Out of all customs and traditions we’ve nurtured over the centuries as humans, making a toast before drinking alcohol is one of the oldest. It’s origins date back to pre-history, so we’re still not entirely sure how it came to be. It’s worth noting, however, that the pervasive idea that it began as a method of checking whether one’s neighbor had poisoned one’s glass is probably false. Just think of all the wine that would have wasted!
While heavily rooted in Western culture, toasting is prevalent all over the world, including in Latin America and in many Asian countries. Particularities of toasting customs vary by country. In many Western European countries, for example, it is imperative to make direct eye contact when toasting. The consequence of looking away, Europeans will warn you, is seven years of bad luck in love. Russians like to make a toast before every drink, of which there will be many, but it’s probably only older people who are likely to say na zdorovie.
So here is how to say “Cheers!” in 15 different languages:
Chinese (Mandarin) 干杯! (gan bei) “bottoms up!”
Czech Na zdraví! “To health!”
Dutch Proost! “Good health!”
French Santé ! “Health!”
German Prost! “Good health!”
Greek Στην υγειά σου! (Stin iyá su) “To your health!”
Hawaiian Huli pau!
Hebrew לְחַיִּים! (L’chaim) “To life!”
Irish (Gaelic) Sláinte! “Health!”
Italian Salute! “Health!”
Japanese 乾杯 (kanpai) “Bottoms up!”
Polish Na Zdrowie! “Health!”
Portuguese Viva! “Life!”
Russian На здоровье (Na zdorovie) “To health!”
Spanish ¡Salud! “Health!”