Associate professor, PhD at the Department of Diplomatic Service and Communication of the Faculty of International Relation of YSU

"This custom dates back to the Middle Ages, when people were so distrustful of one another that they weren’t above poisoning anyone they perceived as an enemy. As a safeguard, drinkers first poured a bit of wine into each other’s glass, acting as mutual tasters. 

"Trustworthy friends, however, soon dispensed with the tastings and merely clinked their glasses instead. This custom is said by some to explain why ‘to your health’ is the most common toast worldwide”. 

Regarding the word ‘toast’, ‘in the ale houses of Elizabethan England, a bit of spiced toast was usually put in the bottom of a cup of ale or wine to flavor it’. 

Following the age-old tradition, the host offers a toast to pay tribute to the guest of honor. The toast is usually given at the beginning of the meal, before or after the first course is served; however, it can come after the dessert course. At the White House the toast is offered at the beginning of the meal. The host will stand and raise his or her glass, while offering an expression of good will. For less formal dinners the host may say, "May I have your attention,” if necessary. (It is not appropriate to tap on a glass.) The host should stand and propose a toast to the individual and the country at an official dinner. At the White House the guests remain seated during the toast. When guests do stand, the person receiving the toast should remain seated, nod in acknowledgement, and refrain from drinking to his or her own toast. The individual being toasted should then stand, thank the others, and offer a toast in return. 

Guests will raise their glasses and drink to the toast. Etiquette calls for guests to participate in the toast, so even nondrinkers should at least raise the glass to their lips. It is not appropriate to "clink” glasses together but only to raise the glass.


Until you know people well, beware the temptations of wit, and the dangers of humour. It is exceedingly hard for a foreigner to understand the sort of humour which comes naturally to us, and almost equally hard for us to indulge naturally in the humour which appeals to foreigners. Failures in this line can lead to sad misunderstandings.
B. Salt, 1965

Once upon a time we attended an interminable dinner with the Chinese. We sat at a huge oblong table, with our hosts arranged on one side, and the Western guests on the other. Interpreters hovered behind us and murmured translations into our ears. Before dinner, we had been shown uplifting films. One that sticks in the mind in particular showed still living fish being fried and served up to tourists in the Forbidden City – not a great appetiser for the twelve-course banquet that followed. At one point, out of sheer desperation when the seemingly interminable succession of dishes and the silent exchange of jaw cracking smiles became too much to bear, I found myself reciting the old nonsense rhyme: "I eat my peas with honey. I’ve done so all my life. It makes the peas taste funny. But it sticks them to the knife,” faltering at the last as I encountered my husband’s basilisk stare of astounded disapproval. Judging by the polite reaction of our Chinese hosts, the interpreter had said: "The Englishwoman has made an incomprehensible Western joke. Just nod and smile.”


Diplomats do a lot of this, and, alas, there is no magic trick that will make it any better, although a strong bladder is a help. You arrive at the appointed time and find your place; and wait politely and with a minimum of fidgeting until what is supposed to happen eventually happens; then you go home. Warning: the people operating the television cameras are just as bored as you are; don’t give them anything interesting to film.

Official Gift Giving Occasion

If a gift is to be given to mark a special occasion (for example, a state visit, a treaty signing, or an inauguration), it is always advisable to choose one that can be interpreted as directly symbolic of that occasion. A personal gift is not appropriate in this context: in these cases, the gift is generally presented on behalf of one country to another rather than by one leader to another. 

If it is determined that a gift should be more personal in nature rather than ceremonial or symbolic, researching the background of the recipient to uncover his or her interests and hobbies is always a helpful tool in the gift-selection process. Discovering a key piece of information about the recipient that will resonate through a gift will invariably demonstrate how much effort and thought went into the selection.

South African President Nelson Mandela’s Gift
On the Occasion of His First State Visit
To the United States

After reaching out to the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa, for background information on newly elected president Nelson Mandela, the gift officer discovered that Nelson Mandela was a boxer in his youth. Mandela was enthralled with the sport and would often listen to boxing matches on the radio while growing up in South Africa. As an adult, Mandela would meet privately with U.S. boxing champions when he visited the United States. 

With this information, the gift officer created a compilation of original letters from all the living U.S. boxing champions addressed to President Mandela. After contacting the retired boxers, protocol received some heartfelt notes congratulating Mandela on becoming the new president. Some of the letters were sophisticated and others were not, but together they created a poignant tapestry. Many used metaphors such as fighting for freedom against apartheid, tying sports metaphors to Mandela’s personal journey and to the journey of all blacks in South Africa.
These letters were compiled in a large hand-bound leather book with an inscription from the United States president to President Mandela. Black-and-white fighting stance photos of all of the boxers who wrote letters were included, as was poem by American poet Langston Hughes, called "Question and Answer”, in which the poet used boxing metaphors to describe South African apartheid. Last, an original ticket was located to the famous boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, the German boxing world champion, in which Joe Louis beat the German in a match at Yankee Stadium in 1938. Louis’s victory became symbolic of the United States’ victory over Nazism and Adolf Hitler. Mandela had listened to this match on the radio as a child. 

This gift was presented to President Mandela on the first day of his state visit to Washington. President Mandela, with his tall, wiry frame, was jumping up and down like a little boy upon receiving the gift. It was a special moment; the gift was a hit.
1230 reads | 27.06.2014

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