Knowing the proverbs of a people can help you better understand their shared values and beliefs.

In Haiti, some proverbs permeate the country’s popular culture and are even part of the country’s heritage.

Here is a list of proverbs that originate directly from Haitian culture :

Se rat kay k ap manje kay

Translation : It’s the house’s rat that eats the house

Meaning : When looking for a culprit, he is often around us or near us.

Twou manti pa fon

Translation : The hole of lies isn’t deep

Meaning : You don’t have to look far for the truth to be revealed.

Sa ou fè se li ou wè

Translation : What you do is what you see

Meaning : What we see in our life is the result of our actions.

Moun ki ba ou konsèy achte kabrit nan lapli, se pa li ki ede w pran swen li nan lesèk

Translation : People who advise you to buy goats during the rain are not the ones who will help you feed them during the drought

Meaning : People around you may give you advice, but you are still solely responsible for your actions.

Fòse moun fè sa yo pa vle fè se tankou esye plen lanmè ak wòch

Translation : Forcing people to do what they do not want to do is like trying to fill the ocean with rocks.

Meaning : You can not force people to act against their will.

Kay koule twonpe solèy, men li pa twonpe lapli

Translation : A leaky roof tricks the sun, but it does not deceive the rain.

Meaning : A person’s mistakes will be exposed sooner or later. p>

Kouri lapli, tonbe larivyè

Translation : Running in the rain, falling in the river.

Meaning : By avoiding a certain outcome, sometimes we fall into a worse situation.

Pitit se richès malere

Translation : Children are the wealth of the poor

Meaning : Children bring happiness and comfort to the less fortunate. They are also the future of their families.

Tanbou bat nan raje, men se lakay li vin danse

Translation : The drum is beaten in the grass, but it is at home that it comes to dance

Meaning : Acts that are done outside the home end up having repercussions in the family.

Manman chen pa janm mòde pitit li jous nan zo

Translation : A dog’s mother will never bite her little ones to the bones

Meaning : Even though a mother may sometimes seem strict with her own children, the intention is never to truly hurt them.

Dwèt ou santi ou pa ka koupe l jete

Translation : Even if your fingers stink, you can not cut them to throw them

Meaning : A family member may commit shameful or reprehensible acts. Despite this, we can not get rid of them because the family ties are too strong.

Tete pa janm twò lou pou mèt li

Translation : Breasts are never too heavy for those who have them

Meaning : You must always assume your responsibilities, even if it is difficult.

Konn li pa di lespri pou sa

Translation : Knowing how to read does not mean you have wisdom

Meaning : The level of education of a person is not a proof of intelligence.

Rayi chen, men pa di l fimen tabak

Translation : We can hate the dog, but we can not say that he smokes

Meaning : Even if we may not like someone, we can not accuse him or her of things that he or she wouldn’t be able to do.

Bwa pi wo di li wè lwen, men grenn pwomennen di li wè pi lwen pase l

Translation : The tallest tree says that it sees far, but the seed that travels says that it sees even further

Meaning : Exploring the world gives us more possibilities than staying where we are.

Pa janm koupe dwèt moun k ap ba ou manje

Translation : Never cut off the finger of the one who gives you food

Meaning : We must be grateful to the people who help us.

Bat chen an tann mèt li

Translation : Beat the dog, wait for its master

Meaning : When we harm a defenseless person, we must expect reprisals.

Avan ou monte bwa, gade si ou ka desann li

Translation : Before climbing up a tree, see if you can climb it down.

Meaning : Make sure you know the details before committing to a new project.

Manje kwit pa gen mèt

Translation : Cooked food has no master

Meaning : Food is free to be shared at mealtime.

Bay piti pa chich

Translation : To give little is not that we are stingy

Meaning : It’s not because we give little that we are necessarily stingy or that we have bad intentions.

Sa pòv genyen se li l pote nan mache

Translation : What the poor have is what he brings to the market

Meaning : This saying implies that you should offer what you have to others and also that you should be content with what you have.

Se anvi bay ki bay

Translation : It’s the desire to give that gives

Meaning : We give to others because we want to give and to be generous.

Sa nou bay pòv se Bondye nou prete l

Translation : What we give to the poor, we lend to God

Meaning : A good action will always be rewarded.

Di m kisa ou renmen, ma di ou ki moun ou ye

Translation : Tell me who you love and I’ll tell you who you are

Meaning : The people who you care about can tell a lot about who you are.

Bel dan pa di zanmi

Translation : Beautiful teeth does not mean friend

Meaning : Only because one person smiles on you, that does not mean that he is your friend.

Ti chen gen fos devan kay met li

Translation : A small dog is brave in front of its master’s house

Meaning : A person without power can feel brave in the presence of his superiors.

Sa ki pa touye ou, li angrese ou

Translation : What does not kill you, fattens you

Meaning : Every failure is an opportunity to become stronger.

Se apre batay ou konte blese

Translation : It is after the battle that we count the wounded

Meaning : You have to fight until the end.

Se gou bouyon ki mete lang deyò

Translation : It is the taste of the broth that makes the tongue stick out.

Meaning : Good food leads to good conversations.

Rad sal lave nan fanmi

Translation : Dirty clothes are washed with the family

Meaning : Family issues must be solved within the family.

Vwazinaj se fanmi

Translation : The neighborhood is the family

Meaning : We must consider our neighbors as family.

Se lè koulèv mouri ou wè longèl

Translation : It is when the snake dies that we can see its length

Meaning : It is only when a person admits defeat that can one see his true nature.

Kreyol pale, kreyol komprann

Translation : Speak Creole, understand Creole

Meaning : Do not try to complicate things, go straight to the point.

Bondye bon

Translation : God is good

Meaning : God is good.

Pye chat dous men zong li move

Translation : The paw of a cat is sweet, but its claws are nasty

Meaning : You have to be careful about things that look too good to be true.

Premye so pa so

Translation : The first jump is not a jump

Meaning : A missed first try does not really count, you have to roll up your sleeves and try again.

Pou fe kob la fe mwa a, lave li, bwe dlo li

Translation : To make money last a month, we wash it, then drink its water

Meaning : When we run out of money, we have to find ways to stretch it as best we can.

Lespwa fe viv

Translation : Hope is alive

Meaning : Hope itself gives us hope to continue.

Machandiz ofri pa gen pri

Translation : Offered merchandise has no price

Meaning : Everything is negotiable.

Mande chemen pa di pèdi pou sa

Translation : Asking one’s way does not mean one is lost

Meaning : It is not shameful to ask for advice.

Nen pran kou; je kouri dlo

Translation : The nose takes a hit; the eyes fill with water

Meaning : When a disaster hits a family member, the rest of the family will also suffer.

Pitit tig, se tig

Translation : A baby tiger is a tiger.

Meaning : We can not deny the nature of a person.

Ravet pa janm gen rezon douvan poul

Translation : A cockroach is never right in front of a chicken

Meaning : The strongest side will always win.

Se bon kè krapo ki fe l san tet

Translation : It’s the good heart of the toad that made him foolish

Meaning : If you’re too kind, people will take advantage of you.

Se sou chemiz blanch yo wè tach

Translation : It is on the white shirt that we see the stain

Meaning : Those who are the most seen by the public are often the ones most susceptible to scandals.

Se tè ki bat ki bwe lapli

Translation : It’s the clay that drinks the rain

Meaning : We must prepare ourselves for the opportunities.

Si bèf te konn fòs yo, majoral pa ta lanse yo

Translation : If the cows knew their strength, they would not be butchered

Meaning : Some people are stronger than they think.

Tout kod gen de bout

Translation : Every rope has two ends

Meaning : Each debate has two sides.

Tout sa ki klere pa lò

Translation : All that glitters is not gold

Meaning : Appearances can be deceiving.

Wè sa m fè; pa fè sa m fè

Translation : Look at what I’m doing; don’t do what I’m doing

Meaning : Do what I say, not what I do.

Zwazo pose sou tout branch

Translation : Birds land on all branches

Meaning : Everyone will have his turn.

Devan pòt tounen dèyè kay

Translation : The front door becomes the back of the house

Meaning : Things can change and the situation can be reversed.

Bèf plizye met mouri grangou

Translation : A cow who has several masters will starve

Meaning : If no one takes responsibility, nothing will be done.

Chen grangou pa kouche

Translation : The hungry dog does not go to bed

Meaning : Hunger gives us the energy to continue.

Pito ou travay pase ou mande

Translation : It’s better to work than to beg

Meaning : Doing any job is better than begging.

Sa foumi genyen, se sa l bay pitit li

Translation : What an ant has, it’s what she will give to her child

Meaning : A mother gives what she can to her child.

Sòt pa touye, men li fè ou swe

Translation : Stupidity doesn’t kill, but it makes us sweat

Meaning : If things go wrong the first time, you will have to try again until it works.

Fòk ou bat tanbou a pou tande son l

Translation : You have to beat the drums to hear its sound

Meaning : We have to talk to others to find out who they are.

Byen san swe pa profite

Translation : You won’t benefit from the goods without sweat

Meaning : We appreciate less the things for which we have not made an effort.

Larivyè anpeche ou janbe men li pa anpeche ou tounen

Translation : The river may prevent you from crossing, but nothing prevents you from turning around

Meaning : It is always possible to give up.

Si ou renmen gren andan, ou dwe renmen po a tou

Translation : If you like the nut, you must love its shell too

Meaning : Do not complain when you work to get what you want.

Fok ou mache pou ou wè kote lari a kwen

Translation : You have to walk to see where is the corner of the street

Meaning : You must dare to venture to see what life can bring you.

Bèf pa janm bouke pote kon li

Translation : A cow never grow tired of its horns

Meaning : We can not get tired of what belongs to us.

Se lè ou nan bezwen, ou konn ki moun ki zanmi ou

Translation : When we are in need we know who our friends are /p>

Meaning : A true friend will always be ready to support you in the most difficult times.

Achte, peye; prete, remèt. Men sa ki fè yon nonm

Translation : Buy, pay; lend, give back. That’s what makes a man

Meaning : We must be honest with others.

Ou konn kouri, ou pa konn kache

Translation : You know how to run, but you do not know how to hide

Meaning : A guilty person will be caught sooner or later.

Ane pa touye ou, se pa jou kap touye ou

Translation : A year does not kill you, it’s not a day that will kill you

Meaning : We must remain patient.

« Bonjou » se paspo ou

Translation : “Hello” is your passport

Meaning : This saying talks about the importance of politeness and greeting people we meet.

Met do pa grate do

Translation : The back does not scratch its own back

Meaning : You can not always do everything yourself and you can ask others for help with these things.

Bourik chaje pa kanpe

Translation : A loaded donkey does not stand up and do nothing

Meaning : A busy person is not going to be lazy and do nothing, he will keep himself busy with work!

Byen prè pa lakay

Translation : Nearby is not the house

Meaning : Being “almost there” is not as good as being there for real.

Chita pa bay

Translation : Sitting down brings you nothing

Meaning : Sitting down waiting doesn’t lead to anything productive.

Piti piti zwazo fè nich li

Translation : Little by little, the bird makes its nest

Meaning : With time everything is possible.

Bwè dlo nan vè, respekte vè

Translation : Drink water in a glass, respect the glass

Meaning : We must respect those who helped us.

Moun ki kenbe kiye bwa se li ki konnen si li cho

Translation : Whoever holds the wooden spoon is the one who knows if it is hot

Meaning : The opinion of a person who has experience in the field counts more than the opinion of those who have not experienced similar experiences.

Gason konn bouke, men pa fanm

Translation : Men experience fatigue, but not women

Meaning : Women work hard.

Malere pa dezonè

Translation : Poverty is not shameful

Meaning : Poverty is one thing, but what’s more important is the strength of a person’s actions and willpower.

Santi bon koute chè

Translation : Smelling good is expensive

Meaning : Standing out with a nice style is expensive.

Ou vle tout, ou pèdi tout

Translation : You want everything, you lose everything

Meaning : In trying to have everything, you will have nothing.

Pa janm mete chat veye bè

Translation : Never put the cat responsible for monitoring the butter

Meaning : You shouldn’t ask someone to watch over something they want.

Pal franse pa di lespri pou sa

Translation : To speak French does not mean that you have wisdom

Meaning : In Haiti, speaking French is a sign of education and some Haitians will sometimes judge people whenever they speak french. The proverb evokes that it is not because a person is school educated that he is necessarily intelligent.

Sel pa vante tet li di li sale

Translation : Salt does not boast that it is salty

Meaning : Be humble. If you deserve praises, let others do it for you.

Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou

Translation : Remember that it’s rain that makes your corn grow

Meaning : We must have gratitude for what took us where we are now.