On a date with Russian proverbs

On a date with Russian proverbs
25 September 2017

Here we go again with some nice figures of speech translated from Russian into English. This time we’re doing it in a slightly different way! This topic is all about a conversation with your colleague or friend at a restaurant, exchanging funny phrases which are fitting to the current situation. Every phrase can be used by yourself or during a conversation with your friends from Russia.

Let’s start at the beginning, from the first moment you see you friend or colleague.

For the lazy one

‘How was work?’ ‘I don’t know. I haven’t even been there today.’  ‘кто не работает, тот не ест!’  Translated into English: He who doesn’t work, doesn’t have the right eat! The phrase is about someone that is lazy and even for Russian beginners it should be easy to understand. A proverb along these lines first occurs in the bible from apostle Paulus. Later, in 1918, it was even used by the Russian government in their constitution. It said that the Russian federation (RSFSR) doesn’t accept anyone who doesn’t work because it is the duty of every citizen. Later on it got changed by the USSR into: ‘each according to his ability, each according to his work’, which is quite similar to the speech we are used to today.

Have your own opinion

When it comes to ordering food, you may sometimes disagree with the person that you’re eating with; you can say to them:  ‘На вкус и на цвет товарищей нет!’  – translated word for word this means: ‘On taste and on colour there is no partner.’ In other words, it means that everybody has a different taste.

Not hungry or just trying to stay in shape?

So, you are both now happy with your decision and have ordered your meals – maybe you’ve come to an agreement, maybe not. Suddenly the person you’re eating with says that they’re not even that hungry.  ‘Аппетит приходит во время еды’  – perfectly fits that situation. Translated into English it means, that hunger comes when you eat. The first documented use of this phrase was in the roman ‘Gargantua Pantagruel’ by Francois Rabelais in the year 1533. It is similar to the quote; ‘thirst comes with drinking’.

Eat less, diet more

Your food is served and you’re ready to eat because you haven’t had anything all day. But what do you say when your partner complains about the size of their meal? Do not worry, because with:  ‘Лучше меньше, да лучше’  – you’re well advised. If you translate this into English, it means ‘less is more’ or ‘better less and good, than more and bad’. Fun fact: This phrase is also in the last article of the Russian constitution, written by Lenin, in the year 1923.

Raise your glasses!

After you’ve finished your meal, you may have time for one or two vodka shots (maybe more; depends on you and your drinking skills).  ‘Делу время, потехе час’  – means that there are times for work and there are times for play. This phrase was invented by Alexej Michailowitsch Romanov who was a Russian tsar. Fun fact: The Russian word час means both hour and time.

Time to pay

You’ve both finished the night because you have to get up early and have already had enough shots to sleep very well. Now it all comes down to the bill and your dinner companion just says ‘thank you’ because he thinks that you’re going to pay for everything. Of course, the Russian language offers a fitting phrase in response to this situation.  ‘Спасибо в карман не положишь’ . Translated into it means English: ‘Thank you’, doesn’t fill my pockets.’

There will be, of course, some other situations where you’ll be able to use these figures of speech and you’re definitely right when you think they’ll be more blog posts like this to follow. Until that day, try out some of these quotes and impress your Russian colleagues!


Posted by Philip Forstinger

Hello! I'm Philip, the new Austrian intern of Liden & Denz. The next few weeks I'll provide you some cool facts about Saint Petersburg and Russia itself. I hope you'll enjoy my blogs.

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