This time, we’ll be looking at common sayings and expressions from Mexico, our culturally rich neighbors to the south. It’s fascinating how many common expressions sound familiar, yet said in a different way. Other expressions are new, and you may have never heard them before.
There’s a lot we can learn from listening to our neighbors in Mexico. For example, we can see that we obviously have much in common. Besides, the wisdom of new expressions can be a refreshing point of perspective and enlightenment.
Over the hundreds of years since the United States began, our cultures touched and influenced each other and continue to do so today. So, please enjoy learning about sayings from Mexico, translated to English. In some cases, there isn’t an exact translation, so we’ve approximated as closely as possible.
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The Missed Opportunity
“Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente.”
“Shrimp that falls asleep, gets carried away by the current.” Used when someone missed an opportunity or wasn’t paying attention to something important, they are, metaphorically speaking, too far away now to benefit from it.
Directly related: “You snooze, you lose.”
Refusing to See
“No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver.”
“There’s no worse kind of blind than the one who doesn’t want to see.”
We all often find people (especially nowadays) living in cognitive dissonance, rejecting truth and facts that might disarm their belief system. That’s what this saying is about.
The Wisdom of Changing Opinion
“Es de sabios cambiar de opinión.”
“Is of wise people to change their opinion.” When presented with enough evidence and truth, it’s wise to adjust your point of view accordingly.
Learning On Your Own
“Nadie escarmienta en cabeza ajena.”
Nobody learns their lesson on someone else’s head.
Most of the time, you have to have your own experiences and failures to learn from them.
On Not Rushing Things
“No por mucho madrugar, amanece más temprano.”
“Just because you get up early, doesn’t mean the dawn will happen earlier.”
Used when someone is rushing to make things happen when it’s too early, whether it is literally early in the day, or early in timing.
On Not Being Greedy
“Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr.”
“Water that you won’t drink, let flow.” Used when someone is showing greed and takes something they don’t really need, and is perhaps taking some else’s chance to benefit from something.
On Having Limitations
“Por eso Dios no le dio alas a los alacranes.”
“That’s why God didn’t give wings to the scorpions.”
Used to point out that maybe is a good thing that someone can’t do something damaging for a lack of means or resources.
On Lasting First Impressions
“Hazte fama y échate a la cama.”
“Create fame and go to bed.”
Used when someone creates a reputation, whether is good or bad, and everyone around them thinks they know what to expect next.
Thus, your reputation precedes you, and your first impression counts (perhaps too much).
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Familiar-Sounding Expressions from Mexico
Below, we have some familiar-sounding expressions from Mexico. Clearly, we have much in common!
“El muerto al pozo, y el vivo al gozo.”
“The dead to the hole, the alive to the pleasures.”
Used to remind people to enjoy life while one can, before we end up in a hole on the ground. Thus, “life is for the living,” as people often say.
“Al mal tiempo, buena cara”.
“To bad weather, a good face.”
When facing inconveniences, keep a good attitude.
“Árbol que crece torcido, jamás su tronco endereza.”
“Tree that grows crooked, will never straighten its trunk.” When repeating a certain pattern of behavior or habits, is hard (if not impossible) to break away from them.
“A caballo regalado, no se le mira el colmillo.”
“If gifted a horse, don’t look at its fang.” Used when someone is complaining about something someone gave them. Apparently, you can determine a horse’s age by looking at its teeth, which would be considered rude if someone is kind enough to give you a horse. It’s always wise to be thankful and move on.
Directly related: “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“Si tienes tejado de vidrio, no tires piedras al de tu vecino.”
“If you have a glass ceiling, don’t throw stones at your neighbor’s.”
Used when someone is gossiping about or criticizing someone when they themselves can be equally held accountable by their own actions and words.
Directly related: “People who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones”.
“De tal palo, tal astilla” and “Hijo de tigre, pintito.”
“Such a splinter from such stick” and “Offspring of a tiger, striped.”
Used when someone shows traits or habits characteristic of their parents.
Directly related: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“A donde fueres, haz lo que vieres.”
“Wherever you go, do as you see.”
When visiting a place, is wise (and fun!) to do what locals do.
Directly related: “When in Rome, do as Romans do.”
“El que no arriesga, no gana.”
“Who doesn’t risk, doesn’t gain.”
Directly related: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“Más vale pájaro en mano que cientos volando.”
“Better to have a bird in your hand than hundreds flying.” Used to warn about losing what you already have to hope to gain something better.
Directly related: “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.”
“Perro que ladra, no muerde.”
“Dog that barks, doesn’t bite.”
Used to point out that threats are rarely carried out.
Directly related: “Barking dogs seldom bite.”
“Querer es poder.”
“‘To want’ equals ‘can do’.”
Directly related: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
“Dios los hace, y ellos se juntan.”
“God creates them, and they get together.”
Directly related: “Birds of a feather, flock together.”
“Mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo.”
“The devil knows not because he’s the devil, but because he’s old.”
Used when someone shows experience, rather than knowledge, which is a lot of the time more valuable.
Related: “This ain’t my [or their] first rodeo.”
“Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho.”
“From saying to acting, there’s a big stretch.”
Used when someone is saying they will do something, especially if it is hard.
Somewhat related: “Actions speak louder than words.”
“A fuerza, ni los zapatos entran.”
By force, even shoes won’t fit. You can’t force anything upon people, apparently, not even shoes.
Somewhat related: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.