Be careful what you shop for

By Loren Parks
This item appears on page 42 of the August 2018 issue.

This month’s winner is LOREN PARKS of Chico, California:

On the last day of a technical-assistance assignment in AsunciĆ³n, Paraguay, I decided to purchase some T-shirts for my family. I knew from experience that every Latin American country has its own word for T-shirt, so in the morning I asked one of my Paraguayan colleagues for the word and committed it to memory. My Spanish is excellent, and I was confident that I would remember it.

Late in the afternoon, I walked to a shop where I had seen souvenir T-shirts on display. I was greeted by a saleswoman and told her I wanted to purchase some T-shirts, at which point her smile disappeared and her eyes widened. She asked me again, as if she didn’t understand, and again I told her what I wanted.

She then called the other saleswoman over to participate in the conversation. They looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

Finally, I walked over to some T-shirts on display and gestured toward them, after which the women looked at each other and broke out in hysterical laughter. One laughed with a loud shriek which could have awakened the dead, and the other was doubled over, gasping for air and with tears in her eyes.

When they recovered enough to speak, they explained to me that the word for T-shirt is remera, but I had said ramera, which is equivalent to “hooker” in English.

We all had another good laugh, and I proceeded to select four shirts and stack them on the counter. When I went to pay, there were five shirts in the pile, which I brought to the attention of the saleswoman. The extra shirt was a gift, she said, because “You made our day.”


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.