Making a toast generally involves making a speech and the raising of glasses. This ritual is said to originate during a time when poisoning was a concern: clinking glasses allowed for the contents from both glasses to spill into one another to prove that both were drinkable. The name for this practice apparently comes from the adding of spiced toast to the drinks to create different flavors. Today, a toast is made either to honor someone or to express goodwill. The act of toasting varies from place to place; we present five of these places with variations in the way that they toast.
France is known for, amongst other things, its wine. It is no surprise then that France has a particular toasting ritual with superstitions attached to it if performed incorrectly. A toast is expressed in a single word for good health. Guests are required to clink glasses with everyone present and maintain eye contact during the process, without crossing arms with any of the other guests.
In Japan people tend to toast both at the beginning of the meal and at the end of it. They say the Japanese equivalent to “cheers” and the most senior member would make the toast. This is not to be confused with the way in which “cheers” is used in Australia or South Africa. In Australia, “cheers” can mean “thank you” and in South Africa it is used to say “good bye.” In Japan, it is considered rude to serve yourself alcohol, rather offer to fill the glasses of other guests and they will do the same for you.
As tempting as it may be to take a sip of your drink before the meal has begun, do not do so until the host has made a toast. In drinking after a toast is made it indicates that you agree with what was said and express the same attitude. Also, if you are not drinking an alcoholic beverage, do not clink your glass with anyone else’s. If you do not drink alcohol in Russia, it is often considered to be a sign of lack of trust. If you do not drink after a toast, it indicates a lack of respect and that you do not accept the toast that was made.
Italy is one of the biggest wine producers in the world; second to France. You have probably come across an occasion when the host or guests say ‘salute’ before taking a sip of their wine as a toast to good health. In Italy, the host would say the first toast and then throughout the meal some of the guests would make a toast as well. Alternatively, guests can just say ‘salute’ as a form of toasting and honoring the host.
Germans are stereotypically known for drinking beer. So much so that they have two different toasts: one for when drinking wine and one for drinking beer. Although differentiated in this way, both of the toasts are an expression of good health. Like in France, it is customary to clink glasses with each of the guests and to maintain eye contact when doing so. In Germany, the host would make the first toast and later on in the meal, an honored guest would do the same. Eye contact should be maintained from the time your glass is lifted from the table until it is placed back down on the table.
There are different ways of honoring someone or expressing that you wish them good health; toasting is the most popular way to do so. There is more to the act of making a toast than you might think: these practices and rituals vary around the world and could mean different things or have superstitions attached to them if performed incorrectly.