My second day of work was coming to a close. I got up to leave and figured I would say a quick goodbye to my co-workers on my way out, so I grabbed my bag and gave a quick wave, saying something along the lines of, “Thanks for your help. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see y’all next week!” I couldn’t have sounded any more American.

I wasn’t really expecting much other than some sort of casual reply from one or two of the other guys. Instead, the remaining workers collectively responded with a strong, “Cheers!”

I’ve learned that “cheers” in the United Kingdom is an incredibly versatile word that can take the place of all sorts of expressions. In the United States, it’s generally used as a celebratory saying, typically involving a group of people about to have a round of drinks. Back home, it’s a toast to good health. Here in England, it means so much more.

Primarily, it’s a simple way of saying farewell. People don’t get caught up in lengthy expressions of wishing someone a nice day or a great weekend. When I’ve done that to people I don’t know very well, I’ve generally received a blank look or a passive response. This is because, frankly, no one needs me to advise them on how to manage their afternoon, and they don’t really care what my wishes for their evening plans are. What seems like a formality in the United States is just unnecessary here. A simple “cheers” will suffice, which shows that you acknowledge them and at least enjoyed their company.

Similarly, I commonly hear “cheers” as an alternative way of saying “thanks.” It expresses the same appreciation and gratitude that a typical “thank you” would give but has a little bit more of an energizing effect. The next day at work after being sent off by a round of “cheers,” I finished up an assignment and submitted it to my boss. After looking it over, he gave his approval by saying, “Cheers for that, Drew.” A few days later, this same person said “cheers” to me for moving out of his way so that he could walk around me. At this point, I realized that “cheers” was as casual of a saying as “thanks” or “see ya” is in the United States.

I have several more weeks in London before returning home. I haven’t found myself adopting this saying in my everyday language, but there’s still time. I’ve definitely become much more aware of when other people say it and how they use it.

I can say though, that whenever someone says “cheers” to me, it always puts a smile on my face. “Cheers” can be used in many situations, but above all, it always expresses joy. I’ve never heard “Cheers!” in a negative manner, and I don’t expect to associate it with anything other than happiness for as long as I’m here. So, cheers!

Cheers to London!