back to article Quality control, Soviet style: Here's another fine message you've gotten me into

We return to the Cold War in today's Who, Me? Start your week with suspected sabotage, computer sleuthery, and a satisfying slug of Grand Marnier deep in the heart of 1970s Москва. It was 1978 and our reader was working for a firm that had just sold a computer to the company that manufactured the Moskvitch. Sadly now defunct …

  1. Joe W Silver badge
    Pint

    Russians, alcohol, making toasts

    It is actually an artform to drink with Russians and also Scandinavians in that civilised manner (and similar, the order of things to "drink to"). It depends (on my observation as a bloody stuipd foreigner in all cases) on the circumstances, but often starts with "thanking for the food". The first five or ten items on the list are better left to professionals, later on you can more or less safely chime in, say something about "friendship", or "the past success" and the "future success". By that point in time you are forgiven some sins, especially if you are still standing as a bloody foreigner.

    And the good Russian Cognac (ok, equivalent distilled wine spirits, since "cognac" is DOC) is really good! I have fond memories of that, and my friends and colleagues.

    To the health of you and your families!

    (----> wrong drink, sorry....)

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

      The Chinese have also turned politeness and respect into an drinking art form. A celebration "meal" with a delegation of Chinese customers after any kind of project success needs at least the next morning off work to recover.

      干杯

      1. Dr Scrum Master

        Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

        And art for that was used to place the Rover team in a, err, less attentive mood by the Chinese who weren't actually drinking the toasts during negotiations...

        1. Steve Kerr

          Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

          Years ago doing a project for an austrian bank, had to go to the Ukraine (amongst many other ex-eastern block countries) for a meeting.

          Went to dinner in the evening with the local heads of bank and vodka was brought out at the start that was so cold it was like syrup, had to have a bunch of shots and I had a stinking cold, knew it was rude to decline. They pointed out some men at the other end of the restaurant who used to be the top dogs in the KGB and what they used to do. An interesting view into local stuff.

      2. acousticm

        Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

        Ah yes ... the artform also extends to the fact that somehow it's always the guests who get the honor of getting the leftovers from the bottle and seem to end up having to drink at least twice the amount.

        Although for some reason the details of that meeting are a bit hazy

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

      At a Georgian feast (a supra), you have an appointed toast master (tamada) who leads everyone through the toasts. After each toast, you must completely drink the glass of wine (if you're lucky) or chacha (moonshine). There can be 100+ toasts in your typical 6+ hour supra, expect to drink 3L or more wine..

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

        It might be wise to bring your own toastmaster's glass, optically designed to look much fuller than it is.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

          Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

          Thank you for hinting that! I didn't know about the toastmaster glass until you mentioned and I googled... A must have for me...

          EDIT: Where can I get one? Not even listed on Amazon...

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

            I found the search words glass, volume, deceptive, to work in Google - though most buying results are antiques on eBay. Or, you can get "reusable ice cubes" which are a plastic cube or other shape - or solid stainless steel - to freeze then put into drinks; I expect you could glue one or two inside a glass, and it wouldn't be obvious.

            Or, browse for glasses which look like they look like they contain more than they do. Or practise discreetly inserting your thumb into the glass while they refill it.

            A modern product is an amusing half pint beer glass which looks like the usual tall glass cut in half vertically. Or get two, so that you can be served "the other half" at the same time.

      2. KBeee Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

        Three litres of wine? Huh.. lightweights..

        1. Spacedinvader
          Thumb Up

          Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

          Breakfast

    3. Sequin

      Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

      Lots of Scandinavians (especially the Finns) take weekend trips to Russia or the Baltic states for benders, as the cost of alcohol in their own countries outweigh the cost of the weekend away. I have seen dozens of drunk Finns sleeping off sessions in hotel lobbies in both Leningrad and Tallinn

      1. SgtFalstaff

        Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

        "Ah, what would St. Petersburg be with out the Finns?"

        "A lot less crowded for one thing!"

      2. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

        "Lots of Scandinavians (especially the Finns)"

        Finns aren't Scandinavian.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

          > Finns aren't Scandinavian.

          Ah, one of the classic issues debated online since forever. Depends on how you look at it. A good discussion can be found in Ye Olde soc.culture.nordic (a USENET newsgroup) FAQ. Relevant section here: http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/scn/faq21.html

          A long quote:

          2.1.3 What is "Scandinavia"?

          The word "Scandinavia" presents a bit more difficulty. In Nordic languages, the meaning is quite clear:

          Skandinavien:

          Sweden, Denmark, Norway (and sometimes Iceland)

          -- the ancient lands of the Norsemen.

          The Scandinavian peninsula, on the other hand, is usually simply understood as comprising Norway and Sweden, despite the unclear border to the Kola peninsula. The northernmost part of Finland is of course also situated on the Scandinavian peninsula.

          But in English, alas, there seems to be no standard usage. This is mainly due to the fact that English lacks a simple and clear term for the five countries, and the word "Scandinavia" tends to be used for that purpose instead. The term "Nordic countries", in its current definition, is a rather recent invention, its meaning is still a bit obscure especially to non-Europeans, it's awkward to use and to some people it carries unpleasant connotations of the Aryan "Nordic race". Therefore, you will find that it's quite common to define the word "Scandinavia" in English like this:

          [Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English]

          SCANDINAVIAN

          1. of the countries Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland

          in northern Europe, or their people or languages.

          On the other hand, it is not uncommon to use the word "Scandinavia" in its more limited definition. An example:

          [The Concise Oxford Dictionary]

          SCANDINAVIAN

          1. a native or inhabitant of Scandinavia

          (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland).

          And some encyclopaedias put it like this:

          [The Random House Encyclopaedia]

          SCANDINAVIA

          1. region of northern Europe consisting of

          the kingdoms of Sweden, Norway and Denmark;

          culturally and historically Finland and Iceland

          are often considered part of this area.

          Despite the term being rather clear for the Scandinavians themselves, disputes remain about how the term would be understood and derived in English. If the word is understood as a geographic term, how can then Denmark be included - as most do. If instead it's deduced from the area where the languages are quite similar North-Germanians, should Iceland logically be excluded?

          At the risk of disturbing some people's sleep, we will use "Nordic" and "Scandinavian" interchangeably throughout this FAQ, for practical reasons. You have been warned. :->

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

            Yes, and I would claim that when people use the word "Scandinavia" it's about culture and type of society and not about anything else.

            Finland was a part of Sweden for more than 600 years and both Swedish and Finnish law is based on old Swedish law and Swedish is the second official language in Finland.

            But I still prefer to use the word "Nordic" as that keeps everybody (also Swedes) happy.

            We have a lot together like "Freedom to roam" .

            "the right to roam has survived in perhaps its purest form in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Here the right has been won through practice over hundreds of years and it is not known when it changed from mere 'common practice' to become a commonly recognised right. ".

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam#Nordic_countries

            And we have the Nordic Council.

            "The Nordic Council is the official body for formal inter-parliamentary Nordic cooperation among the Nordic countries. Formed in 1952, it has 87 representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as well as from the autonomous areas of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Åland Islands. "

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_Council

            Not to mention the Nordic Model.

            "The Nordic model comprises the economic and social policies as well as typical cultural practices common to the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). This includes a comprehensive welfare state and multi-level collective bargaining based on the economic foundations of free market capitalism, with a high percentage of the workforce unionized and a large percentage of the population employed by the public sector (roughly 30% of the work force)."

            How did I end up here from "Quality control, Soviet style".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

              "How did I end up here from "Quality control, Soviet style"."

              Mornington Crescent?

              1. Dave559 Silver badge

                Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

                "Mornington Crescent?"

                I say, that's terribly unsporting to play a switching manoeuvre in such an early round of the game (if not in fact contrary to the latest edition of the rules). To correct this illegal move, and, as we are playing with the Nordic extension pack of the game, I am therefore compelled to play Kymlinge.

                [Exits, eating a strawberry…]

            2. MacroRodent Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

              > Finnish law is based on old Swedish law

              The funny thing is, there used to be laws in Finland that came from old Swedish legislation that was no longer in force in Sweden.

              (Should finally get around to planting hops in my garden, else I violate Rakennuskaari 5§1 and am liable for a fine of one taalari per year...)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

                "[...] that came from old Swedish legislation that was no longer in force in Sweden."

                Many countries that were under the colonial hegemony of European powers still have out-dated laws introduced at that time. What's more they tout them as a touchstone of their religious morality - also imposed by the colonial invaders.

                It has also been observed that emigrants preserve the traditions of their "old country" long after its culture has changed in those respects.

                1. Lars Silver badge
                  Happy

                  Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

                  @AC

                  "under the colonial hegemony of European powers still have out-dated laws".

                  That may be so but doesn't fit this "old Swedish" law thing as those living in the easter part of the country (Finland) took part in writing those laws.

                  One could add that Sweden was in war with Norway and Denmark about 40 times with each but never with Finland.

              2. Lars Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

                For those who for good reasons don't undestand the "taalari" in a fine of one.

                It's the Swedish daler in Finnish.

                "The riksdaler (Swedish pronunciation: [rɪksˈdɑ̌ːlɛr]) was the name of a Swedish coin first minted in 1604. Between 1777 and 1873, it was the currency of Sweden. The daler, like the dollar,[1] was named after the German Thaler. The similarly named Reichsthaler, rijksdaalder, and rigsdaler were used in Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Netherlands, and Denmark-Norway, respectively. Riksdaler is still used as a colloquial term for Sweden's modern-day currency."

                As far as I know it was used by Finns for the dollar in the USA too.

                There doesn't seem to be much energy for "clean ups" in laws in any country and thus a lot of old stuff for our amusement remain.

            3. Dave559 Silver badge

              Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

              «We have a lot together like "Freedom to roam" .

              "the right to roam has survived in perhaps its purest form in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Here the right has been won through practice over hundreds of years and it is not known when it changed from mere 'common practice' to become a commonly recognised right. ".»

              "Freedom to roam" has a similar history in Scotland (and, more recently, definitively enshrined in law), and there are some here who want to have closer formal connections with the Nordic countries, which is not entirely such a stretch, given the Norse history of many of the islands (and some parts of the mainland).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

            One of my early girlfriends was a Swedish-speaking Finn. On a necessary visit to the Finnish embassy she took me along with her. We received a very friendly reception. Taking a "Who's Who" off a shelf she said "That's Papa" - whose entry also listed her.

            After 50 years we still exchange a few cards and emails. She taught me that the approved geographic term is apparently "Finno-Scandinavia". She also gave me a good education in many other areas so as to no longer be a "typical Englishman".

          3. Black Betty

            Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

            Hakka Palle!

        2. the Jim bloke

          Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

          there is a blanket term available

          Finno-scandinavia, the correct spelling may be different, but the intent is pretty obvious.

        3. Janne Smith

          Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

          "Finns aren't Scandinavian."

          Finno-Ugrian. Which is why I always wonder which ethnicity to select when filling in things like census forms, since along with confusion about the extent of Scandinavia there's also no consensus on where Asia starts.

          1. Stork Silver badge

            Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

            In Copenhagen the start of Asia was believed to be in Malmö

          2. Dave559 Silver badge

            Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

            "there's also no consensus on where Asia starts"

            I might suggest as the deciding factor "Does the country enter (or is it eligible to enter) the Eurovision Song Contest?", but that would not really clarify matters! :-D

    4. Schultz Silver badge

      ... still standing as a foreigner...

      According to my uncle, who headed some medical exchange with Russia back in the 80s, the trick to remain standing is to pay the waitress a little tip and have her fill your glass from a special water-filled bottle. He surely made a smashing impression, not just for remaining upright throughout the night but also for being awake and alert on the next day.

    5. Alpine Hermit

      Re: Russians, alcohol, making toasts

      "the good Russian Cognac"

      There's no such drink. It used to be Soviet Cognac, but it actually comes mostly from Georgia and some from Ukraine. These countries also have their own versions of "champagne".

  2. Sodditall

    Ziebart.

    Many, many years ago, a friend bought from new, a Moskvich. Aware of the car's reputation for rusting he had it "Ziebarted" ie rustproofed/undersealed.

    It rusted from the outside.....

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Ziebart.

      He should have bought a Trabi (Trabant), they are made of Duroplast.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Ziebart.

        When I first visited Berlin - just after the wall came down - I was told a joke:

        A comrade visits the ministry, and says he has saved enough Ostmarks to buy a Trabi, and can he get his name on the list, please.

        Certainly, says the official, but it will take ten years.

        Ok, says the comrade, but morning or afternoon?

        What do you care? It's ten years away!

        Ah, says our hero, but in the morning, the plumber is coming.

        1. bigphil9009

          Re: Ziebart.

          I'm obviously thick (given the upvote count) but I can't work this one out - can someone help? Ta :)

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Ziebart.

            East Germany was notorious for everything being slow and being hard to get...

            So, when the guy was told that he would get the car in 10 years, he wanted to know AM or PM, because the plumber he had already asked to come and sort out a leak was coming in the morning, in 10 years time...

            1. bigphil9009

              Re: Ziebart.

              Thank you! :D

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Service and time served

          https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/27476753-english-norwegian-joke-book

          "A man had been in prison for twenty years. When he left, they gave him his old clothes. In the pocket he found a ticket from a shoe repair shop. Perhaps the shop is still there. Perhaps they still have my old shoes, he thought to himself. So off he went and sure enough it was there. 'I've been on holiday for a long time, I wonder if you have my shoes?' asked the man. The old man went into the back of the shop and came back after two minutes. 'They'll be ready on Thursday.' "

    2. John 110
      Windows

      Re: Ziebart.

      My dad had a Moskvitch, sadly the doors were the right way up :( until they rusted off. He traded it in for a Lada. That was posh, the dash had a covering on it, not just painted black metal.

      Footnote: This was not in Eastern Europe, but East Coast Scotland... A local enterprising company imported all these foreign rust-buckets, Mazda's then the russian cars, then Skoda's. They still sell skoda's but they're a bit more upmarket than they used to be. Did I mention Yugo's?

      1. David Neil

        Re: Ziebart.

        Bloke next door in a West of Scotland mining village bought a white FSO Polonez.

        Think it took about 6 years before the rust got so bad it was written off.

        1. Potty Professor
          Facepalm

          Re: Ziebart.

          I bought a 1981 Ford Cortina Mk5 when it was two years old. It rotted away so quickly that it had to be scrapped when it was 6 years old because the chassis members had rotted away from the inside just forward of the driver's and passenger's footwells, and it broke its back.

      2. TimMaher Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Ziebart.

        My first car was a Wartburg.

        Hmm...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ziebart.

        Ahh, the Yugo. The pinnacle of Serbo-Croatian Engineering!

        (As an Engineer of Croatian descent, I always loved that line)

      4. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Ziebart.

        DON'T mention Yugos, they rusted faster than a bean tin on a beach. A friend's girlfriend bought a Yugo in the early nineties and drove it to his stableyard, as far as I know there might be a dirty stain where she parked it, probably all that's left of it by now, it only went the one time.

  3. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    Such value for money

    Remember my mate picking up a lada from an auction (his xr2 was wrapped round a tree by a 14 year old). The full tank and 4 new tyres were worth more than he paid for the car

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Such value for money

      Are you sure he didn't buy it from the showroom instead of an auction?

    2. John Sager

      Re: Such value for money

      I was giving a talk once to a meeting in a well-known Scottish town, and a local had been deputed to meet me at the station. So we identified each other and went out to his car - a Lada. I have never heard so much gear whine in my life! It was far worse than the whine from the transfer gear on old Minis. I don't suppose the Russians thought it worthwhile to spend effort on helical gears.

      1. James Anderson Silver badge

        Re: Such value for money

        In the 80s various Russian touring perfume ring orchestras and groups always insisted on a performance in Aberdeen.

        The reason being there was a local scrap yard with the biggest collection of used Lada spares in the world. Virtuoso violinists could be seen rummaging around for an alternator, ballet dancers getting grubby searching for a windscreen motor for granny’s car etc.

        1. WallMeerkat

          Re: Such value for money

          When Lada withdrew from the UK market (with the likes of Proton, Kia etc. filling the budget gap) a lot of the old Ladas were exported back to Russia, where the standard fit UK spec (demisters etc.) was appreciated.

          Their modern products, the likes of the Vesta as sold in Germany, are a world away from the old Fiat based models.

          1. Manolo
            Joke

            Re: Such value for money

            I heard the demisters on the rear windows are so your hands don't get cold when you have to push start them.

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Such value for money

              That was a Yugo joke in the USA.

          2. Anne-Lise Pasch

            Re: Such value for money

            I miss the Proton. One of the few cars factory fitted for LPG.

          3. Lars Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Such value for money

            @WallMeerkat

            The same happened elsewhere too, but the reason was that there was a market for then and the fact they where built in Russian made that import cheaper.

            Also the Russians got very good at keeping them running doing it themselves.

            I bet they are still around although the Russians are rather "mashina" mad today.

            At some point here in Europa old Toyota cars were bought and sent to Africa.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Such value for money

              "At some point here in Europa old Toyota cars were bought and sent to Africa."

              This is still happening in Japan and Korea. It's a major export business in both countries

              1. WonkoTheSane
                Holmes

                Re: Such value for money

                "This is still happening in Japan and Korea. It's a major export business in both countries"

                This is because it's almost impossible to get a 5+ year old car through their MOT equivalent.

        2. James Anderson Silver badge

          Re: Such value for money

          As a footnote the reason the scrap yard had so many spares was Aberdeen taxi drivers had a unique business model.

          - buy a cheap lada

          (cheap to run and easy to maintain)

          - Run it until it broke down or, more frequently, the springs poked through the seats.

          - scrap it and buy another one

        3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: ballet dancers getting grubby searching for a windscreen motor

          They were looking for a pa[rt]s de deux windscreen wipers.

    3. mmonroe

      Re: Such value for money

      I don't know why people diss Ladas. I had one for a decade. An annual service and the odd tank petrol, and I did many trouble free miles. I rate it as the most confortable car I had for long distance travel. It was a Samara, the GL model. This meant it had sunroof and speakers. If you wanted a stereo, you had to fork out for the GLX model. A £10 radio/cassette player from a market stall saw me right. Always started first turn of the key on the coldest of mornings - it laughed at the UK idea of winter.

      If you want to see how tenacious Ladas are, pop onto Garage54's channel on youtube. Vlad and the boys subject Ladas to all kinds of abuse and they always rise to the challenge.

      1. AIBailey

        Re: Such value for money

        My first car was a Lada Niva (the 4x4) that was handed down from my Dad.

        It was almost bulletproof - it once went through a stone wall in Derbyshire without so much as a scratch, and always started straight away on even the coldest morning.

        The thing that always amused me most was that, should the starter motor ever fail, there was a hole in the front bumper to allow the use of a starting handle.

        1. LogicGate

          Re: Such value for money

          Comment from a Niva-owner that I know:

          "It is amazing that it is possible to buld such a good car from such a collection of horribly bad parts!"

          Also: The obligatory Lada Niva song:

          https://youtu.be/gbdrllUXI3w

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Such value for money

          Yes, the Lada Niva is legendary for being indestructible. It's the only car the cockroaches can drive after the world has suffered a nuclear holocaust.

        3. Evil Scot
          Headmaster

          Re: Such value for money

          It wasn't a starting handle per se. But to recover from a wading accident. Given that the Coil and distributor were immediately behind the grill.

          I did have one accident in mine. Took about 8 inches off the bonnet of a Ford Fiesta. Snapped my number plate bracket. Plate was mounted on the rear bumper giving an improved departure angle.

        4. Dabooka Silver badge

          Re: Such value for money

          Nivas are holding for strong cash nowadays.

          I've bene in the market for one for a while and even particular scabby versions are going for quite a whack, certainly more than I'm prepared to pay (for what is a bit of a laugh / hobby for me)

        5. hplasm
          Thumb Up

          Re: Such value for money

          " Lada Niva... there was a hole in the front bumper to allow the use of a starting handle. "

          Also on the Moskvitch. Which came with a starting handle, a full tool-kit including a lamp and a hand tyre-pump.

          Who needs rhe AA?

      2. WallMeerkat

        Re: Such value for money

        Samara was at least their attempt at a modern Front Wheel Drive model, with Porsche helping with the engine.

      3. Potty Professor
        Facepalm

        Re: Such value for money

        My youngest brother in law had a Lada when he was at Uni. When he landed a decent job, and could afford a real car, he put the Lada in Expand and Fart (long before t'Interwebs). He left the Lada at his parents' house, and delegated his mother to field any enquiries. One day an Indian gentleman came around to inspect it, but was surprised that it was a car, he wanted a ladder.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Such value for money

        > A £10 radio/cassette player from a market stall saw me right.

        Ah, yes the 16-valve Lada: 8 in the engine and 8 in the radio.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Such value for money

          What do you call a Lada with twin exhaust pipes? A wheelbarrow.

          What do you call a convertible Lada? A skip (or dumpster to leftpondians)

          Boom-Tish!

  4. ColinPa

    take care when abroad

    I was doing a lot of travelling to an interesting country to work on their banking system. One day, in the UK, I had a meeting with 'John' who used to work in the Foreign Ofice, and was told to take care when travelling abroad.

    1. if you keep getting the same room in a hotel - this may have hidden cameras, so be careful who you invite back to your room

    2. assume there are cameras watching you as you type into your laptop, obscure your keyboard when you type passwords

    3. take a bare bones laptop - with nothing on it; with you, in case it gets 'lost'. I said this was a problem as I needed tools on the laptop to do my job.

    4. lock your laptop in the hotel safe when not using it. (Though once when I did lock something in the hotel room's safe, the lock was broken and the under-manager came along with his set of screwdrivers to unlock it)

    5. check people in meetings to make sure they are genuine

    I think 'they' were after people who had worked in new technology such as batteries or solar panels, and carried the plans on the laptops, rather than the throughput of data between two sites.

    I checked "John" in our internal phone book, (see 5. above) and he did not exist - spook-y !

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: take care when abroad

      >4. lock your laptop in the hotel safe when not using it. (Though once when I did lock something in the hotel room's safe, the lock was broken and the under-manager came along with his set of screwdrivers to unlock it)

      I was once staying in a hotel and on checkout day the batteries in the safe (containing my passport and home keys) had run out; the guy from reception managed to open it in a worryingly short amount of time...

      1. aje21

        Re: take care when abroad

        Hotel safe = illusion of security.

        Rather than stopping anyone stealing your stuff they are they to stop (1) casual theft from your room, e.g. when it is being cleaned and someone pops in claiming it is their room, and (2) the insurance company saying you have not taken suitable precautions. On point 2, I have no idea if that would actually work, so probably a case of illusion of insurance too. Just glad I never had to find out the hard way what happens if someone does take stuff from your hotel safe.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: take care when abroad

          I've been travelling for decades, in some very dodgy places.

          The one tip given to me by my predecessor is this:

          Take something low value (a fake watch, etc) and leave it in the hotel room safe.

          Everything else, put inside a clean sock and put it in a net laundry bag filled with stained and dirty underwear.

          The watch (and subset replacements) has been taken ten times in forty years. The bag of shitty underwear, not once.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: take care when abroad

        The hotel staff have to be able to open safes easily because people are always forgetting their code, or something goes wrong with the safe. The safe's code also needs to be cleared when a room is made ready for the next guest, so don't be too surprised if the cleaners also know the reset trick.

      3. Dabooka Silver badge

        Re: take care when abroad

        Like most things of this ilk, these types of security measures are about keeping 'honest people honest' rather than to foil Raffles.

        However as noted, it also helps keep your insurance onside along with the hotel themselves.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: take care when abroad

        the usual thing for hotel safes is that there's a manual release behind the nameplate on the front and a hardcoded longer release code on the electronic lock (123456 or 000000 are the most common ones)

        They won't slow down a professional by much

  5. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge
    Pint

    За твоё здоровье!

    While on a week long requirements analysis course in Oxford in the early 90s I got talking to a crowd of Russians in the same hotel who were attending an English For Business course. We got on well throughout the week and when the last of the drinkers on my course went to bed on the last night I joined my new friends who showed no sign of stopping.

    I'd grown up in a Staffordshire pit village which was home to many families of Polish descent - their father's had come over during WWII and married local girls and brought along their customs of hospitality, which had some similarities to those of my Russian drinking partners. In particular they taught me how to drink vodka.

    We drank well and drank hard. The bar man, who had been drinking with us, fell asleep so we brought out our own supplies rather than cause him any problems with the till. The Russians had a bottle of Smirnoff each, while I had found a bottle of Moskovskaya in a local off licence which was greeted with approbation. We formed bonds of international friendship until dawn, and I was given the compliment that I drank like a Russian. I was, of course, drinking like a Pole.

    After an hour's sleep and reeking like a distillery I headed for breakfast before working out that it was a bad idea. What became a worse idea was that the previous day I had been elected to give the final course presentation to several senior suits. I got through that somehow, with some arch comments from my team mates after. After loading my car, I slept in the driving seat for several hours before feeling safe enough to drive home. I started eating again 36 hours later.

    Drinking with Russians is a fine, exhilarating activity, but it is best done when young and bold.

    I don't drink any more, but I did get several months worth of drinking done in that one night.

    Выпьем за то, чтобы у нас всегда был повод для праздника!

  6. muddysteve

    Skodas and Ladas

    In the early 80s, I went to see the RAC rally a couple of times, in the days when there was heavy snow and ice in November. The Ladas and Skodas were great cars, although admittedly rust wasn't an issue over the 5 days of the rally.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Skodas and Ladas

      Skodas one their class regularly, they were great rally cars, but had a bad reputation in western countries. (Why does a Skoda have a heated rear window? To keep your hands warm, when you push it in winter)

      Although they are essentially a badged Volkswagen these days, there is still a stigma attached to them by many older people. I've driven a lot of Skodas in recent years (they are used as pool cars a lot in the companies I've worked at in Germany) and they aren't bad, but I'd still prefer an Estelle built to today's QA standards...

      1. WallMeerkat

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        Indeed one of their old taglines was "Surprising Skoda"! I think some rally drivers got the most out of the pendulum-like handling of the engine sitting out back over the rear driven wheels.

        I have an Octavia as a family car, a visiting US colleague called it a hatchback Jetta, which is fairly accurate. Seem popular as fleet cars.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        won, not one. Not enough coffee!

      3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        Although they are essentially a badged Volkswagen these days

        True, just a bit larger than the same class Volkswagen (and Seat and Audi) and a nice bit cheaper. With Skoda you just get more care for your money.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          In my case you also got a lot of text spam.

          If within weeks of buying a new car you start getting texts inviting you to some promotion to buy another it doesn't say much about their confidence. It slackened after I found the MD's email address but at the end of the services in warranty period I made it clear that I would do no more business with them on account of the spam. And they never did replace the handbrake lever which was the only fix for a broken button - a crap bit of injection moulded plastic* and the smallest replacement unit is the complete best part of a hundred quid piece of mechanism.

          * Clearly internal stresses relieved by shattering as the two halves wouldn't fit back together.

        2. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          A.P. Veening

          People tend to mix Skoda with old Skoda, only the name is the same.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Skodas and Ladas

            True, but given half a chance, Czechs are just as good engineers as Germans and maybe even better.

            1. TimMaher Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Skodas and Ladas

              Especially if you go back to really old Skoda.

              They were the largest arms manufacturer in the Austin-Hungarian empire and built tanks and tank equipment for the Germans in WW2, some of their tanks being built in the Russian T38 design with the Christie (US Designer) suspension.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Skodas and Ladas

                "They were the largest arms manufacturer in the Austin-Hungarian empire"

                Is that the one whose ruler was known as The Maestro?

                1. big_D Silver badge

                  Re: Skodas and Ladas

                  My dad had one of the first Maestros.

                  We found 13 defects, when we picked it up from the show room, a further 20 by the time we got home, including the back bumper falling off (the securing pegs were missing) and the roof leaked (it didn't have a sunroof, just a normal metal roof, but the welding seams weren't airtight and the rubber seals weren't put in place properly!

                  The seat belt warning also wasn't a sensor, every time you turned on the ignition, the female voice would tell you to belt up! Get in car, fasten seatbelt, turn on ignition, "fasten seatbelt!" Stall in traffic, restart motor "fasten seatbelt!"

                  1. Citizen99

                    Re: Skodas and Ladas

                    Mine had the water pump fail promptly after the warranty period. Oh, and the rust came out of the seams. Got shot of it anyway as the family increased.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Skodas and Ladas

                  Their Princesses had a bad reputation in Great Britain, and so did their Ambassadors.

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: Skodas and Ladas

                    Driving back home yesterday, I passed a Morris Marina. That brought back some memories. Not good ones either! I'm not sure if I was more surprised at seeing that car still existed or that it was doing 65mph up the motorway and looking all shiny!

                  2. big_D Silver badge

                    Re: Skodas and Ladas

                    The Allegro was even worse... Pretty much everything from the 70s on.

                    The MGs and Triumphs were fun to drive but could be unreliable and the newer models rusted through.

                    Older models just kept running and running, newer stuff just fell apart.

        3. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          We had a Fabia estate as rental car a few years ago. We were impressed that our family of four (average height 185cm) plus luggage felt acceptable comfortable. Well hollowed out.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          not just larger, but substantially reinforced at critical points to handle rougher roads (a bit like Holden Commodores were vastly strengthened over the Opel Senators they're based on)

          This makes 'em heavier and necessarily thirstier. Life's always about tradeoffs

      4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        essentially a badged Volkswagen

        IIRC the Lada was based on the Fiat 124. Apparently it was modified to enable it to suvive Russian conditions.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          Seats were also, originally, Fiats made under license...

        2. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          One version of the story was that it gained weight compared to the 124 because only thicker steel was available

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Skodas and Ladas

      And Trabis...

      I once watched a little drama from the window of the BBC office in Savignyplatz in Berlin. A cold winter's day, with maybe six inches of snow standing on the cars parked at the side of the road.

      A Jag is parked behind a Trabi. Mr and Mrs Jag plib their car, get in... chug chug chug chug. Mr Jag gets out, looks at the bonnet, gets in again. Chug chug chug chug. Mr Jag gets out again, opens the bonnet, looks inside, closes the bonnet, gets in. Chug chug chug chuuug...

      Meanwhile, Mr Trabi comes along, sweeps the snow off the roof with his arm, gets in the Trabi. Chug, plub, bluppa bluppa bluppa.

      Mr Jag leaps out of his car, walks to Mr Trabi's window, gets his wallet out, and starts counting out d-marks. After a while, Mr Trabi holds his hand up, collects the d-marks, gets out of the car and starts walking away.

      Mrs Jag, with an expression of extreme distaste, gets into the Trabi along with Mr Jag and bluppa bluppa bluppa off they go...

      Never did find out what happened to the Jag. It wasn't there a couple of days later.

      1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        Many years ago, in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, we had an old beater--it might have been the ten-year old Chevy sedan, with a piece of steel plate on the floor to keep passengers' feet off the road. One of our neighbors was an engineer for GM, and of course drove a spiffy new car. Then there came an unusually cold day, and the spiffy new car would not start, but the old beater did. My father gave the engineer a ride to work. The engineer explained that an engine with higher compress is harder to start in cold weather. My father listened politely, and may even have held off smirking until he dropped the guy off.

      2. Peter Christy

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        Back around 2011, I visited the old East Germany to support my son who was competing in a big international competition. I had (still have!) a SAAB 96, which I decided to use for the journey to a town near the Polish border.

        I was amazed at the number of Trabis still in use, and ALL in absolutely immaculate condition! One was even towing an immaculate trailer, made from half of an old Trabi!

        My old SAAB prompted quite a few interested looks from the locals, who I suspect had never seen one before.

        One evening, returning from the airfield to our hotel, I spotted something coming towards me that, from a distance, looked like a steamroller that had been sprayed bright orange - the colour we used to call "vomit orange" back in the 60's, when it was popular!

        As it approached, I realised that it was a customised Trabi, sporting the widest wheels I have ever seen on a road going car - hence the road-roller appearance!

        As it passed, I was looking at it through the windscreen thinking "what the h*** is that?". I could clearly see the young driver of the Trabi staring at my SAAB and also thinking exactly the same!

        On my way out, I got caught in a mega traffic jam on the Hanover ring road. It was a boiling hot day, and the Scandinavian SAAB was getting very hot! Having already got the heater going full blast to try and cool the engine, I popped the (forward hinging) bonnet to let cool air circulate.

        A lot of Germans were waving at me, saying "Your bonnet (hood) is open!". I waved an acknowldgement and continues to sit in the jam. As I got near the end, I hopped out and shut the bonnet. As soon as I got up to 30MPH, the engine cooled back to normal.But for the next few miles, I passed a steady stream of new BMWs, Audis, VWs, etc, all on the hard shoulder, with steam pouring out of them!

        I waved and called out "Your bonnet is open!", to each one.

        Its true: the Germans have no sense of humour....

        ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          "I waved and called out "Your bonnet is open!", to each one."

          Driving from Jo'burg to Pretoria one night my water cooling failed. The car was an 86" LandRover. The bonnet was detachable - and so it allowed extra air cooling as that route is theoretically downhill.

          At one point I was lying underneath trying to do a jury-rig repair. It was a moonless night and the sky was black velvet covered in diamonds. I tried not to think about what might be crawling in the grass round me. Continuing to drive - the exhaust manifold could be seen glowing cherry red.

        2. Ted Treen

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          "...It's true: the Germans have no sense of humour...."

          The German sense of humour is no laughing matter!

        3. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          Saabs were very rare in Germany. I've lived here 20 years and only seen a handful. I once had a Saab 93 cabrio as a rental from Sixt.

          I was supposed to have a Mercedes C class and the rep was very apologetic, that I couldn't have the booked (and free) Mercedes - a previous rental had broken down - and, instead of a manual, base model Mercedes C180, they could only offer me a fully loaded, 2L turbo, automatic cabrio Saab with leather upholstery instead...

          The Germans have funny priorities sometimes.

        4. Ivan Headache

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          Was that a 2-stroke or a V4?

          We had a 2-stroke in the late 60s and loved it. I think it only had 3 forward gears - might be wrong, it's 50+ years ago - but the automatic free-wheel system gave it great economy.

          It did have one minor issue though. Every now and again, for reasons only known to itself, the motor would start up running in reverse. The only way you could tell was by releasing the clutch!

          Didn't take long to learn to stop doing sprint starts!

          We had a pair of big Cibie Oscars on the front so it looked (a bit) like one of the rally cars (apart from being powder-blue and not cherry-red) until some nere-do-well sawed them off one night.

      3. Potty Professor
        Boffin

        Re: Skodas and Ladas

        My mother had a Glas Goggomobile, which was the immediate forerunner of the Trabant, same engine and gearbox, same steering and brakes (if you were lucky), but a steel body instead of fibreglas. Extremely reliable. but not very fast or comfortable, and the heater didn't work until you'd done about ten miles.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Skodas and Ladas

          My 1950s Austin A40 Farina was branded as the "deluxe" model because it was sold with a heater.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Skodas and Ladas

            by the late 1960s BL were still selling heaters as "optional extras" except you couldn't actually buy one without a heater

            It was their way of being able to undercut the "funny" japanese cars which had them as standard in their print adverts

  7. Mr Dogshit
    Headmaster

    Not a translator

    An interpreter. Completely different job.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Not a translator

      Yes, very different, and simultaneous interpreter is even more stressful (translating in real-time what you are hearing).

      I've worked as a translator and a simultaneous interpreter. The latter is really heavy going.

      My old employer celebrated 25 years and invited guests from all over Europe. Most of the presentations were in German and some of the guests didn't speak any German. They tried to get me to do it, but I said I had no experience and it wouldn't be a good experience for the guests. The company tried getting interpreters at the last minute, but it was "too expensive" - they wanted to send at least 2 interpreters, because of the stress levels, they shouldn't do more than 5 - 10 minutes at a time.

      A translator who did some ad-hoc work for the company and myself were then drafted in to do the interpreting of the presentations. The first night was ad-hoc speeches with no slides and no script to go by. That was really hard work, trying to listen to what was being said and speaking in another language at the same time. We got it sorted after a while, but it was a rocky start.

      Luckily, the second day was mainly my colleagues giving presentations and it was material I knew well, or in a couple of instances, I had written the original German presentations. That gave me a lucky "shortcut", I just ignored what the presenter was saying, for the main part and just gave my own presentation based on the slides. There were a couple of guest presenter and I had to do my best at SIing their presentations. I got a lot of positive feedback from the guests.

      If I had had to really do a simultaneous translation for the full 12 hours or the 2nd day, I think I would have had a breakdown! As it was, I had a screaming headache and was very disorientated.

      Translation is much easier, but still way more than I can really do, at least at a professional level. I've done dozens of translations of marketing material, newsletters etc. for my employers over the last 15 years, but I did a short stint at a real translation company and it showed me that, whilst my translations were readable and understandable, they were a long way away from what a professional translator would have served up.

      I take my hat off to people who do any of those 3 jobs (translation, interpreting or simultaneous interpreting) at a professional level. Your understanding of both languages needs to, essentially, be degree level + years of actually using both on a daily basis, otherwise you can forget about it being a "professional" job.

      1. WanderingHaggis

        Re: Not a translator

        Did simultaneous once and was totally worn out. It's a killer especially when someone is trying to give you advice while you're doing it.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not a translator

          "when someone is trying to give you advice while you're doing it."

          You know how to do it better? Here's the headset.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Not a translator

        I once ended up as default interpreter for some Germans and Brits (and one Yank) while neither German nor English is my mother tongue. Somehow I managed, but I am glad it has been over 30 years since I last had to do it. The English-Dutch and Dutch-English translation jobs I did for the company I worked for as a programmer were a lot easier and I managed to surprise a couple of co-workers doing the same with my speed and quality.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not a translator

          I hail from the same country, and as a nice side effect of that I am fluent in English and fairly fluent in spoken German.

          At least, I though I was.

          I have since discovered that this fluency only applies to expressing myself. Translating someone else's work is a different kettle of fish, and I deeply respect the people who do this for a living.

          I'll stick to English now - I lived for decades in London surrounded by people who spoke it very well, and there is no better way to tune your own pronunciation, enunciation and vocabulary.

          Ironically, I so rarely speak Dutch now that I sometimes have trouble finding words :).

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Not a translator

            If you can speak German and English, you can at least understand Dutch, it seems to be every other word is either "like" German or like "English". I heard a Dutch press conference a couple of weeks ago and I could understand the jist of the conversation.

            Now way I could write or speak it fluently though.

            I was on a biking holiday in Bavaria and there were some Dutch guys as well, this was before I moved to Germany and learnt German. We visited a graphite mine and the German guide didn't speak any English. One of the Dutch guys said, no problem, I speak German, I'll translate for you.

            I heard, "blah blah blah 20,000psi, blah blah blah, 200M blah blah blah."

            After 10 minutes, I asked the Dutch guy, "okay, what did he say?"

            "Something about 20,000psi and 200M, I didn't understand anything else, he doesn't speak German!"

            The guide was speaking with a thick Bavarian accent and speaking Bavarian, not High German. :-D

            1. IWVC

              Re: Not a translator

              I don’t speak any other language but have been a user of simultaneous translations for many happy hours in meetings of the EU on vehicle construction standards. Up to 6 or more languages could be used in any meeting, so there were a lot of translators waiting for say French to English to then translate from the English to Spanish or whatever. If you have had the benefit of using translation you will know that if you are listening to the speaker’s language all you get is his microphone connected directly to your own headphones. However, one of the industry reps suddenly realised that the voice in his headphones wasn’t his and there was a delay before whatever he said was repeated by someone else. It turned out that his Geordie accent was so strong that the translators had asked for an English translation of his accent before they could translate into their allotted languages. (I was very nervous about the strength of my Welsh accent after that)

              On another occasion a French delegate who had the habit of speeding up his speech when exited managed to outrun the translation and all we got was “sorry we can’t keep up and be sure of translating properly”

              Lastly (someone else has mentioned this) we had a German translation that had very long pauses that were eventually broken by the translator saying “...just waiting for the verb, just waiting for the verb”

              1. ColinPa

                Re: Not a translator

                I remember sitting in a presentation on debugging applications, being translated from English into French.

                "Now here, at offset 9 dog baker" got translated to "ici a neuf, le chien, et le boulangier" - and there was laughter from the French audience!

              2. Citizen99

                Re: Not a translator

                The dreaded 'pile-up'

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not a translator

              If you can speak German and English, you can at least understand Dutch, it seems to be every other word is either "like" German or like "English". I heard a Dutch press conference a couple of weeks ago and I could understand the jist of the conversation.

              I have that with Swedish. I can't understand a word of it, but I generally pick up enough words that sound similar to vaguely keep up with the plot :).

          2. Fr. Ted Crilly

            Re: Not a translator

            I bet your English is better than many of the people you speak to throughtout the day;-)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a translator

        I do admire any one that can speak a second language. For a short time at school, had to do French and German at the same time. My homework started off in one language and finished in another!

        I always thought that in Europe at least, I may not understand the road name signs, but at least I could have a stab at pronouncing or guessing - but no idea if I was a place like China, Japan with completely different writing.

        Think the worse place I had been to for language problems was the USA - they seem to have problems with my soft spoken Dorset accent!

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: Not a translator

          My homework started off in one language and finished in another!

          I had that problem a couple of years ago on a whistlestop tour of Europe*. On the last evening in Calais, having visited 7 countries in three days, I ordered, "Deux bières, bitte".

          Fortunately the barman didn't take offence and just laughed, apparently it was a regular occurrence.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not a translator

            In the Flemish part of Belgium it's considered normal to speak someone else's language (which makes it also very hard to learn Flemish), they seem to have quite a knack for languages there.

            If you live there it's quite normal to hear discussions which intermingle Flemish, English, German and French, although the German only shows up in places along the border with Germany.

            1. A K Stiles

              Re: Not a translator

              Spent several enjoyable hours in an Irish bar in Amsterdam some 18ish years back.

              The barman spoke to us in perfect English with a notable Irish accent then, as new folks walked in through the door, switched to seemingly (to us) flawless Dutch, German and French.

              Talking to him between his serving customers it turned out his mother was Irish and his father was Dutch and he'd mostly grown up around there, speaking English and French with his mother and Dutch, German and English with his father. It was very impressive to behold from the sidelines!

              1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: Not a translator

                I spent a fair time working in Nijmegen, and the bartender in the hotel there (and indeed most of the staff) would quite happily flit between languages at the drop of a hat for the different customers.

                Indeed when I first got to know him, I actually heard the barman apologise that he only spoke 7 languages (compared to me who can barely speak one).

                Gotta love the Dutch and their linguistics...

                1. julian.smith
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Not a translator

                  Many years ago I was in a department store in Amsterdam.

                  I spoke English to the cashier

                  - the next person spoke German

                  - the next French

                  - the next Italian

                  Small countries with smart people (think Scandinavia) have these skills.

                  1. G.Y.

                    Re: Not a translator

                    When I would make a mistake in Dutch grammar, the Amsterdam cashier would just answer in good English

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not a translator

              A co-worker of my Dad's was in Belgium on business, and stopped for a bite to eat. The menu was in Flemish, which he didn't know at all. He nervously asked the waiter, "Do you speak English?" The waiter replied politely (not as a quip), "Yes, lucky for you."

            3. vincent himpe

              Re: Not a translator

              jup. there's only about 4 million speakers of real 'flemish' and then there are like 300 dialects.... The rest is Dutch and some south afrikaans (but that is so altered it is a language on its own. Even real 'dutch' is hard for flemish speakers.

              The toughest to deal with are the chinese. When in a meeting you need to come to a conclusion and they answer 'basically yes' ... that can mean any of the following

              - we have not understood a word of what you said, but we agree with the provision we may alter anything and everything later.

              - we agree but we can't tell the higher ups, as that would be impolite , so we don't agree

              - we don't agree with anything at all. So 'basically yes' , which translates to 'no'

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not a translator

                "The rest is Dutch and some south afrikaans"

                On a posting to South Africa my Afrikaner neighbours invited me to the New Year's Eve NGK midnight service - after which there would be food etc. I sat in the crowded church as the preacher went on and on. I asked my neighbour "What is he saying". He said "I don't know - he is speaking in old Dutch".

                I never learned any Afrikaans beyond a few essential phrases. I hoped a Luxembourg posting would polish my schoolboy French - but everyone wanted to practise their English. In Sweden I acquired a reasonable competence in reading and speaking - but couldn't handle the replies which assumed I was fluent. My Hebrew was just a few phrases - as again many people wanted to polish their English.

                In Luxembourg EEC project meetings I learned that the French phrase "En principe - oui" - is merely a polite "No!".

                1. welp

                  Re: Not a translator

                  We have a substantial South African diaspora in Western Australia, which is said to be the largest such grouping in the world outside South Africa. At a Perth Test between Australia and South Africa a few years ago, a member of the touring team complained of getting heckled over the fence in Afrikaans.

            4. Citizen99

              Re: Not a translator

              It's can be the same mixture when they write in threads on e.g. facebook.

              Went to a francophone primary school for a year in Brussels, which helped in later life.

            5. Fr. Ted Crilly

              Re: Not a translator

              :-) stop mangling my ears! and continuing in good English etc. What always gets me is going to pay for something and the Vlamms/Dutch speaker going straight into English before my mouth opens etc.

              I like Belgium said pooh happily...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not a translator

                What always gets me is going to pay for something and the Vlaams/Dutch speaker going straight into English before my mouth opens etc.

                Well, we haz' skills.

                Sorry, couldn't help myself :).

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Not a translator

          When speaking Japanese when struggling for words I find my brain fetching up French. bouvez-maska?

          1. julian.smith
            Happy

            Re: Not a translator

            ... how did it go?

            Before I went to Japan the advice I was given was that young females spoke better English than other Japanese .. I got to speak to some cute girls and met a charming lady ... we've been married for 11 years.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not a translator

          I always thought that in Europe at least, I may not understand the road name signs, but at least I could have a stab at pronouncing or guessing - but no idea if I was a place like China, Japan with completely different writing.

          Try Northern Thailand before the days of the GPS. I knew that if I lost my Thai/sort-of-English companion there would be no way I'd find my way back to an airport.

          Yes, I had a map, but you try picture-matching a beautiful but fully alien character set to get a starting point.

        4. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: Not a translator

          Yeah, had that too, and not always in the middle of nowhere smallsville city (since the granary closed down) in a 'flyover' state either. and my native is Londonish edumacated...

        5. WhereAmI?

          Re: Not a translator

          From another ex-Dorset man: I moved to Northern Ireland and ended up studying in the US after going back to uni in my early Forties. They couldn't get their heads round the fact that I might live in Northern Ireland but I wasn't Irish!

          I gave up...

      4. John Sager

        Re: Not a translator

        I can imagine it's difficult and stressful, especially when the syntax isn't the same.

        I once heard Eric Laithwaite relate an anecdote. He had been to a conference with simultaneous translation, and he was listening to a translation of a German speaker. Suddenly the translator stopped while the speaker went on. Eventually Laithwaite heard the translator mutter "the verb, man! the verb!" before finally trying to pick up again at the end of the sentence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not a translator

          ""the verb, man! the verb!" "

          I was told that story in Luxembourg in 1980. IIRC the guy who told me was a Russian-English translator there.

        2. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Not a translator

          Yes, having the verb as the last item in a sentence in German can make it difficult to keep up, because you might have to wait a minute or so, buffer what they are saying, waiting for the "doing word" to finally come up, then you have to blurt that minute or so of translation out, whilst buffering up the next sentence!

          Buffer overflow was a serious problem, when I did that event. Knowing the speaker and the topic, you can sometimes guess what the verb is going to be, slip it in, then correct it, if it doesn't work. More difficult if it is a high-end negotiation, political speech etc., where it has to be accurate.

      5. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Not a translator

        My aunt was interpreter in court cases. She said she didn’t have problems with confidentiality, often it was so intense she could not remember.

      6. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Not a translator

        If only there were, I don't know, and auxiliary language everyone could use to bridge the gap.

        8o)

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a translator

        "That gave me a lucky "shortcut", I just ignored what the presenter was saying, for the main part and just gave my own presentation based on the slides."

        A classmate of a family member went on a humanitarian mission to Cuba a couple decades ago. The were surprised with a late night invitation to the presidential palace hosted by Fidel himself. An interpreter was there, since most of the guests only spoke English. At one point during dinner, they realized that A) Castro understood at least some English and B) he must tell the same stores fairly often. Apparently the translator started to get ahead of Castro so he interrupted and said something like "no no, let ME they'll the story! "

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "An enterprising salesman took advantage of the problem to sell them more memory, and the fault reduced to once a day (they worked two shifts a day),"

    That should have been a bit of a clue.

    I managed to escape from a client's customer site in Italy when the server took a long enough gap between crashes. I was only there to install custom S/W I'd written but the flaky server kept crashing & they didn't want to let me go until "it" worked. I later heard that dodgy memory was replaced bu all I knew was that odd bits of memory kept getting dumped in files in lost+found. Apart from running out of money I had an appointment the next week for a meeting with new client. I needed to get away.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

      Sound more like a "server" than a server... Dodgy memory was and is always detected in real servers. You indeed needed to get away from there!

  9. RuffianXion
    Headmaster

    Moskvi(t)ch

    Can anyone explain why both El Reg and the linked blog insist on spelling "Moskvich" as "Moskvitch" when the advertising material in the blog clearly and repeatedly shown it spelled without the 't'?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Moskvi(t)ch

      Maybe their spellchecker was made by the same company?

      :)

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Moskvi(t)ch

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moskvitch

      https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Москвич_(завод)

      Москви́ч

  10. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    An acquaintance of mine was called in to track down quality control problems at a Very Famous British Car Manufacturer. It took him one night to find the issue: the night shift, unsupervised by managers who did not deign to work after 5pm, were keeping one good bodyshell aside and putting it through the metrology system every time another one came off the line and was due to be tested. As a result every shell produced "passed" and went on to be fitted out, regardless of how bad it was.

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Facepalm

      That explains a LOT about British cars of the 1970's...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fairly standard shoddy British construction practices for the age, and one of the main reasons we no longer have an industry worthy of speaking of.

        Check out a documentary on YouTube, think it's called Clyde Shipbuilders. You'll know it when you see it, circa 1960-70 and it covers the workers as they try to strike (again) because their tea break which lasts for fifteen minutes, but which takes over 45minutes (time to get off ship and back on) is being binned by the new owners.

        The workers attitudes are absolutely stinking. I won't spoil the outcome for you, but certainly worth a watch.

        1. David Neil

          I hate to break it to you, but we now make a similar amount of cars to 1970, so we do still have a motor industry.

          https://www.statista.com/statistics/298923/total-number-of-cars-produced-in-the-united-kingdom/

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Yeah, but when you say "we" you mean the Japanese, French, Germans, Indians etc., ie the owners of the factories.

        2. Lars Silver badge
          Alien

          Clyde Shipbuilders

          I wasn't there, but it tends to be just a fact that if you treat your workforce like shit they tend to react accordingly.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The workers attitudes are absolutely stinking"

          They were utter bastards. They worked for nothing (apart from donations) for months to keep the UCS yards opened, build ships and protect their jobs when the management and government tried to close everything.

          1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

            They would not try to “close everything” if that “everything” was profitable, would they?

            But it was loosing money with all those strikes.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "They would not try to “close everything” if that “everything” was profitable, would they?"

              Many businesses do exactly that. If they think that closing a barely profitable part of the company will release cash to be invested somewhere where it will make more profits, then that's exactly the sort of short term, non-strategic thinking and logic they will follow. Just look at those companies in the USA that automatically fire their lowest performers every year. They don't care that they might be good performers, just that they are in the lowest percentile.

              1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

                Exactly. It's not simply profits but investors' demand for maximum return on their investment that drives investment.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          there were a lot of things wrong with the british shipbuilding industry at the time but that was merely a symptom of what was going wrong

          When 3 shifts of welders could be outperformed by a single japanese worker operating semiautotomated rigs on the other side of the world, changes had to be made. Choices were between shedding staff and modernisig practices or shutting down entirely and it ended up being the latter

          This scenario has repeatedly played out in industrial areas around the world where manglement have tried to maximise profits when they saw that heavy reinvestments in plant + automation was needed and chose to run the business into the ground instead. It's never ended well for the poor buggers at the blunt end of things

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Alien

            @Alan Brown

            Would you agree that the change should have started years ago taking the workforce with them.

            Could it be that those in charge kept telling each other about the British "world leading" ship building industry until it was much too late.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Moskvitch

    As an apprentice I was assigned to a Polish chap at a signal maintenance depot for a few weeks. He used to drive around in a Moskvitch. The non-latching passenger door was secured with rope which it was advisable to hang onto whilst travelling.

  12. Rob Daglish

    Ivan Ivanovic...

    ...is the name of a guy working as a QC inspector at a large defence contractor in the U.K. Caused a few raised eyebrows on the Windows 10 migration team when he came in for his new laptop!

  13. Andy Denton

    My dad had a Moskvich....

    ...a white one with a red interior. I was about 8 or 9 at the time so this would have been 1976-77. My memories of it were the bouncy ride, the volcanic heater and the fact it was built like a tank. So much so that a mini drove into it at considerable speed, writing off said Mini (the engine ended up in the front seat). The Russian tank needed a new wing bolting on and was good to go.

    1. H in The Hague Silver badge

      Re: My dad had a Moskvich....

      "The Russian tank needed a new wing bolting on and was good to go."

      A few years after you I had a similar experience: a Beamer hit my Austin Maxi (I know it wasn't universally loved, but served me v well). Did a lot more damage to the prestige motor than it did to mine :)

  14. The Boojum
    Facepalm

    Not quite sure how, but I first read "...Despite being the butt of a thousand jokes..." as "...despite being built of a thousand jokes...". Doesn't quite make sense, but I do like the sound of it.

  15. Uncle Ron

    Probably Not So Bad

    Those other programmers in his team are probably now the heart of the Russian hacking of every Western country on earth. And maybe some of the assembly line workers as well. They were so good and hacking and messing around with their own systems it was only natural to hire them to destroy the West.

  16. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    A modern classic

    One day in the life of Ivan Ivanovitch, eh? Though less Siberian than its literary namesake. Both Ivans take pride in the quality of their work, anyway.

  17. A_Melbourne

    Russia Improving. UK not so much.

    Nostaligia.

    Car production in Russia is increasing. It is over 1.5 million units per year. Just look at what is happening to manufacturing in the UK. Even Rolls Royce and Bentley are foreign owned. :(

    I once worked for Lucas, when the UK had a serious car parts business. So sad to watch today's wokes hiding from an airborne virus that hardly kills any healthy person. We had concerts in Hyde Park when the flu killed far more people. The media rarely mentioned it.

  18. Rtbcomp

    Moskvitch for Hire

    I once arranged to hire a Morris Marina from a banger hire place, it was £10 for two days.

    I was absolutely delighted when I was told the Marina was not available and I would have to have a Moskvitch instead.

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