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When in Rome, do as the Romans do

刊登日期: 2018.10.12
作者: Grace Tse  

Nowadays, it is more affordable for people of all ages to travel aroung the world. While most of us check out the best places for sightseeing and shopping,few of us spend time on understanding the local people and their culture when abroad. Since badly-behaved tourists may bring embarrassment and disgrace to their own countries, so governments advise their citizens that "when in Rome, do as the Romans do"(入鄉隨俗).

Why does this saying specify “Rome”? Can we say “when in Hong Kong, do as the Hong Kong people do”? Since this is a proverb, the word pattern is fixed. However, because of its popularity, it has a shortened version: When in Rome, we should not boss the hotel staff around. 

Interestingly, the story behind this saying is not related to tourism. It may be traced back to two important saints in the Catholic Church in the 4th century.

When St Augustine(聖奧思定)was young, he moved from Rome to Milan(米蘭)to take up a post as a professor of rhetoric.

He found that the Church did not fast on Saturdays as it did in Rome. Therefore, he sought advice from the Bishop of Milan,  St Ambrose(聖安博). The Bishop said (translated from Latin into English), “When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but here [Milan] I do not.”

It is believed that the modern English version of the proverb did not appear until the Middle Ages.

In modern times, the proverb teaches that it is important for us to respect and follow the customs and rules of the unfamiliar places we visit, such as a foreign country, a new workplace or a new school.

Glossary

Affordable 

負擔得起 

Embarrassment 

尷尬 

Disgrace 

丟臉 

Proverb 

諺語 

Rhetoric 

修辭學 

Respect 

尊重 

Customs 

習俗 

 

 

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