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60 Ancient African Proverbs And Wisdom That Will Get Every Expat Thinking About Life

60 Ancient African Proverbs And Wisdom That Will Get Every Expat Thinking About Life

Words of my African ancestors are full of wisdom. 

In Africa, a child learns and gets wisdom about life by frequently sitting beside older people.

In Africa, a proverb is a subtle means of expression and it is widely believed that a wise-elderly person uses a variety of them to communicate with his/her kinsmen. 

In ancient Africa (even nowadays) knowledge was not always transmitted via written mediums.

There has always been a widespread culture of openness to help young people and fools with a timely release of wisdom nuggets, also known as proverbs.

The first mention of the African sayings sounded in ancient times. 

Long ago, in the 5th century B.C., the Greek historian Herodotus said that people who live in Africa are wise people.

This is because of their magnificent manners and speech. 

Herodotus believed that the gods preserved Africans. 

Still, then, African wise men created eloquent expressions that inspired people on feats.

Since that time, these phrases have been traveling all over the world. 

There are also absolutely new quotes which have been thought up by modern African figures, such as Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, and Patrice Lumumba, just to name the few.

The proverbs I’d like to share with you in this post carry a high dose of wisdom collected by Africans throughout different centuries. 

Many of them are still applicable to our modern life and are not outdated at all. 

What can an expatriate-to-be or a veteran expat learn about life from these words of wisdom from the motherland?

The words of wisdom I’m sharing here are just a few of my favorite African proverbs that I always keep with me wherever I go and in whatever city I have chosen to settle. 


Let’s get started:

1. “Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet”.

2. “Wisdom does not come overnight”.

3. “Pretend you are dead and you will see who really loves you”.

4. “A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.” 

5. “Quarrels end, but words once spoken never die”.

6. “Do not tell the man who is carrying you that he stinks”.

7. “Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off”.

8. “Always being in a hurry does not prevent death, neither does going slowly prevent living.”  

9. “The man who counts the bits of food he swallows is never satisfied.” 

10. “When a needle falls into a deep well, many people will look into the well, but few will be ready to go down after it”.


11. “Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth”.

12. “Not to know is bad. Not to wish to know is worse”.

13. “A person, who earns calamity, eats it with his family”. 

14. “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled”. 

15. “Money is not the medicine against death”.

16. “War has no eyes”.

17. “You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty”. 

18. “A large chair does not make a king”. 

19. The mouth is stupid after eating it forgets who gave it the food. 

20. “Those who are destined for power have to fight for it”.

21. “An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep”. 

22. “Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives them meat”.

23. You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down. 

24. “You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla”. 

25. “Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully”. 

26. “The man who refuses to obey cannot command”. 

27. It takes a village to raise a child. 

28. “A bad child is who does not take advice”. 

29. “There is no medicine to cure hatred”. 

30. “You must judge a man by the work of his hands”. 


31. “You can tell a ripe corn by its look”. 

32. “When you are rich, you are hated; when you are poor, you are despised”. 

33. “A wise man who knows proverbs, reconciles difficulties”. 

34. “Make some money but don’t let money make you.” 

35. “What you give you get, ten times over.” 

36. “A man’s grave is by the roadside”. 

37. “Rain beats a leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots”. 

38. “When the fool is told a proverb, its meaning has to be explained to him”. 

39. “Money is sharper than a sword”. 

40. “He that digs up a grave for his enemy may be digging it for himself”.


41. “The mouth which eats does not talk”. 

42. “Two small antelopes can beat a big one”. 

43. “I am because we are”. 

44. “Even though the old man is strong and hearty, he will not live forever”. 

45. “By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed”. 

46. “Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him”. 

47. “Life is like a shadow and a mist; it passes quickly by, and is no more”. 

48. “He who does not know one thing knows another”. 

49. “A man who pays respect to the great paves the way for his own greatness”. 

50. “A roaring lion kills no game.”


51. “If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom.” 

52. “He who learns teaches.” 

53. “Traveling is learning.”  

54. “If you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains as is.”  

55.  “Every woman is beautiful until she speaks.” 

56. “One cannot count on riches.” 

57. “When an old man dies, it is a whole library which burns.” 

58. “Give advice. If people don’t listen, let adversity teach them”

59. “Pearls don't lie on the seashore - if you want one, you must dive for it”

60. “A Wiseman never knows all. Only fools know everything.”


What are your favorite African proverbs? 

Please share them with us down in the comments.


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Last modified onFriday, 05 January 2018 20:52
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