10 International Proverbs To Inspire You

All throughout the world, there are millions of people saying millions of things. Some of the things some of the people are saying are wise things. Some of those wise things said through the ages have been considered so wise, they have become “proverbs” – colloquial sayings specific to certain cultures. Every country in the world is home to a collection of unique national proverbs. We’d like to share with you 10 of our favorites from countries around the world, which may bring a smile – or even some inspiration!

1. Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.

This saying comes from France, and it translates to “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” We feel this proverb is so encouraging. You build your future day by day, you know? Even this blog post was written just one word at a time!

2. 師傅領進門, 修行在個人

Shī fu lǐng jìn mén, xiū xíng zài gè rén” is a Chinese proverb that means “Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.” This is so true! We greatly value the teachers who make our education system possible, but we know that it is the student who is ultimately responsible for their own education.

3. دو تربوز به یک دست گرفته نمی‏شود

The transliterated version of this Afghan proverb is “Doo tarbuz ba yak dast gerefta na-mey-shawad,” and in English it means “You can’t hold two watermelons in one hand.” Unless, of course, you have really big hands! We think this is such a valuable saying: it teaches us to focus on just one task (or watermelon!) at a time.

4. Des teufels liebstes möbelstück ist die lange bank.

The English translation of this German proverb is “The devil’s favorite piece of furniture is the long bench.” In Germany, to put something on the “long bench” is to put it off until later – in other words, to procrastinate! We like to avoid procrastination as much as possible, so we’re going to stay far away from the long bench… and hopefully, the devil too. We may even stay away from “tabling” an important discussion item at our next meeting

5. 井の中の蛙大海を知らず。

This Japanese saying – transliterated as “I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu” – means “A frog in a well does not know the great sea.” We think this saying speaks to a universal truth. We can’t necessarily expect others to understand our life experience! A frog who lives in a well may not understand the life of a fish who lives in the sea, and vice versa. What we all must remember is to be polite and respectful of others, even if we can’t understand them at all.

6. Camaron que se duerme, se lo lleva la correinte.

This Chilean proverb translates to “The shrimp that falls asleep gets carried away by the current.” While we all enjoy a good snooze now and then, we think that this saying speaks to the problems laziness can cause in one’s life. The shrimp that stops swimming is doomed to perish. We don’t want to be lazy shrimp! A similar proverb we might use or hear more frequently is “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”

7. Att våga är att tappa fotfästet en stund, att inte våga är att förlora sig själv.

To dare is to lose your foothold for a moment, to not dare is to lose yourself” is the English translation of this fantastic Swedish proverb. We all face daunting moments in life, but we’ve got to remember to be brave – and dare to lose our foothold for a time – because failing to be brave can be costly.

8. In a moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams. 

This great Nigerian proverb speaks to the importance of facing challenges and transcending them, as opposed to getting stuck trying to fix things. When you build a dam to stop a flood, all you’ll be able to see is the flood. When you build a bridge over the flood, it’ll be as if there was never a flood at all.

9. Век живи́ — век учи́сь.

Transliterated as “Vek zhivi — vek uchis’,” this Russian proverb means “Live for a century — learn for a century.” Life is just a long learning process – an education that never ends! One might even argue that to stop learning is to stop living – or at least, to stop getting the most out of life!

10. 아는 길도 물어가라

Aneun gildo muleogara.” This South Korean proverb means “Even if you know the way, ask one more time.” There’s always more to learn. Even if you’ve heard a story hundreds of times, new and unexpected details may reveal themselves upon another listening.

 By Ephraim Rudolph, Marketing & Communications Intern