When in Rome – No-nonsense Chinese idioms

If you’ve been to China or Taiwan then you have no doubt entered the toilet only to find a Japanese squat-style toilet awaiting you. Putting aside the quandary of which way to face, the more important question is should you actually try and use it, well, as they say, “when in Rome…”.

入境隨俗 (入境随俗)

Pinyin: rù jìng suí sú
English: When in Rome, do as the Romans do; do as the locals do; follow local customs;

When in Rome

This idiom is quite easy to break down into it’s constituent parts, and translate quite literally as “enter country/territory follow customs”. 入 (rù) being to enter, 境 (jìng) being a territory or within a boundary, 隨 (suí) means to comply, and finally 俗 (sú) is a custom.

Example

Traditional
你去中國的時候,最好入境隨俗 ^^

Simplified
你去中国的时候,最好入境随俗 ^^

Pinyin
nǐ qù zhōngguó de shíhòu, zuìhǎo rùjìngsuísú

English
When you go to China, it’s best to follow the local customs

  • Tommi

    I think this not a correct idiom, an actual idiom with ‘when in rome’ meaning is 入乡随俗 rù xiāng suí sú, quick lookup should clear that.

  • Hey Tommi, 入境隨俗 is the saying used here in Taiwan. Your one looks good too, although I have never heard it over here. From where do you hail? the middle kingdom perhaps?

  • 在中国大陆,一般的人用“入乡随俗”,但是它们两个都代表相同的意思。有的时候中国大陆和台湾的词汇无法统一。

    在中國大陸,一般的人用“入鄉隨俗”, 但是它們兩個都代表相同的意思。有的時候中國大陸和台灣的詞彙無法統一。

    • pan

      Someone once told me that 入境随俗 should be used for when you are in a foreign country, while 入乡随俗 should be used if go to a part of your own country that you are not from. So a Chinese person going to Taiwan would use入境随俗, while a Sichuanese person going to Heilongjiang would use 入乡随俗.
      While this explanation makes sense, in actual practice the two seem to be used interchangeably.