In Chinese, we often say X is a business card or showcase of a city to indicate that X is often the first thing a visitor will see/experience upon the arrival and X might determine the visitor's first impression of the city.

Does the literally translated "taxi is a business card of a city" make sense? Or if there is already an alternative in native speakers's everyday English?

  • I am not sure, if there is already an alternative, but I would at least adjust your translation to "a taxi is the business card of a city". – Geshode Jun 11 '18 at 8:23
  • Very often foreign language sayings cannot be translated literally . Would first impressions count be closer in meaning? It's normally used with people who meet for the first time, especially in job interviews. – Mari-Lou A Jun 11 '18 at 16:55

Yes, with qualifications, that metaphor is easily understood.

  • It is better to use natural English grammar and to say 'A taxi is a business card for a city'. English requires an article for singular nouns. ('of' wasn't wrong, 'for' just felt better to me. But then the more natural way to say it would be to use plurals anyway:

Taxis are the business cards of a city.

  • There might be more salient terms than 'business card'. The Chinese use of 'business card' is already metaphorical. I think a term you mentioned really captures it:

Taxis give the first impression for a city.

This isn't particularly metaphorical, but gets the idea across really well and could assuredly work for other items "An airport gives a city's first impression." "A senator gives the first impression of a state"

These aren't common phrases or existing patterns (as far as I know) and I can't think of an similar kind of phrase that people use commonly, but it certainly is a very natural and understandable idea.

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Perhaps, trademark will help you express the idea.

If you say that something is the trademark of a particular person or place, you mean that it is characteristic of them or typically associated with them (the Collins English Dictionary). For example: The designer bars have become the new trademark of the city.

Note that it means that these designer bars are somehow unique and can be found just in this city. They are not necessarily the first thing tourists see. So, it would be possible to say "Taxi should become the trademark of the city" meaning "Taxi should become that something tourists will think about remembering the city".

"Taxi is a business card of a city" doesn't make sense because the only thing a business card means is a small card identifying a person.

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  • Thanks for this enlightening answer. But I still didn't find results related to "a taxi is the trademark of a city" on Google, this seems this structure is not widely used. But on the contrary, the Chinese counterpart "X is a business card of a city" is widely used. I started to doubt if there isn't a counterpart in everyday English, that is, you won't say taxi is a thing of a city figuratively. – Guoyang Qin Jun 11 '18 at 12:30
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    @AbrahamChin Hm, I wouldn't say a thing of the city... Well, anything can be considered a thing of the city... It just doesn't convey the meaning you'd like the phrase to convey... If we were talking about a famous building, for example, it would be easy: "the Eiffel Tower is the landmark of Paris". As for the taxi and the fact that it's the first thing tourists see and that's why it should be clean and stuff like that, I'd probably say that taxi should be taken good care of because it's the first thing tourists see and/or it adds to the character of the city. – Enguroo Jun 11 '18 at 13:05

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