Achoo! How to Say “Bless You” Around the World
Saying "Bless you" after someone sneezes is an ancient, worldwide practice. If you're looking for some new, sneeze-friendly phrases to pepper your "Bless you"' with, consider borrowing some of these, commonly used terms from around the world.
Romania borders five other countries, and has almost as many ways of saying “Bless you,” according to Mihaela Lica Butler, a travel journalist, and founder of Pamil Visions PR, “I am Romanian, and we have several ways to say ‘Bless you’ after a sneeze, all depending on circumstances—’Noroc’ for good luck, or good fortune, is the usual wish. Then, ‘Sănătate’ (pronounced sa-na-ta-te) stands only for good health. Finally, ‘Măricel,’ which is a regionalist saying from Wallachia (South Romania) where I grew up, is usually addressed to little children, aged 7 or under. This is hard to translate, but is basically a wish for the child who sneezed to grow tall, healthy, and strong,” she explains. Here are 12 Italian phrases everyone should know.
In Germany, “Gesundheit,” which loosely translates into “health” is the most-used, post-sneeze saying you’ll hear. “Gesundheit” is also a widely used sneeze-etiquette saying throughout the U.S., and was probably brought here by German immigrants, in the mid-19th Century. Find out what grandparents are called around the world.
In Chile, “Salud,” meaning health, is a common phrase, used after a sneeze, but there are other less popular terms. “I recently returned from a three-month backpacking trip around South America, and one post-sneeze phrase I haven’t forgotten is ‘Jesus!’ This was particularly common in Chile, and literally translates as ‘Jesus,’ so the connection with ‘bless you’ is quite clear,” shares Tom Brown, a marketing assistant at Shiply. Find out the eight Spanish phrases everyone should know.
Sneezing in Portugal is nothing to sneeze at—local customs here may be tinged with centuries-old fears about Satan. “In Portugal, we say ‘Viva!’ when someone sneezes. Once, people believed that sneezing meant the soul was escaping through the nose, and that saying ‘Viva!’ would prevent the Devil from taking that soul. It means Live!” explains Jayme Henriques Simões, the president of Louis Karno & Company Communications, LLC
A form of gesundheit, “Gesondheid” is what people in South Africa say after someone sneezes. “This is how we wish someone health, in Afrikaans,” explains travel blogger and founder of Flight Factory, Gerrard Hattfield.
The Chinese language, and alphabet, may sound vastly different, but when it comes to saying “Bless you,” the sentiment of health, and long life, is the same. At least, amongst China’s oldest citizens. Former teacher, and current travel blogger, Robert Schrader, explains. “I taught English in China many years ago, and studied Chinese in the morning, before my own students arrived. One day I sneezed, and my teacher said something I didn’t understand. ‘What was that?’ I asked, reaching for a tissue. ‘Yi bai sui,’ she replied, which means, 100 years. ‘Since your heart stops when you sneeze, in China we say ‘One hundred years,’ to wish you a long life,’ she explained. I laughed, which in turn made me sneeze again. ‘Liang bai sui’” she said, a phrase which means, ‘200 years.’ On later trips to China, and interactions with Chinese people, I learned that no non-geriatric person actually says this! This is the surprising reason that red is the official color of Chinese New Year.
The year of your birth may also affect how you say “Bless you” in France. “In France, we say ‘A tes souhaits,’ (pronounced a tay sweh), which means ‘To your wishes,’ or ‘A vos souhaits,’ (pronounced ah vo sway), which means ‘Bless you,’ when someone sneezes. The first one is for someone we know well, and the other, for someone we don’t know well, or someone with a higher authority. We also had another version, mainly used by our oldest citizens. For the first sneeze, they’d say ‘A tes souhaits,’ but for the second, ‘A tes amours,’ which means to your love, or lovers. The third sneeze in a row got ‘Que ceux-ci durent toujours’—’May they last forever,’ shares French executive, Ophélie Castelot. Here are ten French phrases everyone in the world should know.
In Poland after you sneeze, people say, “Naz drowie!” (pronounced naz drow), which means, “for health” or “to your health.” These simple words have other meanings in Poland, explains Polish travel blogger, Karolina Patryk. “What’s interesting, you are saying exactly the same words before drinking alcohol. We have the superstition that if you sneeze twice in a row, it means you are going to drink vodka soon. If you sneeze three times in a row, it means you are going to have sex!” she says.
In Ireland after someone sneezes, we say ‘Dia leat’ [pronounced dee-ah latt] meaning, ‘God be with you’ or ‘Dia linn’ [pronounced dee-ah lynn] meaning ‘God be with us’. Being a Catholic country, God shows up in a lot of Irish language. Even saying ‘hello’ in Irish, ‘Dia duit’ [pronounced Dee-ah Gwich] is another way of saying ‘God be with you’. And the response? ‘Dia ‘s Muire dhuit’ [pronounced Dee-ah Iss Mwirah Gwich], ‘God and Mary be with you,’ says Dubliner, Katie Biggs. Here are the Saint Patrick’s Day ‘facts’ that are false.
In East Africa, it’s not just what you say when someone sneezes, it’s also what you don’t say that speaks volumes. “Afya’ means ‘health’ in KiSwahili, language of East Africa). It’s usually said after someone sneezes in any East African country. However, sometimes after sneezing, you’ll just be met with a glassy stare! In this part of the world, it can be considered quite rude to sneeze loudly. If you do it in front of older people, you may be met with a disdainful and disgusted look. Kids generally find sneezing hilarious though!” says Sam Williamson, a luxury safari travel expert. This is not an unusual phenomenon. Here are examples of 10 rude American manners that are actually considered polite in other countries!