out to dinner at a nice restaurant with their loved ones. Italy is no exception. So, where is the peculiarity?
If you take a closer look, at the end of the meal, you will notice that only one card is being put down.
You might think, “Well, sure. Restaurant bills for groups are a pain to sort out on the spot. Someone probably volunteered and put their card down, and everyone else will Venmo them later.”
Well, you would be wrong!
That card belongs – and always belongs – to the birthday person. “What? But what if the bill is, like, $500?” It is fully expected that the birthday person will take the hit (not that they necessarily see it as a “hit”, because, in principle, it’s “their pleasure”.)
Birthday persons even pay for their own birthday cake – not particularly helpful in the way of surprise parties. At this point you might be wondering if they have to pay for their own presents, too! But, no. They don’t. Gifts are free. For now.
2. The Global Translator in: Ecuador
The good news: you get two birthdays in the year! The bad news: the birthday that represents your real date of birth sees a much smaller celebration than its counterpart. How can that be? What is this other date that is upstaging your own actual DOB?
Well, it’s the day of the saint after which you were named. Did you know that every day in the year is dedicated to a different saint? Did you know there’s a saint for just about every name (in the Catholic religion)?
On you real birthday, you’d get a card. Basically, the equivalent of a nod to the fact that you’ve just turned year older. It’s on the day of your saintly namesake that you’d have the traditional-format birthday party we all know and love – cake, music, relatives, gifts.
Many times, the latter celebration would happen in cahoots with your local church. Which is to say that, nowadays, this birthday tradition is less prevalent. Usually, it is the older and more religious generations that uphold it. And when they do, it’s typically for children.
3. The Global Translator in: Vietnam
If you’re one of those people who are constantly trying to find ways to slow down the aging process, don’t go to Vietnam. Why? Because, in their book, you’re supposed to be a year older than you are right now.
To some countries, the moment you are conceived is the moment you begin to exist. Therefore, when you are born, you’re already nine months old – well underway to becoming a one-year-old. On top of that, some countries use a simplifying countrywide birthday system.
Vietnam uses both these birthday practices, but the countrywide birthday arguably doesn’t deliver on simplification. Everyone in Vietnam turns a year older on Tet, the Vietnamese new year. This does seem simple enough – except that Tet falls on a different day every year.
So far, birthdays in Vietnam are looking grim: you’re automatically a year older and, without a calendar, you don’t know what day your next birthday will be. To make up for it, when Tet rolls around and it’s everyone’s birthday, there is a lavish communal party that lasts for days!
The More You Know!
As a professional translator, you need to be ready for anything. Transcription and interpreting are key. But so is localization, whether it’s business or international development. The global translator is naturally curious and deeply knowledgeable about nuanced local customs.
About Language Connections:
Language Connections is one of the top language service companies in the US. Over the last 30 years, we’ve focused on providing the best business translation services, interpreting services, localization services, as well as interpreter training and customized language training programs. In addition to top-tier corporate language training, we offer certified corporate interpreters and professional business translation services in 200+ languages. Our network includes linguists with backgrounds in all major industries. They’re ready to meet your needs, whether they’re for technical translation services, legal translation, government translation services, international development translation services, education translation services, life sciences translation, or something else. Reach out to us today for a free quote on our cost-efficient and timely translation services, interpreters, or other linguistic services.
Language Connections Inc.
2001 Beacon Street, Suite 105,
Boston, MA 02135