New trend in Shanghai restaurant marketing: Extreme Honesty

Say you’ve been running an Italian restaurant on a busy, crowded street in a busy, crowded part of Shanghai where Italian restaurants aren’t likely to do well. You think to yourself: “I need a change. I need a gimmick … I need a Hong Kong Gimmick.” And, just to make sure that any foreigners passing by know exactly what my new Cantonese restaurant is about, I’m going to give it the English name …

sign2

So what, you may be asking, is the Hong Kong gimmick? I wondered that, too – and so did a friend of mine. We agreed to meet for lunch there, and – as best as we could tell – the Gimmick comes down to the Hong Kong street signs hung about the restaurant. Hardly a Gimmick worthy of the name! But anyway, as Cantonese food goes – not bad. And, on the off-chance you want to see the Gimmick – you’ll find it just south of the intersection of Tianyaoqiao and Xingeng Roads in Xujiahui.

[Relevant UPDATE/omission: The finest translator I know writes: “The sign on the restaurant reads Hong Kong, then 风情【fēngqíng】 amorous feelings; flirtatious expressions. or Hong Kong Expressions of Love. How that became Hong Kong Gimmick is beyond me, yet another example of the inscrutable Oriental mind.” No evidence to support this hypothesis, but Shanghai Scrap suspects that someone might have been messing with somebody.]

9 comments

  1. I have to think that the person who translated that knew exactly what he or she was doing. Probably the American-educated spouse to the owner’s daughter or something like that and he decided to show him a thing or two. That’s what I’d like to think. Too many screwy signs in town to be accounted for just as mistakes. I think it’s all personl.

  2. My wife and I walked by it on Saturday and took pictures. hillarious! I’m glad you tried the food so we don’t have to.

  3. There is a Japanese word, exactly the same characters, pronounced, fuzei – It is an interesting word with many uses – however, its basic meaning is “appearance” – The next step is to consider appearance vs substance. Then the word gets used in the sense of ‘mere’ – mere appearance. mere something. When this ‘negative’ connotation is added, I think gimmick is a great translation. Two languages are not the same, however, interestingly, it makes sense to me! Then of course, it was an unfortunate mistake in diction.

  4. “fēngqíng” doesn’t just mean amorous flirtations, especially when you use it together with the name of place; in that context, it means “local colours” or something similar.

  5. Actually, now that I think about it, “fēngqíng” usually means the same thing it does in Japanese (which makes sense, considering): appearance. It pops up most often in the phrase “feng qing wan zhong”, which is used for describing a sexy woman that has “ten thousand guises”.

    When the term is used with the name of a place, it sort of implies that the place is exotic and sexy. (Hong Kong isn’t that sexy, imho, but I guess it might be exotic to some of the Shanghaiese.)

  6. Despite what the dictionary says, I’ve never ever heard feng qing used to mean “amorous expressions”. It’s very commonly used in hotel and restaurant names to mean that it’s evocative of the spirit of a place. Ambiance is the most precise translation. Post-gimmick, I’m noticing it in every third restaurant name – Guizhou Fengqing, Xinjiang Fengqing, Mountain Fengqing, etc.

    My guess is they used one of those digital translators, those things can get bizarrely screwy results. When doing copy editing, it can be funny figuring out how the hell they got this in English from that in Chinese, but this one stumps me.

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