5 Creepy Christmas Traditions from Around the World

‘Tis the season to be jolly…but in some parts of the world, Christmas isn’t all “Jingle Bells”  and “Fa La La La’s.” Here are 5 Christmas traditions from around the world that are more creepy than festive.


1. Austria and other Alpine Countries – The Krampus

If you’re good, Santa Claus brings you presents. If you’re bad, he gives you coal or possibly even a switch for your parents to beat you with, right? Right. Unless you live in certain Alpine regions in Europe, including Austria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. There, the bad kids have to contend with the Krampus, a nightmarish horned demon who basically acts as Santa’s enforcer. The Krampus distributes coal, bundles of birch twigs called “ruten,” and sometimes carries a washtub in which he drowns bad children so he can eat them.


2.  Greece- Evil goblins

In Greece, evil underground goblins called Kallikantzaroi are believed to come to the surface to torment mortals during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Depending on which part of the country you’re in, the Kallikantzaroi can be either larger-than-life or small, like leprechauns, but they are almost always dark-skinned with some animal characteristics, as in the picture above.

They like to enter houses, either through doorways or through the chimney, and cause all sorts of trouble. Fortunately, they are fairly easy to foil. Leaving a colander on your doorstep will keep them from getting in that way, as they can’t count above two and they’ll get caught up trying to count all the holes. A Yule Log burning in the fireplace will keep them from coming down the chimney, and some Greeks will add their stinky shoes to the fire for even better protection. As a bonus, burning stinky shoes also keeps away other unwanted Christmas guests.


3. Iceland- The Yule Lads and the Yule Cat

In Iceland, gifts and punishments alike are doled out by the Yule Lads, 13 troll brothers who live  in a cave deep in the mountains and come out around Christmas to cause trouble and frighten naughty children. They may also leave gifts for good kids, but this is a modern addition to the myth.

So, 13 trolls, one of whom is named “Meat Hook.” That’s scary enough, right? Oh no. That’s nothing compared to the matriarch of this dysfunctional clan, a giant troll named Grýla. What’s Grýla’s favorite snack? Children, naturally, particularly the naughty ones.

As a pet, the Yule family keeps a huge, man-eating wildcat called the Yule Cat. He eats people that haven’t been given new clothes for Christmas. Nice kitty!

4. France: Père Fouettard

“Père Fouettard” translates to “Whipping Father” or “Father Whipper.” He’s another one of Santa’s enforcers, beating naughty children so the jolly old elf can keep his hands clean. The true horror of Père Fouettard is the story of how he got his job.  Apparently, in his former life he was an innkeeper who killed three rich boys for the money they were carrying, and disposed of the bodies by making them into stew. St. Nicholas came and brought the boys back to life, and Père Fouettard has served him ever since.

Nice bunch of fellows that Saint Nick character hangs out with.


5.  United States: The Elf on the Shelf

I don’t know if you’d consider “The Elf on the Shelf” to be a tradition or merely a marketing triumph for its creators, but either way it’s creepy. I mean…just look at it!

Supposedly, the Elf on the Shelf is a spy for Santa, keeping an eye on your kids to report on their behavior. Parents are supposed to move the elf around each night, so that the kids think he’s magic.

Well, it must have some sort of mind control powers, since it’s convinced over 4 million people to spend $30+ on a little elf figurine and a storybook, all to add one more holiday “to-do” item to the list of things for parents to stress about.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…if you can still sleep, that is!

Photo credits: Yule Lads: Attribution Some rights reserved by 360around ; Elf on a Shelf: Attribution Some rights reserved by davitydave

Merry Christmas 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone we’ve worked with for helping to make this year one of the most exciting in K International’s history. We couldn’t have done it without such great clients or without our team of expert linguists. We look forward to building new partnerships throughout 2015 and continuing our commitment to delivering the best service in the industry.

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Enjoy the Holidays!

K International wish everyone we've worked with in 2014 a very Merry Christmas

Treat your overseas friends with a Christmas greeting in their own language:


Gmail, Now In Irish

Gmail is now available in Irish! Google just announced that the popular email service is now available in the Irish language, bringing the number of available languages up to 72.

Laura Brassil, of Gmail’s Dublin localisation team, told the Irish Times that the process was a group effort that included Googlers and outside experts in the localisation process:

“Our EMEA headquarters is located in Dublin so it is fantastic that gmail is now available in Irish. Our meitheal of local googlers and volunteers translated over 60,000 words and phrases into Irish. I’d like to offer a ‘míle buíochas’ to Prof Kevin Scannell of the University of St Louis, Missouri who first approached us with the idea and all our Irish-language experts and enthusiasts for their commitment to Gmail as Gaeilge.”

Why make the effort to offer Gmail in so many languages, especially when everyone who speaks Irish also speaks English? It just goes to show that even when you get as big as Google, you still have to work to  build a connection with your audience. For an international company, localisation is a key part of that process. People like using products that are tailored to them: their interests, their language and their needs. That’s definitely the case with Irish.  As Ms. Brassil points out in a post on the Gmail blog,

“[F]or many Irish people it sparks memories of a shared history—from summers on the Western coast to the story of Peig and the Blasket Islands. With Gmail as Gaeilge we’re honored to help bring this Irish tradition online.”

To experience Gmail in Irish, click on the “Settings” icon on the top right corner of your inbox. “Language”is the first option. Change it to “Gaeilge,” and you should be good to go.

Do you speak Irish? If so, will you use the Irish version of Gmail? Let us know in the comments!


Foreign Language Skills Lacking for UK Students 

UK foreign language students often leave school barely conversational in the languages they study, according to a new study from the Guardian. The survey polled 1,001 students and former students to gauge their attitudes toward learning foreign languages and their experiences with the UK school system. The results were not good, to say the least. Some lowlights:

  • 8 in 10 students who studied popular languages in school said they were only able to understand “basic phrases.”
  • 4 in 10 who studied Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese felt they would have have difficulty “understanding, speaking or writing anything.”

Ouch! And before you start blaming “kids today” for not being motivated enough, keep in mind that 3 out of 4 students agreed that “languages provide a valuable understanding of other cultures” and 7 in 10 had a goal of learning a foreign language in the future. So what’s going on? The Guardian implies that the way language classes are structured and taught isn’t helping students learn the practical conversation skills they value, and that schools don’t treat languages as important. Experts quoted in the article differ on whether the upcoming reforms to A-Level language classes will help or hurt. The Guardian concludes:

 With a clear conflict emerging in the Guardian’s poll between young people’s interest in languages and a sense that their studies are not matching their aspirations, it remains to be seen whether the reforms can rescue language study in the UK from terminal decline.

Ouch! In an ironic twist, the survey also showed that while 1 in 5 UK students are bilingual with a home language other than English, their built-in language skills are not being recognized and rewarded by the school system. Even more depressing, almost 40% of these students don’t consider their home language an advantage. According to Cambridge University’s language centre directer, Jocelyn Wyburg, negative attitudes toward non-native English speakers may be to blame:

“I’ve talked to young people who don’t want to admit they have another language or, if they have a qualification won’t put it on their CV. They’ve been reluctant even to be proud of it.”

What can the UK can do to help students learn foreign languages in school, and to help students who already know a foreign language value the knowledge they have? Let us know in the comments!



Badly Translated DVD Covers

Pretty sure all of these are bootlegs. But they’re funny none the less. Ladies and Gents here are my favourite DVD cover bad translations.

Loin King II.

‘not as good as the first one, but ok’.

not as good as the first one but ok

50 Fist Dates

Drew Barrymore’s face says it all. That’s the last time she’s using tinder.


Arnie Star Wars

Would have made this movie a million times better with Arnie in it, ‘get to the faaaalcon’.


Jesus Speaks Nigerian

It says broadcast time is up to 3000 minutes. That’s 50 hours! (is that more than the whole of Breaking Bad?).


40 Year Old Virgem


Saving Mr Banks II

aka Freezing Mr Disney.

Saving Mr Banks II

Metal Man


Sean Connery Vs Who?

Sure some people (not me) would agree with this.


The Matrix Reloaded

With an interesting plot addition.


Lost in Translation

My #1 movie of all time… but its looks different.


The Incredible Hulk

or is that King Kong. Maybe its a mash-up. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.


Santa is a busy man

Santa Claus in Different Languages

During the Holiday Season, one man and only one is the centre of attention. Flying in the sky on his magic sleigh, distributing presents all over the world and bringing joy in each home, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. Ever wonder what Santa is called in different countries?

Here’s your answer (with the literal translation in brackets afterwards if needed).

Brazil Brazil – Papai Noel

Chile Chile – Viejo Pascuero (Old Man Christmas)

China China – Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas Old Man)

Denmark Denmark – Julemanden

Finland Finland – Joulupukki

France France – Père Noël

Germany Germany – Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man)

Greece Greek – Άγιος Βασίλης

Hungary Hungary – Mikulas (St. Nicholas)

Italy Italy – Babbo Natale

Japan Japan – Hoteiosho (A god or priest bearing gifts)

Norway Norway – Julenissen (Christmas gnome)

Poland Polish –  Święty Mikołaj

Portugal Portugal – Pai Natal

Spain Spain – Papa Noel

Romania Romania – Mos Craciun

Russia Russia – Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost)

Turkey Turkey – Noel Baba

Tracking Santa Around the World

For the last couple of years you can track Santa around the world using Google, more accurately using the Google Santa Tracker. Its a handy little tool to help the kids (and big kids) watch were he’s been on the big night and the estimated time of arrival at your location (obviously you have to be asleep when he actually comes down your chimney or the magic won’t happen).

track santa with Google

And (bonus) if you go there now there’s an advent calendar with a new game each day to help you pass the time away.


colors infographic

Colors in Translation

A rose by another name might still smell as sweet…but would it be as red? That might depend on the language you speak. The amount of influence that language has on how we see the world has been debated for centuries, but studies do seem to support a relationship between the words we use and our perceptions.

This is especially true when it comes to how we see colors, as this infographic at illustrates. Using data from the English and Chinese versions of the Wikipedia entry on color, the visualization shows the differences in how English speakers and Chinese speakers describe color.  According to creator Muyueh Lee:

Language represents our view of the world, and knowing its limits helps us understand how our perception works. I used the data from Wikipedia’s “Color” entry for different languages. My assumption was:  “Different languages have different ways to describe color.”

So how does English compare with Chinese? Looking at the infographic, it’s clear that English (or at least the English Wikipedia article)  has more words for color than Chinese does. Additionally, the most popular “base color words” in Chinese are red, blue and green. In English, it’s blue, green and pink. English also differs from Chinese in using place names to distinguish between colors, like in “Persian Blue.”

The visualization is interesting, though Wikipedia is obviously not the most reliable source of data. But what does it mean? Do differences in the way different languages describe colors affect what people see? Does having more ways to describe colors help you to perceive differences in different shades? A couple of studies, summed up in the Daily Mail, suggest that they might:

A 1954 study found that Zuñi speakers, a tribe of Pueblo Native Americans, found they do not differentiate between orange and yellow. As a result, they have trouble telling them apart. A separate study focused on how Russian speakers have separate words for light blue (goluboy) and dark blue (siniy).  MIT recruited 50 people from the Boston area in Massachusetts, half of whom were native Russian speakers. They found they were 10 per cent faster at distinguishing between light (goluboy) blues and dark (siniy) blues than at discriminating between blues within the same shade category.

Possibly more important from a business standpoint is the way the same colors can have different meanings and associations across cultures.  For example, purple is associated with royalty in the West, but in Thailand it is associated with widows and mourning. It’s important to make sure all aspects of your brand translate well into your target markets. We can help!

Richard Brooks presenting

Agile Project Management in Localization

Agile Project Management may by the ‘method-du-jour’ but it has actually been around and experimented with for over 50 years. Gaining traction with the software development community following the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (2001) this methodology is now well used and very well respected across many disciplines of project management.

From a localization point of view it answers a lot of our prayers. Inasmuch as it moves localization upstream and no longer do we deal with translation/localization as a ‘waterfall’ afterthought. Instead we are integrated into the development, code and management of the very product which we are helping to develop. This has to be a good thing as the feedback loop from local consumer to global brand is encouraged.

Read more


Idioms from Around the World 

Idioms, well-known phrases of figurative language like “It’s raining cats and dogs,” are to languages as spices are to cooking. Often peculiar, charming and funny, they add a distinctive local flavor to everyday speech. They also don’t translate very well.

A new infographic from illustrates just how odd some of these phrases seem to foreigners by translating ten of them literally and then drawing the results. In the HotelClub blog, Matt Lindley writes,

“I’ve always been fascinated by foreign idioms; they give us a unique insight into the culture that uses them. Did you know that in German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live the life of luxury”? Idioms can tell us a lot about what matters to a nation. They’re a window to the soul.”

Of course, it’s not just foreign idioms that seem absurd when you stop to think about them.  As Lindley told the Guardian,

“I’m sure English idioms sound really strange to other people. Often ones that resonate with different cultures are the ones that are quite far away from the ones they have.”

See the full infographic below for more. Meanwhile, here are seven more idioms from around the world that we’d like to see illustrated. Hey guys, how about a sequel?

  •  French: “To eat dandelions by the root.” Meaning: The state of being deceased.
  • Spanish: “When frogs grow hair.” Meaning: When pigs fly…or never.
  • Armenian: “Stop ironing my head!”  Meaning:  Stop annoying me!
  • Dutch:  “I sweat carrots.”  Meaning: I’m sweating like a pig
  • Hindi: “To excrete embers.” Meaning:  “to get very angry”
  • Norwegian: “To pace around hot porridge like a cat.”   Meaning: “To beat around the bush,” or to discuss a subject in an indirect manner.
  • Russian: “To hang noodles on one’s ears.” Meaning: “To tell lies or  talk nonsense.”

Idioms of the WorldSource – HotelClub

Richard Brooks Guest Speaker at T10+ 2014

K International at T10+

K International are proud to be part of one of the largest business shows in Europe, comprising of The Business Show 2014, Going Global and the T10+, for companies with a turnover of £10 million pounds or more. Hosted in the historic Olympia exhibition centre, the event is set to draw in thousands of visitors looking to accelerate growth and develop their businesses.

As an industry leader in the field of business translation, K International is perfectly placed to assist both SMEs and large corporations leverage language to drive international growth.  Being able to communicate effectively is a vital factor in building relationships with your audience, wherever they are, so talking their language must be a priority when developing a successful international enterprise. K International provides a broad spectrum of language services specifically geared towards assisting the business sector in this regard.

Our partners include Marks & Spencer, Tesco, eBay, Amazon, Topps Cards and numerous departments within UK Government, to name just a few. If you too appreciate the value of being able to communicate and engage with your customers on their terms, our team are on hand to provide just what you need to deploy a successful, business focused, language strategy.

For more information you can visit us at the T10+ exhibition on stand W204 where our team will be able to discuss your requirements and answer any questions you may have.

In addition, our CEO, Richard Brooks is presenting in the Strategy Seminar hall at 13:15 on Friday the 28th. He will cover a number of subjects including creating an effective global communication strategy to help maximise ROI.

“As your venture grows the likelihood will increase that you’ll do business in overseas regions. Understanding consumers in these areas and effective communication must be top of your list of objectives. Making your products world ready is a process which has profound implications for the entire content supply chain. I will take you through the process of creating an effective global communication strategy to help maximise ROI on a global scale.”



Thank you to everyone who attended the presentation. The Q&A session afterwards was outstanding. We hope it helped you to take your business to new heights and new places.

The slide deck is now available on slideshare. Have also embedded it below.