Why Germans Don’t Drink Tap Water

When you go to a restaurant in Germany, a waiter will NOT bring you a complimentary glass of water. In fact, it’s almost impossible to get a glass of tap water in a German restaurant even if you ask for it.

Now the tap water in Germany is generally safe to drink — but Germans usually don’t drink it, and the restaurants definitely won’t serve you a free glass of German water.

Safe tap water

The tap water is safe to drink in Germany. (1)

The only water you can get it a restaurant will be bottled water with carbonation or bottled water without carbonation.

The German Word for Tap Water

So what’s the reason why no-one drinks tap water in Germany when it’s perfectly safe to do so?

The reason is at least in part the word for tap water. In English, lots of good things come from taps. Beer comes from a tap, soda can be on tap, and of course, the other meaning of tap, as in tap your fingers on the table is also positive.

But the German word for tap water is Leitungswasser which literally means plumbing water. Now if you offered someone plumbing water, well that’s slightly better than sewer water but it isn’t something you would do.

One of my biggest cultural mistakes in Germany was offering a friend of mine (who was probably very thirsty) a glass of ordinary tap water (Leitungswasser) and being surprised and somewhat offended when she wouldn’t take a sip.

So when you go to a restaurant, plan on ordering mineral water, with or without carbonation (gas) and never offer a German friend a glass of tap water.

The Comments Below are Excellent

Occasionally an internet article attracts all the right people who leave their comments and by doing so they add clarity, depth, and understanding.

That’s what happened on this page.  Thank you all.

When you read the comments below you will understand a lot more about Germany, and perhaps love it more too.

If there are more than 100 comments below you will need to click on the “Older Comments” link in the blue “Leave a Comment” box below to see some of the best comments.

Please Tell Your German Water Story Below

Please tell us your stories about the water in Germany below.

I’m especially looking for comments from people who know about the rare circumstances when German tap water is not safe to drink.

Do You Want to Learn German?

If you are planning on traveling to Germany, you will definitely have a LOT more fun if you can speak at least a little German.

This German learning program is very good at getting you the basics very quickly.

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(1) Image of beautiful German-made water faucet courtesy of Hansgrohe.

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    There is only one reason that restaurants don’t put a glass of water on your table in Germany. They want you to buy a bottle instead. It has nothing to do with water quality. They simply make more money that way.

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      @Simon: Wrong, the water quality of tap water in germany IS worse. It always has a different taste than clear bottled water.

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      Johnnes Bergenstein

      Well, that might be true but you are contradicting yourself right now. The Point here is that Germand dont usually drink from Tap Water, because its just disgusting, normal water from bottle is generally better , it has lots of nutriouns in it and is healthy and naturall, Tap Water is the oppisite with many kinds of chemicals in it.

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    Actually, they do make money from it. I order Leitungswasser at a hotel. They gave me a glass and charged me 1.90 Euros. That is a very good profit.
    I drink tap water because it is better for the environment. You’d think Germans would support that.

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    Tap water in Leipzig tastes really gross

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    The hell? I only drink tap water. I bottle it up, cool it in the fridge and carbonate it if I want to or not. There is nothing bad with offering someone tap water.

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    When in Germany, I drink tap water at home and sparkling (carbonated) water everywhere else. If you ask for still water in a restaurant it can easily cost as much as good wine, almost all germans seem to prefer carbonated water (they call it sprudelwasser) and it’s definitely the cheaper option.
    The thing about bottled water is that it is very cheap and you can return most bottles for the deposit (pfand) which is almost what you paid for the water so if you’re on the move it makes sense to buy your water when you need it.
    I’ve seen tourists in German towns fill their water bottles from a fountain and I’ve heard that the rivers and streams are very clean now, so almost all water seems to be safe to drink.

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    My family visited Germany Many years ago (late 60s). Signs all over: “vasser ist nicht gut”…
    Fact is, we should put signs all over here reading the same, but in English. At least they were honest…

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