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Are Foreign Jokes Even Funny?

jokesOne of the most interesting but difficult things about living abroad or learning a foreign language is the humour element.

Everywhere you go in the world you will find that the people have a sense of humour. However, we don’t all laugh at the same things. This means that simply translating an English language joke might not get you any laughs from your listeners. Here are a few jokes from around the world to help us work out what makes people laugh.


Spanish - ¿Sabes las dos palabras que te abrirán muchas puertas en el mundo?
Tire y empuje.

I really like the Spanish sense of humour. They laugh at some of the same things Brits would do, although I find their sense of humour to be a bit more innocent and less sarcastic or biting. The joke above can be translated as “Do you know what two words will open a lot of doors for you in the world? Pull and push”. I laughed. A similar joke exists in English already and you will find a lot of other comedic similarities between the two tongues.

French –A maîtresse demande à sa classe: - Quel est le futur de “je bâille”? - Je dors !

In this French joke, the teacher asks her class what the future tense of yawn is. The answer provided by one student is “I sleep”. The French are perhaps more famous for droll word plays and puns than for jokes that make you laugh out loud. However, I reckon that anyone who gets to grips with the language will end up having a lot of fun with French jokes.

German – Zu Fuß ist es kürzer als über'n Berg

jokes2The German language has a wide variety of different joke styles. These range from clever wordplays to political satire and generic jokes about the thickness of people in East Frisia and the slowness of the Swiss. A lot of these are similar to jokes you might use in English. The example above is an antiwitz, which is a sort of deliberately unfunny anti-joke. It translates as “Walking is faster than over the mountain”. It isn’t funny but then it isn’t mean to be.


Chinese - A steamed bun was walking down the street one day. He started getting hungry, so he took a bite of himself. Then he was a steamed stuffed bun

I was interested to discover that the Chinese like their anti-jokes as well. Here, they call them cold jokes. I couldn’t find a reliable Chinese text for the above translation but I think you get the point. If you ever get told a cold joke you can say 好冷 / hǎolěng, which means “It’s cold”.

Japanese - What is Michael Jackson's favourite colour? あお!

This simple little Japanese joke is a play on words. The answer means blue but is pronounced "ow!", just like the kind of noise the King of Pop used to make before he faked his own death.

What good or bad foreign jokes have you come across?