It’s always important to know some basic speaking terms when visiting a foreign country. The last thing you want to do is be disrespectful by not trying to follow their traditions and rules. One such rule is the right way to say cheers and toast. Some of these might sound crazy, but it’s still worth knowing.
How to say cheers in French
There is a common traditional saying in France that if you don’t toast the correct way you are in for 7 years of back luck and bad sex. We aren’t saying that will happen, but do you really want to risk it?
À votre santé
The French don’t actually use the word cheers when toasting. They instead wish one good health by saying À votre santé. When cheers and toasting first started people would try to splash their wine into the other persons cup to make sure their drink wasn’t poisoned. If the other person drank they knew they were safe. The French keep up this tradition with wishing good health as to say “I hope you didn’t poison me”.
The cheers meaning is general enough that you can use it in almost any setting. In France you will hear people saying it in bars up to formal occasions. However, there can be different levels of politeness you should consider.
1. Strangers – À votre santé is typically used when you don’t know the person well. The meaning is meant more out of respect when socializing and raising your glass.
2. Friends and Family – À ta santé is often used when you are around people you know. It’s a little more of a relaxed version and better used in informal settings.
If someone cheers you there are also two ways you can reply:
1. À la vôtre – The meaning for this is “to yours” and is a polite way to reply to someone wishing you good health. This is used when cheering strangers
2. À la tienne – The meaning is the same as above, but this is used with family members and close friends.
After a while you will get the hang of it and start toasting everyone you see. The French locals may just say Santé (meaning health) instead of the full version, but the full phrase is implied.
The other term you should also get familiar with is Tchin Tchin. It started in China as a way of asking people to have a drink (meaning “please please”). Once the French caught onto this saying, they quickly adopted it and now use it in settings with good Friends. It’s just another easy cheers without always having to say à ta santé
Toasting in French – Rules
If you don’t want to suffer from 7 years of bad luck or bad sex, get familiar with French traditions.
1. Always look at the person in the eyes while toasting. This came from the origin of toasting as people didn’t want to know if their drink splashed into anothers or vice versa.
2. Be sure you have toasted everyone before taking a drink
3. Very similar to the 2nd rule, but as a reminder don’t forget anybody in your party.
4. Don’t add ice in your wine.
5. Don’t put your glass down after toasting until you have taken at least one sip
6. Don’t cross your glass with someone while toasting.
7. Don’t toast with water or non-alcoholic beverages. Toasting with water is typically mean to honor someone who has died.
8. Glasses should only be half full so the wine can breath
9. It’s ok to drink your entire glass. Some might say cul sec which means “dry bottom” (essentially bottoms up)
Other cheers sayings in French
Portons un toast – The meaning for this is “Let’s make a toast” and is generally used when wanted to start the toast. It’s not always used, but it’s a nice formal way of getting people to toast.
Le toast porté aux mariés – If you are at a wedding you can say this phrase meaning “Raise our glasses to the newlyweds”.
À la tienne, Étienne – Although we already covered À la tienne, you may hear someone add on Étienne meaning “Stephen”. It doesn’t matter the name of the person you are toasting as it’s just a silly expression that has grown accustom in France.
Trinque – For a less formal way of making a toast, you can use this saying with friends and family which also means “let’s toast”.
These are the basics to cheers in French. There are traditions that shouldn’t be broken and once you have mastered the dos and don’ts, you’ll fit right in with the locals.