Why learn how to say happy birthday in different languages?
Just like learning to say cheers, or hello in other languages, learning to say happy birthday is another social step forward in language learning.
If you have international friends then it’s likely at some point you’ll be invited to one of their birthdays. And if this is the case, you want to be equipped with what to say and what the customs are.
It’s important and interesting to learn about the different traditions behind birthdays in each culture, as they may differ to what you’re used to and you want to be prepared.
Happy birthday in 20 languages
Happy birthday: Feliz cumpleaños
Traditions: In Spain, family is very important and birthdays are normally celebrated with the whole family.
In school it’s traditional for the birthday boy or girl to bring in a cake to share with their classmates.
In Mexico, an important birthday for girls is their 15th birthday, otherwise known as a quinceañera, which signifies the girl becoming a woman.
Happy birthday: Bon anniversaire
Traditions: There are a lot of similarities between French celebrations and celebrations in English speaking countries, but there are some subtle differences. Most birthday parties for children take place at home rather than at venues. At birthday parties it’s also more common to have sweet snacks rather than savoury snacks. And homemade cakes aren’t that common. Rather than homemade cake with fun pictures for the children, you’re more likely to find a tart or more adult dessert.
Happy birthday: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag
Traditions: An interesting tradition in Germany is not to wish someone a happy birthday before their actual birthday. This is bad luck and ties into the superstition that they may die before their birthday.
Happy birthday: С Днем рожденья (S Dnem rozhden’ya)
Traditions: In Russia it is common to move the date of celebration to the weekend so more people can attend. If your birthday is on a Wednesday it’s not uncommon to celebrate on the Saturday instead. Just like the German tradition, it’s also considered bad luck to celebrate your birthday before the date. Instead they ten to celebrate on the exact date or just after. And just with celebrating, it’s bad luck to receive presents before your actual birthday too.
Happy birthday: 生日快乐 (Shēngrì kuàilè)
Traditions: In China, it is traditional to take your friends out on your birthday and pay for them rather than your friends all paying for you. The birthday celebration must also take place before or on the day of the birthday. It is considered bad taste to celebrate a belated birthday or even to wish someone a belated birthday. You really need to remember beforehand.
Happy birthday: お誕生日おめでとうございます (Otanjōbiomedetōgozaimasu)
Traditions: Until the 1950’s, Japanese people didn’t celebrate individual birthdays as they believe that instead of ageing on your birthday, everyone ages together on New Years Eve. However, with the influence of western culture, it’s becoming more and more common to celebrate birthdays.
Happy birthday: Van harte gefeliciteerd
Traditions: In the Netherlands it’s expected that you host your own birthday, you can’t expect people to plan and host your birthday for you. Related to that it’s also expected that the person whose birthday it is pays for the event and is not treated by their guests like in the USA and UK.
Happy birthday: Buon compleanno
Traditions: Just like in the USA, the cake is a central part of the birthday party, but instead of the guests buying the cake for the birthday boy or girl it’s much more common for the you to bring your own cake and candles to the party. There’s no surprise happy birthday song. And again like a lot of European countries, you’re footing the bill for your own birthday rather than your guests splitting the bill and paying for you.
Happy birthday: Feliĉan naskiĝtagon
Happy birthday: عيد مولد سعيد (eyd mawlid saeid)
Traditions: In Egypt you are more likely to find traditional desserts rather than buttercream and birthday cakes.
Happy birthday: Feliz Aniversário
Traditions: In Portugal ‘sweet sixteen’ isn’t really a thing. Instead, the most important birthday is your 18th birthday.
Happy birthday: Gelukkige verjaarsdag
Traditions: In South Africa, the 21st birthday is the most important birthday. On this birthday you are given a key and receive blessings off your grandparents.
Happy birthday: Tillykke med fødselsdagen
Traditions: In Denmark, birthdays are a really really big deal. It’s not just children who celebrate their birthdays but adults too. Your birthday begins from the moment you wake up and lasts all day. Normally you are woken up with breakfast in bed from your family but you are also expected to bring sweets or cake into work.
Happy birthday: Χαρούμενα γενέθλια (Charoúmena genéthlia)
Traditions: In Greek, birthdays aren’t as important as your name day. Birthday parties are much more common among children than adults.
Happy birthday: Selamat ulang tahun
Traditions: In Indonesia it’s typical to have your birthday celebrations twice. Perhaps you’ll celebrate your birthday with your family in the morning then with your friends again in the evening. Just like other countries, the cake is an important part of birthday celebrations in Indonesia.
Happy birthday: Wszystkiego najlepszego
Traditions: Although celebrated more often now, traditionally in Poland, celebrating the name day was more important. Celebrating at home with a party is more common than celebrating in a bar or restaurant. Make sure you bring a present along to a Polish birthday party.
Happy birthday: Grattis på födelsedagen
Traditions: It’s traditional in Sweden to wake up the birthday boy or girl with breakfast in bed and a birthday cake is usually at the centre of a Swedish birthday celebration.
Happy birthday: יום הולדת שמח
Traditions: Hebrew birthdays are calculated differently as they have their own calendar. Therefore it is possible to have two birthdays depending on which calendar you use.
Happy birthday: जन्मदिन की शुभकामनाएं (janmadin kee shubhakaamanaen)
Traditions: India is such a large country with so many different regions that birthday vary from place to place but some fun traditions include feeding the cake. After the cake is cut, it’s common for the birthday boy or girl to hand feed the cake to their guests. In India (depending on your religion), it’s also common to start your birthday with a visit to the temple for a blessing. And the best part of all, it’s not uncommon to have dessert before your dinner!
Happy birthday: Doğum günün kutlu olsun
Traditions: Birthdays in Turkey aren’t as popular as in other countries. It’s quite typical for people to forget each others birthdays and for some people in the older generation not to even know when their birthday is. With globalisation, birthdays are starting to become more of a thing in Turkey but this is with the younger generations.
So there you have it, how to say happy birthday in 20 different languages. I hope this is useful and I hope you’ve found our information about different birthday traditions interesting.