The informant is a 51-year-old international businessman who has frequently traveled across Europe and Asia to meet with clients for the past 20 years.
Over a relaxed nine holes of golf, I asked the informant if there were any dining customs or etiquette that have stood out to him throughout his travels. He went into detail about proper German etiquette when enjoying a drink with friends, family, or business connections.
“It’s always a great time drinking in Germany, especially for a beer connoisseur like myself. Whenever I’m out to lunch or dinner for a business meeting, we always grab a beer and make a toast before drinking. Usually the toast is just to a successful partnership in the future, or to health and happiness. What you’d expect. One thing that’s really important following this toast is that you look whoever it is you’re drinking with in the eye when you ‘cheers.’ It is considered extremely rude not to. They joke that if you fail to look someone in the eye it means seven years of bad sex, but what it would really result in is whoever you’re with thinking that you’ve been dishonest or are hiding something from them.”
This German custom of looking someone in the eye reveals that in German custom, authenticity and personal connection are important. Toasts usually follow a celebration or accomplishment of some kind, and so eye contact can be seen as a way of solidifying whatever the toast was made to. If one man makes a toast to good health and the other fails to look him in the eye, then the ma who made that toast may begin to wonder whether the other is hoping for him to become ill. The superstition that failing to make eye contact will lead to seven years of bad sex is a playful way of reminding Germans of this custom, or of highlighting its importance to foreigners. I thought that this particular folkway made a lot of sense, given the intimate nature of a toast and taking into account the context in which the informant learned of it. Since the informant is often out to eat with business connections and is working to create a professional relationship, it is important that he look his German clients in the eye to let them know that he is understanding of their culture and that they can trust his word and that he will honor their negotiations.
Here’s to the breezes
That blows through the trees-es
That lifts their skirts above their knees-es…
That shows us the spot
That gets us hot
That teases, pleases and causes diseases…
Oh my god, what a snatch.
…down the motherfuckin’ hatch!
This is a toast my informant learned at the University of Evansville. It’s told among guys while drinking.
Here’s to Honor.
To getting Honor,
To staying Honor.
And if you can’t cum in her…cum Honor.
This is a favorite toast at the University of Evansville, where my informant attended. It’s a toast performed by guys, for other guys, when they’re drinking, and always gets a laugh.
“This wine is good and clear.
Good health to everyone.
Hope they bring to the cemetery the ones
who wanted to do away with it.”
This saying has been passed down through the paternal side of my family, who are all of Italian heritage. My father’s grandparents were immigrants in the early twentieth century and were the last to speak Italian fluently in my father’s genealogy. Some of my older relatives still remember this saying, however, and have said it on occasion though it is obsolete. My father begins it when toasting to his family, but never gets past the first sentence. As it involves Prohibition (1920-1933), its terminus post quem is 1920. As recent immigrants, my great grandparents had left a country where good wine was plentiful and many people drank it daily, and were now faced with an across-the-board ban on every kind of alcoholic beverage. According to my informant, the Italian men who immigrated near this time would continue to make wine that their families would drink, keeping it hidden in their cellars while brewing. When the wine was finished and illegally drunk, a toast such as this would be offered. This particular saying was either created or picked up by one of my father’s grandparents, and as my family has increasingly forgotten Italian (I know essentially none), the saying has remained, whether or not my relatives are aware that it is an anachronism. Though it is obsolete, it reminds us of our common heritage and of my great-grandparents (now deceased) and their families.
It is bad luck for whomever you are making a toast if you drink from a cup containing water.
Barry explained to me that it is considered bad luck for someone if you raise your glass filled with water to make a toast on their behalf. He said that, traditionally, toasts are made using some sort of alcoholic beverage, such as champagne, wine, or a mixed drink. However, he said that it is perfectly fine for children or those opposed to alcohol to toast using some sort of a soft drink. The one thing that is not considered good etiquette is to raise a glass filled with water, as many view it as bad luck that you are wishing upon the guest of honor.
Barry remembers learning this superstition from his grandfather at a wedding he attended for his cousin when he was approximately age twelve. A toast was being made so Barry, being the minor that he was, raised his glass of water in honor of the guest. His grandfather scolded him for the action as he said it was rude and improper to do such a thing.
Barry said he did not know where the reasoning comes from to support this superstition. He continued to explain that this, like many superstitions, could have roots stemming back hundreds of years that help clarify the reason this superstition exists.
Doing some research after the interview, I discovered that this superstition comes from the United States of Americas Navy. The reasoning they use to support this superstition is that toasting with a glass of water is essentially dooming the person to be honored to a watery grave. Now after knowing this it is much more understandable. People in the navy spend large amounts of time on the water, so it would be bad to toast with something that could end one of their lives at any moment. I have not been able to ask Barry since the interview if his grandfather was in the Navy or not.
I found this superstition at: