I am looking for a derogatory proverb including a negative approach toward social associations that conveys the meassage that it would be better to stay away from most of the people! Because many of them are going to inflict you damage. The proverb in my question should indicate that to be on he safe side you'd better treat others (regardless of how much they are close to you) warmly and in a diplomatic way, but do not socialize with them to a large extent.

I think one of the following possibly current proverbs can work in this sense, though I have my doubts:

The concept in my question may sound a bit weird in English, but it comes from a deep cultural belief combined with a poetic and extremely emotional pain from the bad effects and influences of human today to his own kind.

Please kindly let me know if any of these phrases work in English or if you have any further suggestions to what I might use.


2 Answers 2


The first four proverbs are similar and can apply to the situation.

The last one isn't relevant, as your link says

Absence makes the heart grow fonder
When people we love are not with us, we love them even more.

I venture some more:

A still tongue makes a wise head.

A man is known by the company he keeps.

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

But my favourite for the situation you mention is

If you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.

  • Great offer @Weather Vane, but I wonder if it is understood by all Americans in the sense in my question.
    – A-friend
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 4:05

The closest I can think of off hand to the sort of feeling it sounds like you're going for is:

Good fences make good neighbors.

It implies fairly strongly that the speaker believes that the best way to get along with other people is to not be too close to them, but also that it's important to try to maintain good relations with those around you. It's usually not meant as much about being hurt by people as just avoiding disagreements, etc., though.

"Familiarity breeds contempt" might work, though it tends to imply more a feeling of "the more I get to know people the more I dislike them", instead of "I keep my distance to protect myself".

"Men are best loved furthest off" is not one I've ever personally heard, and some quick Google searches show it mostly popping up in other-language sites, so I suspect it isn't generally a known proverb in English. In any case, on the face of it, it sounds to me like it might have more to do with romantic relationships than general association with the rest of society.

"Respect is greater from a distance", I think, implies more that somebody is isolating themselves so that other people will have a better opinion of them (i.e. "they wouldn't like me so much if they actually knew me"), but depending on your particular case (and how it's said) might be made to work as well..

As Weather Vane mentioned, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is, I think, not really what you're looking for, as it implies a substantial fondness for someone (usually a particular someone), which only grows stronger the longer they are away.

  • But @Foogod, non of them seem to be my intended answer! I need to imply: "you'd better just diplomatically show respect others from afar (greetings etc.) and not socialize with them at all; otherwise they may hurt you or inflict you damage. So stay away from people and that's the only think you'd better to do to be on the safe side.
    – A-friend
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 5:58
  • Unfortunately, I'm just not sure there really is a proverb that says that in English, or at least I can't think of any.. (It seems like that it might be hard to find one in most languages, actually, since if somebody's that dead-set against associating with other people, then it seems like they wouldn't really have anybody they wanted to quote proverbs to about their views on life, so there wouldn't be any way for a proverb like that to get started..?)
    – Foogod
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 1:42

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