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  • Valerie Swanson-Parmentier

✨Best French Secret & Etiquette: Why do we say ''tchin-tchin'' when we toast in France?

Updated: Mar 20


If there is one thing you have to know about the French is their Apéro, short for apéritif. It is sacred in France.




Get into the French LifeStyle: One hour or so before dinner, it's time for Frenchies to unwind over a glass of wine, beer, champagne, or cocktail (or two) and a few snacks. It's not about getting drunk: it's about spending time together and preparing your palate for the meal to follow.


This is the time with friends or family when it's customary to toast.

We say « Santé! » (which means to your Health, like Salud in Spanish) or « tchin-tchin ».

The French say "tchin-tchin" when they toast, drinking Champagne!

And in English we say "cheers!"


These are the most common formulas. We have all used these expressions many times before, but do you know why?

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Toasting originally came from an old practice during the Middle Ages. And it was precisely at this time that this famous expression "tchin-tchin" originated. Indeed, it was necessary to knock the wine glasses together, so that the liquid passed from one goblet to another. This ensured that the beverages had not been poisoned by those seated at the neighboring table.

The expression tchin-tchin would have appeared in relation to the tinkling sound.

This word was used to mean that everyone had to toast with the other, in order to prove that the drink was safe to consume. Thus, the first drinker knocked his jug against that of his companion, and the second had to return the same courtesy! That's why we say "tchin-tchin" when we toast.


Another interesting story is about a contingent of French soldiers that had been sent to China in 1900, to help the central power. There, fighters heard locals say "tsing, tsing" (pronounced "tchin tchin") during the festivities. This phrase meant "please", and was a way of inviting other guests to drink.

Intrigued by the amusing sound, the French soldiers then copied this habit, using this formula phonetically, before using it on their return to France.

The team has persisted and has become democratized throughout French Society, but this is not the case in China. Indeed, before having a drink, they say "ganbei!"


Be careful though, "tchin-tchin" is not understood by everyone, depending on where they come from. It is a very French expression, so you will have to think about adapting to the country you are traveling through. Whether you are in Germany, England, China or Spain, things are very different. Remember this especially for Japan. Indeed, in the Land of the Rising Sun, "tchin-tchin" evokes the male sex. Be careful, your Japanese friends will not understand what you're talking about if you say « tchin-tchin »!


So there you have it, this could be an anecdote to tell at your next cocktail party.


For the ones that want to learn more about the French Etiquette, follow my lead:


BEST FRENCH ETIQUETTE:

Commonly speaking, clinking glasses,

« trinquer » in French, is a very usual habit and you would always have to do it if you are celebrating something with friends or during most of the Sunday’s family meals, Christmas or birthdays.



We say: "JE TRINQUE à votre santé! JE TRINQUE à ta santé! We also use the expression: "PORTER UN TOAST", example: "Je porte un toast à Steven, à son courage, à son sens du devoir." ( I propose a toast to Steven, to his courage, and his devotion to duty."

"I toast to your health!

Raising a glass to someone "TRINQUER", or drinking to someone's health is a tradition that dates back to antiquity. It is a gesture motivated by recognition, gratitude, and conviviality: the shared moment becomes a moment that we devote to a person or group of people. It was common to honor the Gods through wine. Also, it is customary to drink to the health of the deceased.


Although the word "toast" refers to English, the expression finds its origin in France. The custom dates back to the 17th-18th centuries: in Old French, the word "toste" referred to a slice of toasted bread dipped in wine that we drank when celebrating someone.


It was mostly about drinking to a woman's health. The expression at the time was "toster a lady". When a man was in love with a woman, he invited his companions to drink a glass of wine in which was dipped a toste. Everyone drank in turn, leaving the last sip to the lover! He could then taste the toste soaked in wine while thinking of his beauty. The expression was extended and modified. And it has been said since “toast” = "trinquer".

However, there are several rules that you need to know, as the French take this tradition very seriously!

In this Classic vintage French movie « Christine » : A passionate French Love story develops between Franz Lobheiner (Alain Delon) and the young Christine (Romy Schneider). And Check the movie "FANFAN LA TULIPE"


1. Wait for the toast before drinking. Avoid this debutant faux-pas, it's a French Sacrilege and your guests will think that you are a hillbilly! "un plouc!" or "une plouc"!

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2. « Dans les yeux ! » In the eye ! The most important rule to know when toasting with a French person is that you have to look at the other person in the eye. It is a sign of respect and consideration, a precious and sincere moment you are sharing with others for a few seconds. We like to say, if you don't look in the eyes, you will have 7 years of bad sex! And for French Etiquette, if a person would not look at you in the eyes when toasting, you will assume that this person is not trustworthy subconsciously!

3. « On ne croise pas ! » We do not cross ! Another very important rule in France is that you should never cross paths with other people already clinking glasses together. For that, the French will start panicking and shout out « On ne croise pas ! », meaning « Do not cross arms! », reminding you that this unfortunate gesture will bring you seven (sept) years of bad luck! (French are a tad bit superstitious, wouldn't you say?)

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4. « Never drink from the bottle! » We might see movies where people drink from the bottle, but this is considered very vulgarly in France. You can drink from a bottle of beer or can but never a bottle of wine or Champagne! PS: J'adore Meryl Streep (just that you understand, I have a deep respect for her, it's just it was the only gif that was perfect for this section.)


🥂🍾 Tchin-Tchin! ! Santé! And may I wish you a Happy Valentine!

BONNE SAINT VALENTIN!


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