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.

Did You Like This Page?

If you did, please share it on Pinterest, Twitter or your favorite social media.

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

Leave A Comment

103 Comments to “ Why Germans Don’t Drink Tap Water”

  1. Jasmin

    I’m German… Yes it’s true that you usually don’t order tap water in restaurants or offer visitors tap water but I like tap water, especially in summer with ice. I also know many people who like to drink it. The main reason that you don’t order or offer it to other people (except you don’t have anything else at home at the moment), is rather etiquette than anything else. The word Leitungswasser also has nothing to do with it, it has no negative association in German.

    Just my opinion ^^
    Jasmin

     
    Reply
  2. Ginette

    I grew up for the most part in Germany. German mother French father. It is true Germans don’t drink tap water “generally”. However growing up we were very poor and all we had to drink was tap water and that is what we were made to drink. At my grand parents I got to drink limonade which is a carbonated lemonade or I drank bottled water. But that was only at the grand parents. They had a bit more money. My grand mother would have never let me drink tap water. :-)

     
    Reply
  3. Becky

    We will be visiting Germany for the 1st time. We’ve never been to Europe. After a tour of Frankfurt, we will be visiting friends in Lahr. They will be keeping us in their home. We drink tap water. Any advise for water lovers? Thanks!

     
    Reply
  4. tap water experts

    Hello everybody,

    we are a group of germans who are discussing this topic in our english lesson. We think that german tap water is excellent quality. Research has found, that bottled water isn’t superior to tap water. In fact, tap water in germany is better controlled than bottled. Taste it and save energy and the environment, not to mention money for the good german beer!

     
    Reply
  5. patrick maass

    Hi guys im born and raised in germany. I moved to the us when i where 26 so seven years ago. In germany i drink tap watet, the reason for drinking good quality bottle water is the bottle doesnt has a five dollar bill on it. A good bottle of water is about .49 cent.

     
    Reply
  6. Alexander Schikora

    Hi there, I am German. Living in Frankfurt. Mineralwater costs for 1L 0,79 € for a good brand, cheaper water is about 0,49 € for 1 litre.
    I don’t drink tap water because I don’t like the taste. But I also don’t like some bottled waters like Volvic or Nestlé Aqua… But the tap water quality is not just “good” as mentioned, its superior! Because it’s better controlled than bottled water, by law.
    Trivia: A synonym for Leitungswasser is also “Gänsewein” which translates to goose wine. Try asking for Gänsewein in a Restaurant :p

     
    Reply
  7. Laura

    Hi! I’m colombian, and i’ll be living in Mannheim 6 months, and i have brought an infussion from Colombia wich usually gets pink with hot water, but here it became green!! Don’t know if its the water or the infussion, but i think that generally water is better in Colombia, tap water and bottled watter taste better, and don’t have wierd residues…

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Laura –

      Thanks for sharing that experience. Do you know why the water turns pink or green? I would find drinking filtered water that came out colored to be very peculiar!

      Thomas

       
      Reply
    • Germenglish

      It has everything to do with mineral content in the water. German water is filtered through a clay basin into granite aquifers over thousands of years. I’m not sure about the geology of Columbia. Colombia however is bordered by salt water. Things like salt water intrusion, different soil composition, different mineral and nutrient content. They all are factors. I’m not a chemist, but I studied a lot of it in college. My minor was in physics though. They are cousins. Green usually indicates copper or cobalt in most oxidations. If it is a herbal infusion there could be assorted tannic acids in play that react. For example, water from a limestone aquifer will have massive amounts of calcium where as a feldspar basin may contain high amounts of iron. If your aquifer is buffered by sand, it filters through faster. Clay takes lifetimes. Silica sand is very inert whereas clay has many metals in it. Color is not a real good indicator of water quality. Too many variations. Unless you are doing chromotography but that is a whole other monster. I can tell you this though. German water is VERY safe. Especially in the cities. Germans are notoriously cheap when it comes to building. Municipal infrastructure here is built as cheap as possible. Not always a bad thing. Smaller pipes aren’t just cheaper. They have less volume, so the water out of your tap spends less time in the pipes. Bad for capacity, better for water quality. The only time you have to worry is if your building is very old and still original. Then it is remotely possible that you have lead pipes. Yes on rare occasion they ate still around. Don’t forget how old some of these cities are. There are still sewers from the middle ages still in use today. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Besides. It costs money to replace.

       
      Reply
  8. Erica

    I’m travelling to Germany soon. Here in the U.S., I carry a stainless steel bottle of water on walks, etc., and have a cup/straw on my desk that drink water from all day. I’m used to drinking A LOT of water! Any suggestions for my trip? If I bring my bottle, where would I fill it?
    thanks!

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Erica –

      Your best bet is probably to buy gallons of filtered water from a local market and use it to refill your carry along bottle with when you are back at your resting area. If you were to fill it while you were out and about you will likely just have to buy a plastic/glass bottle and recycle the bottle when you transfer the water.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  9. Bastian

    Thank you very much for sharing that interesting experience. I come from Germany but live in Thailand and go to school here. Every 6 months I go back to my hometown Wiesbaden near Frankfurt. I realized even if the quality of the tap water is very good, everybody in my family is drinking bottled water, and that just because of personal preferences. It kinda shocked me and now I’ve decided to write a paper on the bottled water consumption in Berlin and every time I go to Germany now, I drink tap water!

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Bastian –

      We’ve gotten a few reports recently that the tap water in Germany is getting better. Maybe they have installed a more modern water delivery filtration system that is more health conscious. The world today is rapidly moving towards health and wellness awareness. It’s no surprise that a great nation like Germany would move towards that same apparently global movement and help keep her Citizens healthy and strong!

      Do let us know how your paper comes along. We’d love to make sure our information is accurate for future explorers of Germany.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  10. George

    I have a question. We have German friends from Berlin arriving in a week. The husband told me that he drinks water out of the tap. Today the wife told she drinks only “water with gas”. Does that mean mineral water. I only drink bottled water when we are traveling and tap water is not readily available. What is a good brand of “water with gas” that I can purchase here in the USA

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      Yes, if a German says that he only drinks water with gas, it means he only drinks carbonated mineral water. The Borjomi brand is widely available in the USA and I think also well known in Germany.

      Perhaps some Germans can tell about brands of water that are widely available in the USA and also in Germany.

       
      Reply
  11. Eva

    I lived in Germany, & US. I can say the water quality in the US has myriad contaminates that can be very harmful to your health & /or even cause cancer. German “wasser” is good,specifically mineral. I’ve been studying water quality for some time. I understand that bottled water anywhere is bad due to the plastic that leeches chemicals. I don’t offer my friends in US nor Germany tap water as I want to provide them with a healthy glass of H20. Glass is best!
    Eva

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Eva –

      Agreed! Glass is best. Water out of a tap is prone to contaminants based on the pipes that it was going through and the treatment process for sanitizing. Water all over the world is in jeopardy of industrial contamination too.

      I prefer filtered water stored in a glass container myself as well.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  12. Philip

    I’m German (currently living not too far from Ramstein Air Base) and for those of you wondering about the quality of tab water in Germany, I can assure you: No matter where you go in Germany, the water is ALWAYS perfectly safe to drink. Here there is no other food or drink that is as rigorously analyzed and controlled as drinking water/tab water, in fact the quality is often even higher than the bottled water you buy.

    The difference in taste of water (and probably also the effect on the infusion of the Colombian lady above) is due the different content of minerals in it as the water derives from different sources. Some regions simply have “harder” water than others.

    But back on topic: I drink both carbonated and tap water. I like carbonated water because I find it refreshing, but if I’m home and want a glass of water I’ll take it from the tab. But then again there is no logical reason why we should prefer one over the other …in the end it’s probably something that has become part of our culture over the years.

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      Philip –

      Thanks for the reassurance that the tap water in Germnay is of the highest quality. It is possible that when this article was conceived many years ago that the water conditions were different. As civilization evolves sanitation advancements will surely create differences in opinion based in personal experience.

      I, too, enjoy both natural gassy water and flat water. Each has its own unique quality.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  13. AJ

    Yes, here in US, we are spoiled- most restaurants will offer free tap water with ice and lemon. I visit Europe/Germany pretty often. My impression is that the “NO TAP watter” at restaurants is based on traditions and pure business (great markups!). The traditions come from the postwar/industrial times when tap water was not safe. But today… I cannot imagine unsafe tap water in Germany (if somebody does not agree with this, I would suggest them to visit China, Shanghai in perticular). BTW, many people here have mentioned Frankfurt/Wiesbaden area- that’s where the famous water filters Brita come from. My family has been using these for years and years in Europe and US. Not long time ago Brita introduced a small watter bottle-filter for travellers.
    Speaking of prices… The craziest price I have ever paid was $23 for 1L bottle in Moscow at a restaurant- more than the price for three shots of vodka :).

     
    Reply
    • thomas

      AJ –

      Thanks for the great info! You are right – there are some very poor water conditions in many places of the world. Most industrialized nations have pretty effective filtration systems. Many people have MUCH higher standards for drinking water than a municipal source. This is what makes water filters, in their many, many various forms, such a great tool!

      $23 is pretty steep for a bottle of water eh? WOW!

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  14. Todd

    I am glad I found all these comments about the water in Germany as I will be traveling to Munich and Passau July 20-24th for a short business trip. I am from the US and live in a rural area where we have our own well so the water I drink has natural minerals in it. I travel to China about once a year and know that the water there cannot be consumed without being boiled so I was relieved to find the information I did here about the water in Germany. Thanks to all who shared their experiences and knowledge on the topic.
    Cheers!

     
    Reply
  15. wan

    Thanks for sharing. In Munich now and was wondering if the water from tap is safe to drink. Got my answer!:)

     
    Reply
  16. Nat

    All of above is very good information. Most views seem to favor using the tap water. What are you thoughts about using tap water in a 4-star hotel bathroom for purposes of taking medicinal pills, brushing teeth, etc?

     
    Reply
  17. Sebastian

    Just some infos: 99% percent of the German tap water is perfectly drinkable,the regulations are stricter than they are for bottled mineral water. Those regulations go back to the early 70s, so it is not a new phenomenon.
    The exceptions are some areas where the water is not suitable for babys due to some natural radiation in the groundwater.

    I am 32, living in southeastern Germany, my parents always drank/drink tap water and so do I and most of my friends. But apparently tap water was unsafe in the years or even a decade after the war. Maybe this is where the preference for bottled water comes from, or maybe it was just great marketing by the bottled water industry. Carbonated water is prefered by many, thats why carbonation appliances are very popular here.
    Maybe one reason for the absence of free tap water in most German restaurants is the fact that most waiters get a salary and don’t have to rely on tips. This salary has to be paid with the revenue of the restaurant which often relys upon the drinks, and not the food.

    Regards

    Sebastian

     
    Reply
  18. Ami

    Now, i am in Frankfrut Airport, i was a Little Bit thirsty, so i just went to the bathroom and get the tap water. It is actually very normal in Denmark, I lived there for more than one year, and we always drink tap water, it’s free and tasty(no taste). But this time, I tasted the tap water here, I realized the taste is different, tap water in Franksfurt was not so tasty, I felt like there are something chemical element inside maybe. But, anyway I still drunk it.

     
    Reply
  19. Leah

    Great discussion. I’m in Berlin visiting for a year from Vancouver, Canada. The tap water here tastes much better than other places I’ve been, Toronto, Philadelphia, etc. usually North American tap water tastes like chlorine, or other petro chemicals (philly) but here it’s more like well water, calcium rich and delicious. Also good to know, unlike North American cities there is no fluoride (industrial waste product from phosphate fertilizer and uranium mining industries). Hard water is really good for you as it is a super easy way to get the daily recommended dose of calcium and magnesium. Most people are low on minerals. Wishing you all the best!

     
    Reply
  20. Richard Timmons

    visiting my son in law at USAF soon and plan to carry a water filter. We don’t drink alcohol so water will be our option. I use an REI model with a crank pump. the filter is good for thousands of liters have used it for years. We use Nalgene bottles about two each and have two full ones in fridge.

     
    Reply
  21. fred

    German tap water is great. It has no flouride or added chemicals and comes from a natural aquifier that feeds the city’s thermal baths.

    Only reason Germans won’t drink it is because they believe the water is not as clean as bottled water. They don’t bother to take a look at a lot of bottled water is just filtered water and restaurants capitalize on this so they can sell you bottled water at rip of prices.

    A German independent study of Stuttgart water commissioned by the German government where I live showed that The local tap water is equal or better in quality to Perier bottled water.

    So all those people pushing their nose up at it might want to look twice.

     
    Reply
  22. Friedrich W O Vonostrowo

    The regulations for German drinking water guidelines would shame many of the state’s guidelines even if they were followed! German Leitungswasser is perfectly safe to drink and a fancy schmancy filter is not needed except maybe at the US base if they filter their own water. Save your filters for a trip to Haiti or Africa. The only tap water that ever made me sick was in Peru and I should have known better.

     
    Reply
  23. Hans

    Plastic bottles create a huge amount of waste. So don’t offer water in a plastic bottle to your German friend. First explain to them that drinking tap water is logical to do since it’s free, safe and eco-friendly.

    Then give them a reusable bottle so that they can avoid the 167 plastic bottles per person waste a year.

     
    Reply
  24. Diogo Schneider

    I went to Germany only once in a quick business trip. I was in the lovely city of Dusseldorf for a few days and I refilled the same plastic bottle I got from the airplane (call me frugal) from the tap in my bedroom while at the hotel. Probably the best water I ever tasted and I can usually tell the difference.

     
    Reply
  25. Deborah Koerth

    My family and I lived in Schendeldorf on the small mountain above Stromberg Germany between 1983-1986. We lived on the economy instead of Military housing. We were told that the water was not safe to drink, therefore we drank Evian bottled water. Two young American women decided to drink the water anyway, and both had problems with their pregnancies; one miscarried and the other one’s baby was born premature and had many complications.

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell

      Thanks Deborah. I’ve always been a big fan of getting local advice and following it.

       
      Reply
    • Germenglish

      It depends on the source. Water quality is tightly controlled as in the US. BUT! In the US water is chlorinated and flouridated. Not in Germany. If it is a dry summer and the water table sinks, the concentration of nitrates and metals could be higher. Although chlorination sterilizes and fluoridation locks minerals in, it can’t removed chemicals. If you well is near an old mine, like mine is, you really have to pay attention. Where I lived there is an abandoned coal mine. The local well is upstream of it. But!!! My neighbor’s grandfather worked in that coal mine. He said the reason they really closed it down was that they found uranium in it. Very possible geologicly. So…. do you drink the water? I have not seen that the water is tested for radiation. Maybe it’s there, maybe not. But I’m a man of science. In the elemental composition I looked at which minerals are in it and how much. No Uranium. No Iodine. No Cesium. No Cadmium. No dissolved Xenon. No Strontium. No Thorium. So…no radiation. I drink it. I’m more worried about nitrate from the farmers.

       
      Reply
(Will not be published)