Why Germans Don’t Drink Tap Water
June 1, 2013
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.
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.