Localizing Christmas – when translation is not enough

Localizing Christmas – when translation is not enough

Christmas is just around the corner. In many parts of the world, people are preparing for this holiday that holds great significance for the millions of people who celebrate it. As a result, many websites have been updated just for this event with nice images of Christmas decorations, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and people ice skating… However, some North American businesses and website designers have forgotten a few important details: not everybody celebrates Christmas, people who do celebrate Christmas do not all celebrate the same way, and in the South Hemisphere it is summer in December.

So if you have a multilingual website, it is important  to remember that it is not enough to translate your website, you should  also consider the website’s colour scheme, graphics, images and text to avoid alienating the very people you are attempting to attract.

Let’s take as an example a country like Turkey. According to one of wintranslation’s Turkish translators, “Christmas is an interesting social issue in this country. Although Christmas is not forbidden, there is indeed some sensitivity on the part of a large segment of the society. Christmas is not celebrated and while many people celebrate the New Year, a small section of the society also shuns the New Year as they are disturbed by the inevitable cross-over between the celebrations of Christmas and New Year…I would say visuals narrowly referring to the New Year and carefully avoiding any similarity with Christmas imagery are relatively safe.”

In countries like Brazil,AustraliaandNew Zealand, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer. InAustralia, many people have barbeques for Christmas. Some people even say that Santa comes on a surfboard or that’s his sled is driven by eight kangaroos.

It would be a little amusing to have images on  websites directed at these markets filled with mountains covered in snow and people wearing gloves and boots in countries where temperatures often reach 90 °F during Christmas time, especially since some say even Santa wears light-weight silk clothing to beat the heat. These types of Christmas images may work for some companies, but if you are not a global and well-known brand like Starbucks, it’s better to stay safe and localize your websites keeping in mind the culture and Christmas traditions of your target audience

The image below is from Starbucks’ Australia website. Note the ice skaters dressed in scarves, hats and mittens.

Small details like these can make your customer abandon your website right away without checking your product or services. Even if you don’t change the content of your website and only change some images or colours, be sure these small changes don’t negatively affect your audience. To avoid losing potential customers, do a little research before throwing an image on your website. Check with your translators; have them do a quality assurance verification of your website before going live. A little bit of research and preparation can go a long way to ensure your website reflects cultural sensitivity and respect, something that will not go unnoticed by visitors to your site.


On December 19, 2011, posted in: Website Translation by