Raise Your Glass and Say “Cheers!” in 18 Different Languages
No matter where we go, the gesture of raising a glass and proclaiming “cheers!” to all assembled is globally recognized.
And while the gesture and sentiment are pretty universal, there are definitely cultural differences in this age-old tradition.
Experiencing the local food and drink, and being social are an integral part of world travel. It’s natural to want to take part in these authentic interactions, wherever you are.
So, let’s fill up those glasses and learn how to raise them like the locals do!
- The Origins of Toasting
- Modern Drinking Etiquette Around the World
- Afrikaans: Gesondheid
- Chinese: 干杯 (Gān bēi)
- Czech: Na Zdraví
- Danish: Skål
- Dutch: Proost
- Finnish: Kippis
- French: À Votre Santé
- German: Prost
- Hebrew: לחיים (L’chaim)
- Italian: Salute
- Japanese: 乾杯 (かんぱい, Kampai)
- Korean: 건배 (Geonbae)
- Polish: Na Zdrowie
- Portuguese: Saúde
- Russian: За Здоровье (Za Zdorovie)
- Spanish: Salud
- Thai: โชคดี (Chok Dee)
- Vietnamese Một, hai, ba, vô
The Origins of Toasting
There are plenty of stories about the origins of toasting, but not all of them are correct. They do, however, make for fun reading, so let’s check out a couple.
Many believe the toast originated to determine whether the glass of liquid refreshment you’ve been given was poisoned. The method was to touch your glass to the host’s glass hard enough to slosh some liquid from glass to glass. The idea that both glasses would then be tainted would probably keep a host from poisoning his or her guests.
Great theory, but there’s no substantial evidence to prove this.
World traditions differ, and despite time and place, toasting stories show up throughout history.
In ancient Rome, toasting to the well-being and continued health of the Emperor was mandated by the senate. Emperor Augustus lived to a ripe old age, so maybe all of those good wishes worked in his favor!
Shakespeare’s classic “Merry Wives of Windsor” includes a toast—literally! During this epic drama, a piece of toast is put into a drink before the glass is raised.
Some old superstitious stories also still circulate. They certainly add some fun and laughter to a celebration—and that’s the point of celebrating, isn’t it?
We’re supposed to be having fun!
One of my favorite stories involves the belief that touching glasses together in a toast and making that glass-on-glass noise is done to chase away demons, bad spirits and any other malevolent entities that might be lurking nearby.
If you’ve spent some time in Italy or Spain, you may have heard this one, too!
Modern Drinking Etiquette Around the World
Drinking etiquette has changed a bit since Emperor Augustus or Shakespeare have been around.
Today, travelers can expect different experiences depending on where they are.
If you’ve been on an adventure in Iceland, you know that it’s the perfect place to have fun. Icelanders devote a whole weekend every year to drinking and celebrating. Verslunarmannahelgi (Shopkeepers Weekend) offers plenty of opportunities to toast everything Icelandic—and visitors are encouraged to raise a bottle of Lava, one of the country’s well-loved beers.
In Korea, it’s customary to accept a drink with both hands—never one, as that would be considered impolite. Also, if an elder offers you a drink, it’s best to accept and try to empty the glass. That’ll put you in a favorable light with your host!
In Sweden, wedding receptions have an actual toastmaster—someone in charge of setting up guests to make congratulatory toasts to the newlywed couple. It’s a super nice custom to enhance an already joyful celebration!
In Azerbaijan, a country in what was the former Soviet Republic, there’s an elaborate toasting tradition. The host of an event stands, raises a glass and says a few words. Then all glasses are emptied and refilled before the person seated beside the host does the same thing. This goes on around the table, with every guest drinking a glass after each toast. What a very festive way to celebrate!
How To Say “Cheers!” in 18 Different Languages
These 18 languages, all with basically the same cheers sentiment, represent toasting culture across the globe.
So if you’re thinking of grabbing your passport and heading out on an adventure, check out this list first so you’ll have an authentic way to say cheers!
This “cheers” literally translates as a cheers to “health.” As you’ll see, this is a recurring theme when it comes to toasting in different languages!
Chinese: 干杯 (Gān bēi)
The Chinese say “dry the cup” when they raise a glass.
Czech: Na Zdraví
When the Czech clink glasses, they call out “to health!” You should make sure to maintain eye contact when you call out this cheers! Lack of eye contact is interpreted as a lack of respect. In fact, this is a common rule of thumb in most European countries when you say cheers.
This cheers is also the same in Iceland and Sweden and directly translates to “bowl,” “basin” or “dish.”
This toast is generally not used when drinking wine. In fact, if a cheers is to be made over a wine, the Dutch often used the French word for cheers (see below).
Finnish shipbuilders brought this toast into popularity! According to legend, when Finnish sailors made their way to England in the 10th century, they were asked in pubs to “keep the peace”—which the Fins happily embraced by yelling out “kippis” (“keep peace”) with every drink they downed.
French: À Votre Santé
This is the formal way to offer a cheers in France. It’s also common to just say santé (health). Make sure you don’t cross glasses with someone when you’re toasting, otherwise you might be cursed with seven years of bad luck!
This German toast is only used for informal occasions, like when you’re drinking beer at the pub with your buddies. If you want to toast during a birthday party, wedding or another type of special occasion, there are specific formal cheers for those.
Hebrew: לחיים (L’chaim)
This Hebrew toast translates as a cheers “to life!”
Italians may also say, a la vita (to life) when they raise a glass.
Japanese: 乾杯 (かんぱい, Kampai)
In Japan, it’s customary to toast by saying “dry the glass.”
Korean: 건배 (Geonbae)
Like in Japanese, this is the Korean call to “empty the glass.”
Polish: Na Zdrowie
If you want to say “cheers” like the locals in Poland, do so with the national drink, which is vodka. The most common way to drink vodka in Poland is in shot form followed by a chaser, if you need one.
In a formal setting, the host is the one who should propose a toast. The most common cheers in Portuguese is a toast to health, which is what this word literally translates to.
Russian: За Здоровье (Za Zdorovie)
Toasting with vodka is a big part of the drinking culture in Russia. Make sure you pace yourself and don’t forget to yell out “to health!” or this variation: Будем здоровы (Let’s be healthy!”).
If you’re going to say “cheers” in Spanish make sure it’s with an alcoholic drink, otherwise you’ll (allegedly) be cursed with seven years of bad luck in bed!
Thai: โชคดี (Chok Dee)
This is a casual toast that means “good luck!”
Vietnamese Một, hai, ba, vô
In Vietnam, toasting is fun—and is done with this little counting game which literally translates to “one, two, three, cheers!”
And, if you want to expand your language skills even further, FluentU can help you out before you head out on your trip.
FluentU turns authentic videos into interactive language lessons that build your vocabulary and develop your vital speaking and listening skills so you can feel more confident conversing with the locals.
Toasting is an age–old global practice. Wishing wealth, health and good fortune never goes out of style.
While the toast is a long-standing event, it’s clear that practices change over time.
Regardless of culture or location, the object of raising a glass is celebratory!
And celebrating? That’s a very good thing, wherever you are!
Learn each expression and work your way around the world—one cheer at a time!