A Guide for Saying 'Cheers' in France
The etiquette of eating a French meal can be a meticulous process. From the way you place your hands on the dinner table, to the order in which you food is eaten, the entire experience has a very specific process. French people will be certain to take note of any mishaps during a meal, so we thought to make a simple guide to what to expect during the aperitif (the drink before a meal) to helping you blend in like a native. To your good health, we wish you santé!
What to Say
Instead of saying 'cheers' while toasting, the French wish each other good health or 'santé.' You will typically hear this word along with a clink of the drink glasses, thus instead of saying santé, you might hear 'chin chin' (which is the sound the glasses make when they touch each other). Besides these two common sayings, you might also hear 'A ta santé' ('To your health' - informal), 'A votre santé' ('To your health' - formal), or 'A la tienne' ('To yours' (to your health)). Of course, silence always does the trick if you are stuck at a dinner table and do not remember what to say. Even while silent, it is polite to always address a person with your eyes while toasting a drink. Make sure to follow the rules below on what to do while experiencing a French toast.
WHAT TO DO
Again, the very first important step is to always look in the eyes of the person you are toasting. There is a hidden belief that any person who does not exchange this glance during a toast will suffer from seven years of bad sex or seven years of bad luck, whichever you prefer. It is also very important to never cross your glass with anyone else's. This means, never try to toast someone across the dinner table by putting your glass above or below their's to reach someone else. After you have toasted everyone around the table (it is important that everyone is included), do NOT place your glass on the table. It is impolite to do this. Simple hold your glass in hand, then take the first sip. After this, you are welcome to place your glass on the table and continue the conversation and eating.
WHY DO THE FRENCH DO THIS?
These rules might sound silly, but they do have some history. Back in medieval times, people would often put poison in each others' drinks. So, to make sure a drink didn't have poison in it, people would clink each others' glasses and a portion of the liquid would transfer to the other cup. This way, if someone was being sneaky, poison would be among all of the cups. While clinking glasses, people would look intensely at each others' eyes to detect any weird behavior or stress in their demeanor. Things are very different now, but at least some of the traditions of how to toast in French have some background.
We hope you enjoyed this Guide for Saying 'Cheers' in France! Don't forget to share this with your friends online using #jplingo @jplinguistics. If you are looking for more French language and culture, check out our Group Classes and Private lessons at JP linguistics. Bonne Journée!