Korean saying: Monkeys Falling from Trees

Nationality: Korean
Primary Language: Korean
Age: 50
Occupation: Country Branch Manager
Residence: Seoul, South Korea
Performance Date: 16 February 2024

Tags: monkeys, trees, falling, humility, Korean, proverb, saying


“원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다.”

Literal: ‘A monkey can fall from a tree.’

Meaning: ‘Everyone, even experts, can make mistakes, so you have to be humble and careful in whatever you are doing.’


R is a born and raised South Korean. This is one of the sayings R taught me when growing up in Korea, along with a plethora of other proverbs and lessons. Apparently he had heard it from his father before him and so on, and it’s a pretty common Korean saying. The first time R said this to me was when I had a clarinet concert coming up and was feeling a bit overconfident due to the apparent ease of the music, in which R said this to make me feel calm and make sure I still practiced caution.


Korean culture puts humility and the importance of being modest in very high regard, to the point where boasting about one’s abilities and accepting compliments is seen as rude in most social settings. I find it interesting how monkeys are the first animals to be brought to mind within the context of this saying, as monkeys aren’t often synonymous to Korean culture. Obviously we have monkeys in Korea, but they aren’t brought up as much compared to other Asian countries and such.