Around the World in 52 Proverbs

Words by:

Nyssa P. Chopra
“Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.” – Chinua Achebe (of Things Fall Apart fame)
Another annual series on The Cultureur comes to a close — last year, it was Destination Anywhere: 100 Reasons to Travel and this year, it’s Around the World in 52 Proverbs. Cultural proverbs* and sayings have always piqued my interest as I think they provide an insightful window into a community’s lifestyle, history, and culture. Passed on from generation to generation, much of it through oral culture, proverbs are still widely used today and have become a part of everyday speech. They are generally used to reinforce arguments, illustrate ideas, and deliver messages of wisdom, inspiration, consolation, celebration, and guidance.
For the past year, over the course of the last 52 weeks, I’ve published a list of proverbs from around the world, so here’s all that global cultural wisdom curated on one master list.
  1. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. | African Proverbaround the world in 52 proverbs proverbs from around the world
  2. Fall seven times, stand up eight. | Japanese Proverb
  3. Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. | Swedish Proverb
  4. Words should be weighed, not counted. | Yiddish Proverb
  5. If you can’t live longer, live deeper. | Italian Proverb
  6. Do good and throw it in the sea. | Arab Proverb
  7. Where love reigns, the impossible may be attained. | Indian Proverb
  8. It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. | Chinese Proverb
  9. A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning. | Kenyan Proverb
  10. Still waters run deep. | Latin Proverb
  11. He who does not travel, does not know the value of men. | Moorish Proverb
  12. The night rinses what the day has soaped. | Swiss Proverb
  13. Measure a thousand times and cut once. | Turkish Proverb
  14. A spoon does not know the taste of soup, nor a learned fool the taste of wisdom. | Welsh Proverb
  15. The most beautiful fig may contain a worm. | Zulu Proverb
  16. Change yourself and fortune will change. | Portuguese Proverb
  17. In love, there is always one who kisses and one who offers the cheek. | French Proverb
  18. Evil enters like a needle and spreads like an oak tree. | Ethiopian Proverb
  19. Who begins too much accomplishes little. | German Proverb
  20. Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you. | Spanish Proverb
  21. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. | English Proverb
  22. Don’t sail out farther than you can row back. | Danish Proverb
  23. There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out. | Russian Proverb
  24. Age is honorable and youth is noble. | Irish Proverb
  25. In a battle between elephants, the ants get squashed. | Thai Proverb
  26. If you take big paces, you leave big spaces. | Burmese Proverb
  27. Before you score, you first must have a goal. | Greek Proverb
  28. Good advice is often annoying, bad advice never is. | French Proverb
  29. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. | Chinese Proverb
  30. Do not rejoice at my grief, for when mine is old, yours will be new. | Spanish Proverb
  31. What you see in yourself is what you see in the world. | Afghan Proverb
  32. It takes a whole village to raise a child. | African Proverb
  33. Examine what is said, not who speaks. | Arab Proverb
  34. Two wrongs don’t make a right. | English Proverb
  35. A large chair does not make a king. | Sudanese Proverb
  36. Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone. | Moroccan Proverb
  37. Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, small wisdom. | Chinese Proverb
  38. A man does not seek his luck; luck seeks its man. | Turkish Proverb
  39. A teacher is better than two books. | German Proverb
  40. A beautiful thing is never perfect. | Egyptian Proverb
  41. The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour. | Japanese Proverb
  42. Character is always corrupted by prosperity. | Icelandic Proverb
  43. A fault confessed is half redressed. | Zulu Proverb
  44. To be willing is only half the task. | Armenian Proverb
  45. Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough, but not baked in the same oven. | Yiddish Proverb
  46. The heart that loves is always young. | Greek Proverb
  47. He who always thinks it is too soon is sure to come too late. | German Proverb
  48. Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. | New Zealander Proverb
  49. When the sun rises, it rises for everyone. | Cuban Proverb
  50. No man can paddle two canoes at the same time. | Bantu Proverb
  51. If you go to a donkey’s house, don’t talk about ears. | Jamaican Proverb
  52. Speak the truth, but leave immediately after. | Slovenian Proverb
*Many cultures/languages have their own version of the same proverb.