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In Persian we have a saying "صورت را با سیلی سرخ نگه داشتن" which literally translates to:

To keep one's face red(warm) with slap

It's used in a situation in which a person, if poor or unfortunate, tries to uphold his/her outward appearance in a good way in order that others won't notice his/her (financial) issues.

For example: Assume you see your close friend after some time and you realize he is wearing a nice perfume and has put on some flashy clothes. Here is the conversation:

Alice: Wow Bob! You're looking great. Your new job must have paid off!

Bob: Thanks but not really, I'm just keeping my face red with slap.

This suggests that although Bob has financial issues, he tries to maintain his appearance so that others wouldn't notice and his honor would be kept.

I tried searching for an English equivalent but nothing came up. Is there a similar idiom/expression to describe this situation in English?

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Put a brave face/front on somethingTFD

to behave in a way that makes people think you are happy when you are not

"They've had some bad luck, but they've put a brave face on their problems."
"She's very ill but she's putting a brave front on it. (= making people believe her illness does not worry her)"

Keep up appearancesTFD

to make things look all right whether they are or not.

"We must keep up appearances even if it means little sacrifices here and there."
"Things may be unpleasant, but we will keep up appearances."

Keep (one's) chin upTFD

To be stalwart, courageous, or optimistic in the face of difficulty.

" Just keep your chin up and tell the judge exactly what happened."

Keep one's coolTFD

to be calm despite danger or difficulty; keep your head

"Somehow I kept my cool even though Seldon's remarks were unfair and made me angry."

Keep your headTFD

to be calm despite danger or difficulty

" She was very angry. We had to calm her down and encourage her to keep her head."
"Always try to keep your head when others are panicking."

Keep one’s head rightTFD

tv. to maintain control of oneself.

"Chill, man, chill. You’ve got to keep your head right."

Live in genteel povertyODO

trying to keep the style of a high social class, but with little money

genteel — (of people and their way of life) quiet and polite, often in an exaggerated way; from, or pretending to be from, a high social class

  • Please let me know if any of these suggestions are bad. – NVZ May 25 '16 at 11:38
  • 1
    Thanks @NVZ, those are great suggestions. I particularly liked Put a brave face/front on something and Keep up appearances. The former was closer to what I had in mind. – Sobhan May 26 '16 at 11:42

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