Japanese Proverb: When in Rome…


by Greg Beck

Today’s Topic: 諺 / ことわざ / Proverb
Kanji: 郷に入れば郷に従え
Kana: ごうにいればごうにしたがえ
Translation: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

One of the more commonly used proverbs, you have all probably heard it at one point or another. Whether it flew over your head or not depends on your Japanese ability. Although there are several slight variations on the grammar in this proverb, the message is the same. The word 郷 does not mean “Rome,” but rather “village.” Likewise, 従え does not mean “do,” but rather “abide by.”

While living in Japan, you probably feel more protective of the culture you were raised in, and may even be tempted to try to induct Japanese people around you into your way of doing things. It is important to remember, however, that, like Rome, Japan has over 2000 years of culture and their own way of abiding. So, in order to affect the most positive change, and to share your own culture and just enjoy life in general, you would do well to introduce your culture while obeying the laws of the land. I sincerely hope that this common proverb becomes your modus operandi, rather than the sometime popular saying “gaijin smash.”


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