Imagine a certain Bob from Somethingistan whose native culture forbids wearing hats. Now Bob immigrates to Somelandia where it is perfectly normal to wear hats. However, not only does Bob not wear hats, but he also publicly preaches that wearing hats is wrong and even abuses locals for just wearing hats.

How can Bob's behavior be described in English?

There is this Russian saying: со своим уставом в чужой монастырь не ходят, which can be literally translated as "Do not bring your rules into others' monastery". Anything similar in English?

  • 2
    The title of your question is not equivalent to 'How can Bob's behavior be described in English?' Which question do you want answered?
    – pazzo
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:42
  • One might describe Bob's behavior as being overzealous
    – Jim
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:54
  • @CarSmack: Both? :) Dec 17, 2014 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'.

Wiktionary attributes this to Saint Ambrose.

I'm sure he wasn't encouraging the imitation of any dubious behaviour.

I think I prefer the sound of the Russian version.

  • Isn't the idea of the question that a person is in Rome and being very un-Roman? This phrase seems to excuse someone doing something out of the ordinary by their own standards but completely acceptable given Rome. I've never heard it used to get someone to fall in line.
    – tylerharms
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:02
  • 1
    Exactly. I don't think we have any closely-related expression that sees it the other way around (When in Rome don't act like you do at home). The nearest I can think of is "Check your prejudices at the door". Dec 17, 2014 at 18:03
  • It means, since you are in Rome, behave as a Roman, @tylerharms you can search for its meaning.
    – pazzo
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:36
  • @CarSmack I get that. But saying "When in Rome.." is more to encourage behavior than discourage a very specific, ignorant behavior.
    – tylerharms
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:49
  • 1
    Native speakers of English use the phrase to mean, since you are in Rome, behave this particular way, which as a corollary means don't behave this other way. @tylerharms
    – pazzo
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:55

According to Dictionary.com, one definition of provincialism is the following:

narrowness of mind, ignorance, or the like, considered as resulting from lack of exposure to cultural or intellectual activity.

It is commonly used to describe the narrow-minded attitude or behavior of someone who ignorantly believes that everyone else in the world should behave according to the norms of his or her culture, as in your example where Bob believes everyone should hold the non-hat-wearing values of Somethingistan.

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