Monday, July 28, 2014

Leitungswasser, Bitte (Ordering Tap Water in Germany)

The Berlin summer is making up for a late start. It's hot, and I'm thirsty. In the USA, it's customary to be served a glass of cold water on arrival at a restaurant, usually without asking. It's a form of practical hospitality, especially in summer. (By the way, if you don't want ice with your water, you'd better specify "no ice, please" at the first opportunity.)

In Europe, bringing tap water to the table is not customary. In fact, serving a guest tap water at your home would be considered impolite. Most Berlin restaurants will begrudgingly serve tap water (in a small glass) if you insist. Unfortunately, I've also had the experience where a restaurant simply won't serve tap water, requiring you to buy a marked-up bottle of water at 5-7€ ($7- 10). This can be expensive especially during the hot summer.

I've encountered odd excuses for this "no tap water" phenomena. "Tap water is not healthy." "We don't have that." Perhaps, it would be less galling if they just said, "We make most of our profit on the overpriced water, so we must insist that you buy some."

During the 1980s and 90s, this bottled water fixation began to cross over to the USA when some restaurants started to make people uncomfortable (feel cheap or uncool) if they asked for tap water. Then, at some point, someone pointed out the environmental impact of bottling water and transporting it hundreds or thousands of miles. Suddenly, you could be eco-hip by insisting on tap water. And today, although bottled water is on the menu in most restaurants, they never resist bringing you a glass of water on request.

Berlin summers are hot, and staying hydrated is tough. Just be aware that getting tap water at restaurants can be taxing. 

No comments: