Chinese four character idiom 入乡随俗 (Rù xiāng suí sú)

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”

Occasionally there is a Chinese phrase which translates very neatly into English through an equivalent phrase, this is one of those cases, you already know what “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” (or just “when in Rome” for short!) This is how you say that in Mandarin Chinese.

Like most four character phrases, this one has a historical background, and like most of them, it is pretty humourous:

In ancient times there were two brothers, they wanted to go to a certain village in China to do business, upon arrival, they discovered that the natives were all naked! The people in this village preferred to be naked. The one brother said to the other 入乡随俗(Rù xiāng suí sú) (we are entering into this village, we should ‘Do as the Romans do'” and he decided to take of his clothes in order to properly adhere to their customs, his brother didn’t want to. Consequently, the brother who “did as the Romans do” managed to successfully do business while his brother was kicked out.

Here are the components of this phrase:

入 (Rù) – “to enter” (进入 Jìnrù)
乡(Xiāng)–“village or town”(乡村Xiāngcūn)
随 (Suí) – “to follow” (跟随 Gēnsuí)
俗 (Sú) – “custom” (风俗 Fēngsú)

In other words, “when entering a village, follow their customs”

Here are some examples of this in natural use:

外国人都是用盘子来吃饭,你就入乡随俗吧 (Wàiguó rén dōu shì yòng pánzi lái chīfàn, nǐ jiù rùxiāngsuísú ba) “Foreigners all use plates to eat, when in Rome, do as the Romans do”

我们到一个国家就应该入乡随俗 (Wǒmen dào yīgè guójiā jiù yīnggāi rùxiāngsuísú) “When we arrive in a foreign country we ought to ‘do as the Romans do’”

Enjoy using chopsticks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Chinese Poem: 咏鹅 yǒng é Singing Goose

咏鹅 yǒng é is a classical Chinese poem written by 骆宾王 luò bīn wáng during the Tang dynasty. 鹅,鹅,鹅,曲项向天歌。 白毛浮绿水,红掌拨清波。 É, é, é, qū xiàng xiàng tiān gē. Bái máo fú lǜ shuǐ, hóng zhǎng bō qīng bō. Here’s my English translation:...

Shawn Powrie
14 sec read


Chinese Poem: 早发白帝城 (Zǎo fā bái dì chéng)

Here’s another Chinese poem I’ve recently memorised, named 早发白帝城 (Zǎo fā bái dì chéng) by 李白 (Lǐbái) :   朝辞白帝彩云间, 千里江陵一日还, 两岸猿声啼不住, 轻舟已过万重山. Zhāo cí bái dì cǎiyún jiān, qiānlǐ jiānglíng yí rì huán, Liǎng’àn yuán shēng tí bú zhù, qīngzhōu...

Shawn Powrie
1 min read