West and East proverbs – They show Cultural Similarities and Differences

There’s a school of thought which believes that there are fundamental differences between eastern and western philosophy arguing that while the east talks about and promotes a more holistic view of human life, the west is more focused on the individual person and their circumstances. However, research shows that this is not necessarily the case. Just as any child in the world knows when it is hungry and it would demand to be fed, there is an innate intuition which all people across the world seem to have that drives us to know the difference between good and bad, and to ultimately pursue goodness. Therefore, divisions between east and west appear to be artificial to say the least and these “differences” can be exemplified by the teachings of both eastern and western proverbs. Proverbs are probably the oldest and most accessible way of learning and understanding complex philosophical concepts. So what are some proverbs in English and Chinese proverbs that bear these similarities? Let’s take a look below.

Proverbs in English Equivalent Chinese proverbs
There’s no use crying over spilt milk. “It is hard to recover spilt water.”
The early bird gets the worm. “A fast foot is first to climb.”
Misery loves company. “Patients with similar conditions empathise with each other.”
We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. “The ship will reach the end of the bridge in due course.”
What goes around, comes around.
  • “Kind deeds pay rich dividends, evil is repaid with evil.”
  • “As you sow a melon, so you shall reap one.”
  • “As you sow a bean, so you shall reap one.”
  • “A daughter-in-law who suffers will one day become a mother-in-law.”
Like father, like son.
  • “The son is like his father.”
  • “A tiger does not father a dog.”
A friend in need is a friend indeed. “In adversity, true feelings are revealed.”
No pain, no gain; nothing ventured, nothing gained. “If you don’t enter the tiger’s den, how will you get the tiger’s cub?”
Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today. “Today’s task, today’s job to complete.”
If you want something done well, do it yourself. “It’s better to rely on yourself than on the help of others.”
Once bitten, twice shy. “Bitten by a snake one morning, afraid of the rope by the well for ten years.”
All good things come to an end. “There is no person that has 1000 good days in a row, and no flower that stays red for 100 days.”
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. “When entering a village, follow its customs.”
When it rains, it pours.
  • “Even water gets stuck in your teeth.”
  • “Just as one wave subsides, another one comes.”
  • “When the roof is leaking, that’s when you get several continuous nights of rain.”
Two heads are better than one. “Three unskilled cobblers are superior to one Zhuge Liang.”
Easy come, easy go. “Thirty years on the east side of the river, thirty years on the west side of the river.”
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. “A mountain cannot turn, but a road can.”
Practice makes perfect. “Experience can give way to skill.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day. “Three feet of ice is not the result of one cold day.”
Heaven helps those who help themselves. “Heaven won’t betray people who try their best.”
Beggars can’t be choosers. “The starving can’t choose their meals.”
Speak of the devil and he shall appear. “Speak of Cao Cao and he arrives.”
The first step is the hardest. “The first step in a thousand different matters is always difficult.”
Birds of a feather, flock together. “Similar things are categorised together.”
You get what you pay for. “Ten yuan of money, ten yuan of goods.”
Great minds think alike. “The views of heroes are roughly alike.”
One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too.
  • “One cannot get fish and bear’s paw at the same time.”
  • “You want a good horse, but won’t give it grass to eat.”
Haste makes waste. “You desire speed but cannot reach your destination.”
How time flies! “Time is like an arrow.”
Seeing is believing. “Hearing something one hundred times is not as good as seeing it once.”
Every cloud has a silver lining. “When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous?”
Money talks.
  • “Money is divine.”
  • “Money is almighty.”
  • “If you have money you can ask for favours.”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “In the eyes of a lover, Xi Shi appears.”
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Source: Carl Gene Fordham

chinese proverbs


Looking at both these Chinese and English proverbs, it’s obvious how similar these common everyday sayings actually are. What does this mean for divisions between the eastern and western cultures? It means we’re more similar than we may think! So, the next time you think you’re very different from your Chinese or western friend, think about these proverbs and think twice about human nature.