Ayako Egawa wrote to me from Japan about the proverb, “The Grass is always greener on the other side.” The proverb means that people always think that others have it better in life, even if it’s not the case. Interestingly, Ayako said that this proverb also exists in Japan. Here’s what she wrote:
I found that someone wrote a proverb on the wall [on Facebook], “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.
I’m surprised that we Japanese have the same proverb with almost the same words or expression, "隣の芝は青い".
It means people always think they would be happier in a different set of circumstances. (Usually it implies that the other circumstances really are not any better.)
I think that many proverbs are common across the world, but even if they have the same meaning, they are sometimes used with different expressions or words in each country.
But this proverb is exactly the same in English and Japanese!
So, if you are interested in it and have time, would you ask your friends on Facebook if this proverb is common in other countries, too?
It would be interesting to know how people say this proverb!
Thanks in advance.
What is interesting is that this specific proverb originally comes from an American song called, “The Grass is always Greener in the other Fellow’s Yard” by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting (published in 1924). Here’s the chorus:
The grass is always greener
In the other fellow’s yard.
The little row
We have to hoe,
Oh boy that’s hard.
But if we all could wear
Green glasses now,
It wouldn’t be so hard
To see how green the grass is
In our own back yard.
The idea behind the “The grass is always greener” goes back to the poet Ovid (43 BC – 17 or 18 AD). In his “Art of Love” he wrote, “The harvest is always richer in another man’s field”. There are other proverbs with the same sentiment: “The apples on the other side of the wall are the sweetest”, “Our neighbor’s hen seems a goose”, and “Your pot broken seems better than my whole one”. These all have the idea of others having it better off, even if it’s not true.
We’d love to learn about other proverbs from around the world similar to “The Grass is Always Greener”, and also if the same proverb exists elsewhere. Please share your versions, with translations if possible, in the comments below.
Thanks in advance!
Proverbs: A Handbook (2004) by Wolfgang Mieder
A book of quotations, proverbs and household words (1907) by Sir William Gurney Benham
Dictionary of Proverbs (2006) by George Latimer Apperson, M. Manser
Verbivore’s Feast: Second Course: More Word & Phrase Origins (2006) by Chrysti M. Smith
It always looks better. The other side, the grass on the other side. Not just the grass, also the neighbor’s wife, your friend’s sports car, your boss’s apartment, your colleague’s job and how ever many examples you want to hear.
So many people are not entirely satisfied with what they have. They think that all the above examples would be a better way to live their lives. What they don’t realize, is that often they already have so many perfect things in their lives (their friends, partner or spouse, job). The sad part is that is usually takes losing or nearly losing what they have in order for them to realize how much it means to them (and how happy they were with what they had).
We All Take Things For Granted
Freedom, health, food in the fridge, love and friendships – these are all among the things that we take for granted simply because they have been in our lives every day. The more frequent they appear in our lives, the more we grow a certain expectation for them to stick around forever.
We all take so much for granted. It takes a lot of emotional stability to be content with what you have. To be able to resist the temptation of thinking that other people have it better. When that perfect woman comes along who gives you butterflies in your stomach and makes your world swirl, that you can say “No thanks, I’m married”.
It’s not just us people who have this issue. I see it with cows all the time. They have a perfectly big field full of green grass, yet the always venture to the end of their field and stick their head through the barb-wire fence just to be able to get a bite of that forbidden grass on the other side (that may just look so much tastier).
You Don’t Realize What You Have Until It’s [Nearly] Gone
A personal example is the fact that I hated going to the gym when I was younger. I wanted to do it because I liked being in shape, but I really, really disliked lifting weights. It was just so much effort. Then, a few months before I would turn 18 and get a car to drive around in, I crashed my motor bike head-on into some dumb tourist who u-turned in front of me. The bike was a total write-off. I hit him on the bonnet of his car and flew over my handlebars at 80km/h (55 mph). I landed with my entire weight perfectly on my shoulder and this cause the bone to shatter and the tendons to tear off. (It sounds gross and painful but I didn’t feel a thing, I just could not move my shoulder at all, zero control over it).
Initially doctors actually told me I may never be able to use my arm again and will never be able to lift it with my own strength. Luckily I had one of the best shoulder surgeons in the country who was in my town, and with an operation and 6 weeks of wearing a brace, I slowly got the use back of my arm and shoulder. A year later it was as good as new. Now I am so thankful that I can lift things, pick up weights, go to the gym.
“Sometimes the dream and the desire for something are much more appealing than actually getting the thing that you think you want.”
A sports car, bank balance or supermodel girlfriend may be what you think will make you happy, but when you get it, you may feel empty and unsatisfied. The deception with seeing things that you think will make you happy is the fact that you only see the good side of those things. Once you have them, you will see it without the rose-colored glasses and experience the lesser or bad side of it as well and this may leave you thinking that it was better when it was just a dream.
The Key to A Happy Life
I think the key to a happy life is being content with who you are and where you are right now. Life is an awesome journey. That is not to say that you should settle for average or a life you are not happy with. You can and should work hard to where you want to be, to achieve your goals and dreams, but don’t wish away the present moment for some future happiness that you think you will achieve by copying someone else’s lifestyle. That is the recipe for waking up one day when you are 40 years old and realizing that you spent your life chasing happiness, while you had the means to be happy all along.
Everyone always wishes for something they don’t have. Maybe you want to be like someone else in certain ways, maybe you want to live someone else’s life because you think yours sucks. Truth is, you may not have an easy life, but it is your life. You are not in control of the cards you were dealt when you were born (your parents, your city, your country, your skin color, your religion and so forth). What you are in control of is what you do with those cards that you were dealt. The rest of your life is what you make of it. If things are hard and you take a victim mentality (moaning and complaining about how hard you have it), then chances are pretty good that your life will not magically get better and you will live a very mediocre life at best.
“It’s not an easy life, but it’s MY LIFE”
It is your life, your adventure. It is a gift. If you are lucky enough to have your freedom and your health, then I believe that anything is possible. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Just remember that what you dream of may not give you what you want from it (happiness, pleasure or love). If you are lucky, then what you dream of will give you exactly what you want. Just think about the real reason of your dreams and desires. Do you want something because your neighbor has it and it seems as if that thing is responsible for his happiness? Or do you want it because you’re really crazy and passionate about it? Choose the latter.
You don’t want to be that person who slaves away for years to make millions of dollars (so you can have a mansion, fast sports cars and jets to travel the world) while all you really want is someone who loves you and friends that care about you. That same someone and those same friends that you gave up because you were chasing the dollar signs because you thought that it would make you happy.
So next time you think someone has it better than you, just stop and think about how others may think you have it better than them. The grass on your side may just be greener.
|Written on 1/06/2010 by Diggy. Diggy writes all about self improvement at his blog UpgradeReality. If you enjoyed this post you can subscribe to his RSS Feed and never miss a new UpgradeReality post.||Photo Credit: urbanlegend|
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