Grass Always Greener Other Side Fence Essay

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:

Hi Lisa,

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!

Mama Lisa


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

This has been a topic of discussion that some of us at the Time to Play Foundation have been thinking and talking a lot about this over the past week.

This proverb has been around and passed down from generation to generation.  I talk about the wisdom of those who came before us in our book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now.  These idioms and proverbs interest me greatly.

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side … Think about this for a moment.  Do you or someone you know always think they would be so much happier in a different life situation?

I believe this philosophy is actually dangerous to a certain extent.  Why?  Because each time you run toward something while running away from something, it may surely lead to becoming disappointment.

I actually tried to do this in the year 2004 when I decided that moving our family to Florida would be a solution, would give me peace (after all, life is hard, you know?) and a new way to start over. I was looking for “easier”.  Thankfully my husband is the voice of reason.  Moving, he said, would not solve anything, and that once the “honeymoon period” was over I would find life the same as before we would have moved.  We didn’t go, which did force me to reevaluate my life situation, evaluate potential options, and make changes that were more reasonable.

I believe we could apply this “running away from” theme to anything and everything in our life experience, relationship or job.  But, guess what?  The circumstance surrounding the concept of “it will be better when” does not necessarily provide a solution, and, sometimes potentially, can create more problems.

In many cases, the issue you are running from will follow you, because, perhaps, they start inside you.

The most important thing we can do is find peace and happiness in ourselves.  This is something we’ve been researching and working on, too (see PREinvent YOUR Life® article and survey for more info).  At this point in my life, I do not believe that there is anything tangible in this world that can fill a void inside of us:  not another person, not a new car, not a new home.  If there is unrest and despair in our hearts, we have to evaluate why and what we can do to start to heal.

I found an article that included this quote that I thought most appropriate here:  Buddha once said that the way to happiness is actually quite simple; the secret is to learn to want what you have and not want what you don’t have.  Again, I believe the secret to peace and happiness is in ourselves.

Robert Fulghum wrote, “The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are.”

Nurturing ourselves is where we may have to start.  Take a moment today to stop and look deep inside.

We know what we need.

We sometimes just have to take the time to listen, evaluate our best options, stop reliving the past that keeps us “a prisoner” (chapter two of my book, “We are all tortured souls”), and move forward towards what we need to do so we can enjoy life.

After all, I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy life.

It is time to play…

Love, Doreen

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Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC is a board certified healthcare executive, a certified professional life coach, the founder of the Time to Play Foundation, a 501c3 not for profit corporation inspiring everyone to enjoy life and author of If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Our Quest for Quality of Life.  The concept behind time to Play and the Time to Play Foundation was absolutely created out of LOVE. Please see for more information.


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