Raising a glass in a toast is an ancient tradition for celebrations around the world. Those traditions vary from country to country. Here are some of the most common toasts and their traditions from around the world:
With Oktoberfest just around the corner, it seems appropriate to start in Germany. Obviously, Germans value a good drink, and it’s important to do it right. To properly toast in Germany, it’s crucial to make eye contact during the toast – otherwise you insult your fellow drinkers. It goes back to the middle ages when you never knew who your enemy was. If they poisoned your drink, they would keep an eye on the rim of the glass to make sure that none of your drink found its way into your glass. If, on the other hand, they met your gaze, that established camaraderie and trust between the parties. When drinking beer, the common toast is Prost, which simply means “cheers”. If you are drinking wine, Zum Wohl, which loosely translated means “to your health”. And don’t drink before everyone has a glass in hand.
Japan’s drinking and toasting traditions are very formal. The toast of Kampai, or “bottoms up” is always first given by the most senior member of the family or business. Other things to keep in mind when drinking in Japan: your glass should be lower than those senior to you in position; never pour your own drink – always let someone else pour for you (and then return the favor); and if you are drinking sake, sip, don’t gulp. Also, if you are finished drinking, don’t pour drinks for anyone else – they’ll feel obligated to fill your glass again, and it’s bad manners not to drink again.
Russia: Za Zdorovie
In Russia, the typical toast is za zdorovie, which wishes good health to your hosts. The response to this is usually nu, poneslis (Here we go again). The weird thing about drinking in Russia is that shot glasses (for Vodka) should never be placed on the table. Instead, when you have finished your drink and the bottle is empty, place them under the table. The reason: After the Battle of Paris in 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars, Russian Cossacks noticed that the number of drinks people were charged for was calculated by the number of bottles left on the table in local restaurants. Supposedly they cleverly placed the bottles under the table to avoid the charges.
Hungary’s toast of Egészségére simply means “to your health”. Just as in Germany and other European countries, make sure that you make eye contact with those around you. However, whatever you do, don’t clink glasses together when drinking beer. Apparently, back in 1849 at the end of the revolt against the Hapsburgs, 13 Hungarians were hanged by Austrian soldiers who drank beer and clinked glasses. From that time on, Hungarians swore not to clink glasses for 150 years – and even though we’re well past that, the tradition continues.
Serefinize! Is the toast of the day in Turkey. The usual drink is raki, also known as Lion’s Milk, and is a combination of grapes and aniseed. When toasting, make sure that you clink the bottom of your glass – clinking the top implies that you are better than the others. If there is someone you want to remember, lightly tap your glass on the table. And, if you don’t like raki, order some anyway and pretend. Some may be offended if you drink something else.
France: À Votre Santé
Even though we associate great wine with France, the fact is that the French are polite and very restrained when it comes to drinking. The usual toast is À Votre Santé or simply Santé, which means “to your health”. Don’t fill your glass more than halfway – it’s considered vulgar to do otherwise. Instead, pour a little at a time (and often). And don’t cross arms with anyone when clinking glasses.
Raise a glass of beer in Iceland and say Skál! This toast can have two meanings. The first, and a little less believable, is “skull” relates to Vikings who would use the skulls of people they killed to toast and drink mead. The more reasonable translation is “bowl”, from an ancient Nordic tradition where people would drink from an empty bowl as a way of honoring someone no longer with them. And, by the way, beer has only been legal since 1989. There was a 74-year prohibition of beer due to alcoholism. Other alcoholic drinks were initially banned in 1915 as well, but eventually lifted on everything but beer in 1935. Icelanders now celebrate Beer Day every March 1st.
One of the pleasures of traveling is being able to enjoy the tastes and traditions of different cultures. As you can see, toasting with the locals can be rewarding – as long as you follow the local traditions. Are you ready to experience the drinks and foods of the world? Let Luxury Destinations Concierge help plan your next trip. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437.
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