Before we discuss international treatment of “God bless you,” let’s discuss the origins of these three words. It seems that sneezing goes hand-in-hand with an old superstition that said sneezing happens when your body is trying to get rid of evil spirits. Saying, “God bless you,” is, in essence, the same as wishing a person good luck from those evil spirits.
Another superstition is that the evil spirits hurry into your body when you sneeze. Yet another popular superstition around the words, God bless you, has to do with Pope Gregory, the Great, who ruled during the black plague. He started saying God bless you to those that sneezed, since sneezing was a sign that they had the terminal disease. Most countries use similar words as God bless you. Some countries refer to good health. In some countries they don’t address the God bless you form, nor do they wish you good health.
In France, first sneeze gets you, “à tes souhaits,” which translates into “to your wishes.” The second sneeze gets you, “à tes amours,” which means “to your loves.” A third sneeze will get you, “qu’elles durent toujours,” which means, “that they last forever.”
In Korea, no one says anything after a sneeze. I guess no evil spirits in Korea.
In Portuguese two different versions are used: “santinho,” or “little saint,” and “Deus te,” which means, “May God smother you.” The Dutch, after a third sneeze, go on to say, “The weather will be nice tomorrow.” I guess they’re moving away from using satellite weather maps.
No matter what country you’re in, and what you’re told after, we can all agree a sense of relief is had after every sneeze.