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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.

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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.

125 Comments
  • Avatar
    emilyg

    I never knew that was why you can’t get tap water in Germany! I am a huge hydrophile. I carry a water bottle with me everywhere and I try to drink exclusively tap (I hate wasting plastic bottles). So when I went to Munich, I was so frustrated at having to buy bottled water everywhere! It’s fascinating to see where that comes from…

     
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  • Avatar
    Nidhi

    Very well said.
    But I observe that the German tap water has a lot of white deposit in it, something like calcium carbonate, especially warm water. You could see this in a transparent bottle the moment you fill it with warm water. Also, if you leave some of this water in a glass, you will find the white deposit I’m talking about, in the bottom of the glass. Is it still safe to drink such water?

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi Nidhi,

      The white water that you see when you first pour warm water into your glass is probably extremely tiny air bubbles that make the water look white.

      If the white goes away after an hour of sitting in the glass it definitely was air.

      If the water looks white or leaves a white deposit later, it’s probably minerals. These are also usually safe to drink.

      It sounds like you are in Germany right now, so I would double check in your area to make sure the tap water is safe to drink, but it probably is.

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    John Moran

    I learned this the hard way while living in Stuttgart 10 years ago. My wife and I rented an apartment for a year and one time we had some furniture delivered and one of the workmen asked for a drink of water. Not knowing the tap water issue, I filled him a glass from the kitchen tap and he looked at it (and me) as if I had scooped it out of the toilet. He wouldn’t even take the glass and just said “Nein danke” and left!

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the great story! I did the same thing to the most wonderful woman in Berlin. Karen, wherever you are, I really apologize! (smile).

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    Annonym

    hey, I’m from Germay, and the assertion that we don’t drink tap water is wrong!!!!!!!! we just not drink it soo often, so it’s a little bit unusual to get tap water in Germany.
    My english is bad so i have wrote with die google translator.
    I apologize for my errors grammatical.

     
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    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      I drank the water while I was in Berlin and it tasted good to me and I stayed healthy.

       
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  • Avatar
    B in G

    I love Germans and love living in Germany. But I am on a one man crusade for tap water equality. The tap water here is fine, the bottled water tastes exactly the same.

     
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  • Avatar
    Berliner

    Hey folks,
    I read this text by coincidence. Since I am german I must correct it a little bit!
    You’re right, that it is not usual for german restaurants to serve you tab water, though it has a very good quality (at least in my hometown Berlin ; ) but you will get a glas of free tab water everywhere (if you order something beside of course) unless you’re not in a super fancy resteraunt!
    Regarding the private hosehold it is mixed! Some people buy bottled water, others (like me) are always drinking tab water. If you have a visitor (that you’re not very familiar with) it might be unpolite to offer him tab water without telling him something like “sorry I only got tab water” or offering him an alternative. That’s because you can’t tell wether your visitor is drinking tab water or not. If you only offer him tab water he might think that you don’t care and maybe also that you don’t wanna give him something more expencive than free! ; )
    So: yes germans drink tab water! But not all like it though and offering unfamiliar visitors only tab water could provoke negative vibes!
    Cheers from Berlin

     
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  • Avatar
    Anne

    I think this goes more for older people…I´m 20 and German and for me and all of my friends it´s normal to drink tap water. But it´s also a matter of where you are. There are places like Bochum, where the water is horrible. But most of the places have good water. It´s cheaper and better for the environment. Plus it´s more healthy than the bottled water.

     
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  • Avatar
    Katrin

    Hi there

    I am from Germany and live since 2009 in the USA. I know for fact that the German Tap Water is way way healthier than the Tap Water in the USA!!!
    I am not drinking the Tap Water here in the USA because it is so gross and I know it makes you sick…!!!

    I am doing a lot of researching about the Food and Water in the USA.I must say I am avoiding A LOT of American Food as possible. I always cook Fresh/Organic/Home made Food…
    But with the Water I am having big problems. My Husband keeps on telling me to Filter the Tap Water but I am refusing to do so.

    I am still trying to figure out what kind of Water I could drink.Without any Chemicals,Flouride etc.
    Many People here believe that the Tap water is good for your Teeth cause of the Flouride.But it is not the case.In fact Flouride Can Cause Bone Cancer and other.

     
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  • Avatar
    Sarah

    Hi everybody!
    I am German and I think that I never in my life met a German who would be offended if you offered him tap water. Sure, there are different preferations and I know people who simply prefere soda. Some on the other hand just love (and are even proud of) the quality of their tap water. The explanation why I use the word “their” here is, that the water does taste really different depending on the region you are in within germany. Berlin and Würzburg e.g. have really hard tap water, other taste more soft, more sour, etc. Reason gives the geologic conditions and if the water comes from groundwater or is filtrated surface water.

    I think the reason that you made such weird (in a way funny though) experiences is that a lot of (specially uneducated) people are used to sodawater and still did not understand that german tap water is of really high quality. Still it’s funny to read and truly believe other persons experiences with germans and the tap water :)

    Oh, a last comment about old pipes. If you know that the building is older and you’re not sure about the materials of the pipes (copper, lead, etc.) just let the water ran for a time (depending on the height of the floor you are in) of about 2-5 minutes and the water with the Ions that had been solved from the pipes is out.

    Best regards. Sarah

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Thanks for the comments. My experience with this was in Berlin, where my friends responded to my offer of tap water like I obviously didn’t know what I was doing.

      Fortunately Germany is a big wonderful country with mostly safe water everywhere.

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    traveler world

    West European countries, maintain the highest standard of hygiene. For example, O3 for sterilization.
    While in North America, due to to scale of the industrialization, the pollutant appeared in much higher level and the money for the treatment are very limited. very few city can afford O3 sterilization, for example.
    Also, North America is immigration society and many coming from even lower living standard country and nobody willing to pay extra for the water and other public services.
    As one of the consequence, drinking water in North America is getting worse and worse.
    [So as the social moral standards as well, maybe no country can avoid this]

     
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  • Avatar
    Anna

    I did offer a glass of tap water when I was in Vancouver to a very nice German guy. He didn’t say anything but now I feel so ashamed doing that without paying attention. I hope that he takes it easy.

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi Anna,

      Don’t feel ashamed, feel bemused and enlightened.

      It’s this kind of thing that makes world travel interesting and fun. If people were the same everywhere life would be just a little bit boring.

      Brent

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kitty

    I am also from Berlin. Only drank tap water when growing up. I moved to the US,when I went for a visit and was told I couldn’t drink the tap water anymore, I was shocked!!! Have gone back many times and always brought a water filter to purify the water, but I am really getting tired lugging one around all the time. After reading all the comments here, I think I will try the tap water this time, will be leaving in one month for my next visit. Thanks to all of you. Kitty.

     
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  • Avatar

    Hello All,

    Thanks for your valuable comments. currenly i am in germany.all these comments are very informal for me to take care….!!!!

     
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  • Avatar
    CarlS

    Way back when, upon arrival in Germany, I was told about the non-use of tap water.

    I was also told that it was legal for children to drink beer. I observed this to be true, or at least I never saw anyone chastise others for giving children beer. And of course, German beer is a mite more nutritious than American brews.

    The reason: almost total destruction and contamination of water supplies during the 2 great Wars.

    Made sense to me, because many of the places I got sent didn’t have clean drinking water. But I suppose that’s ancient history, no longer taught in school.

     
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  • Avatar

    berlin water tastes very heavy and thick, and just sits on my stomach for what seems like an hour refusing to go down. there is something wrong with it. i take a shower and my hair sticks together, it feels sticky in my hands as if it will start beading up like theres oil in it. i put a pan of it to dry and i am not lying, you can scrape off calc as if it were sand on the beach. drinking the tap water is guaranteed to give you kidney stones in a month, dont do it. whats worse is some bottled water tastes HEAVY as well. don’t do it.

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    its me

    Hallo,

    i am from Germany. And yes you are right, you can’t order tap water in a restaurant. Only when you order an espresso you get a glas of tap water in some restaurants, in others you get only the espresso. I never knew why, but i never asked myself about this interesstion aspect of German culture. But after reading your artikel it sounds clear.

    At home a lot of people are drinking tap water. For example my girlfriend is drinking tap water, i don’t or try to avoid. It is just because of the feeling that tap water is cheep and theirfore can’t be good. Nevertheless I know, as mentioned before, the german tap water has higher standards as bottled water like Bonaqua. Even there are different tastes, which depends on the region, the high standard is everywhere the same in Germany. When I traveled in North America or even in other European Countries I would never have drunk tap water, because most of the time there is a taste of chlorine.

    While i am writing this I realize: In the house of my parents I do drink the tap water. The difference to the flat where I live with my girlfriend: we are living in an realy old house with maybe old pipes made of lead. The house of my parents is about 15 years old so I can be sure there are no old pipes.

     
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  • Avatar
    attrezzopox

    Old world history plays a much stronger role in all of Europe than it does in America. I wonder if the tap water issue is really more of a dying cultural stigma.

    When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock they were actually diverting because they ran out of Beer! You see, at that time beer was the staple beverage for any European as water from the ground was heavily polluted with excrement and sewage wash from the streets (and largely still is). So typical, unhussied up water was really dangerous to drink.

    So, even on the sailing ships they kegged and brought beer as the staple (a good thing as it DID last longer than water). In fact, even though, when they landed at Plymouth, the American rivers ran so clear and clean they could have drank from them immediately, they resorted to making beer out of acorns for fear that the water would make them sick. You can still buy Acorn beer in the northeast and there is a festival every year celebrating it. It wasn’t until the last hundred and fifty years or so groundwater processing became the norm. I think the old world tap water stigmas stem from hundreds of years of largely unsafe ground water.

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Trish

    I ordered ‘Leitungswasser’ at restaurants in Germany when I studied there and everyone was fine with it. I did have to use the german word so that they knew what I meant, but it saved me a ton of money…

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Bert

    I live in Holland and here it is the complete opposite. They give you mineral water just because you pay for it and we call it tap water as well. I have family in Germany who think the same about it so I’m not sure that they would all feel offended if you offer them a glass of water. (sry for the bad english)

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Thomas

    very interesting thread here.

    I am a nativ German and very amused about the very different experiences you made.

    At First – tap water in Germany is safe and highly protected by the law.

    The main reason why it is not offered in Restaurants is the fact that the owners make money by selling drinks. It is absolute unusual in Germany to serve tap-water.

    In private area it is “unpolite” to serve such a simple thing like tap-water. Tipp: keep a bottle of water or a can of soft-drink for guests in reserve :-) But dont be ashamed – it is more funny than unpolite for the most Germans if Foreigners do so.

    Sorry about my limited English – I am a little bit out of training.

    Greetings from Germany

    Thomas

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Trish

    My mom is German and I once asked my aunt why she wont drink tap water. She replied that there have been times in history when the rivers were contaminated (her words were-ran red with blood). Therefore although she knows intellectually that the water is clean emotionally she doesn’t want to drink it.

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Alisah

    No true! I live in Germay and everyone drinks it!

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    sig

    I would say the reason why quite some people in Germany react strangely, if you just offer them tab water, is also related to it´s lack of carbon dioxide.

    Many Germans are used to drinking mineral water which is usually enriched with carbon dioxide. So many people for this reason prefer overall carbonated water over plain water. it tastes different, and in comparison water without carbon dioxide tastes rather plain.

    Actually there was and still is to some degree a hype among people to carbonate tab water at home, with a special device. Many people did use this, because they enjoy the sparkling effect.

    Also, mineral water from springs is considered to be of higher overall quality, even though tab water in Germany is also absolutely safe and fine to drink – except, the plumbing of the house has got an actual problem, but that means the drinkable water just gets polluted later on for other reasons.

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Ewald

    The Germans are drinking tap water every other day as coffee and tea. Nearly nobody prepares coffee or tea with bottled water. So if you want
    to serve tap water serve it hot ;)

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    André

    Hi,
    Iam from Germany (sorry for the bad englisch and the mistakes).

    Of course you can get tap water in a restaurant. But you have to ask for “Leitungswasser”. The waiter or Barkeeper may be a little bit annoyed of this question – simply because tap water is free and you dont have to pay for it in a restaurant. So to be a nice guy just buy some other stuff first and then ask for tap water.

    The tap water quality in Germany is very high (It is much higher than in the US). The laws to protect this quality (waterthreatment) are very strict (by the way the law is more strict for tap water than for bottled water – funny). You can drink all the tap water in the whole country without cooking and use it even for preparing Baby food.

    But never offer somebody who is thirsty tap water – it is insulting and everybody will think you are poor!

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      I like your suggestion of first ordering food and then asking for Leitungswasser.

      Danke,

      Brent

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    Alexander

    Actually this article is not entirely right. I guess it depends on where you are in Germany, but I am German and I drink mostly tap water, as do my friends. I live in the south western part. The thing about the restaurants is simple: It’s polite to order something to drink which costs some money. I’ve never heard of restaurants that offer free glasses of tap water, either.

    I don’t think it’s bad manners to offer tap water to someone who’s thirsty, and even if they feel offended by such a thing, don’t mind it. Germans are just very direct when it comes to saying their opinions (on average, anyway), but there is no reason to keep a bad conscience after some minor impoliteness like that.

    Actually I think that asking for free tap water in a restaurant is a much higher impoliteness than offering tap water to someone.

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi Alexander,

      Thanks for your great post. As you know the rules of politeness vary depending on where you are in the world. In Germany it’s polite to order a drink that you have to pay for at a restaurant.

      In North America, it’s 100% standard for a restaurant to bring you a free glass of water and then ask if you would like to order a drink that you will have to pay for — and there’s no obligation for a restaurant patron in North America to order a paid drink as long as he or she orders food.

      Ahh, the differences between countries are wonderful. Of course it’s even more wonderful to know what the rules of politeness are in Germany before you go so you don’t come across as impolite. Thanks for helping us with that.

      Brent Van Arsdell

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    AleinBerlin

    I am currently staying in a hospital here in Potsdam and I just want to add my experience on what is normal here to offer patients. Well, of course carbonated water, two bottles of 1L per day. If I want the option of no carbonated water, I have to get out of my bed and go to a special machine and refill my bottle, because this is not something they bring you to the room. I am still wondering why? I would consider too much carbonated drink could potentially cause some sort of damage to your body, but who knows I will keep asking around.

     
    Reply
    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      This is great. I can imagine being in a German hospital and getting my ration of two liters of carbonated water per day. Thanks for the post.

      Brent

       
      Reply
  • Brent Van Arsdell
    Brent Van Arsdell

    Well everyone in Berlin told me that tap water was safe to drink there but I offended at least one thirsty German girl by offering her tap water.

    Anyway one of the reasons to travel is because things will be different than at home. I wonder how to say “Enjoy the differences” in German?

     
    Reply
  • Avatar
    Alexander

    I was once in a hospital, too, and they gave me carbonated water as well. But I kinda didn’t manage to drink it, so they ended up injecting non-carbonanted water into my vein. :-) If it hadn’t been the emergency room I probably would’ve been clear enough in the head to demand non-carbonated water, but I believe that you can rightfully criticize any hospital which serves carbonated water. It’s tough to drink 2L per day of that.

    @Brent: You’re welcome! I find it interesting by the way that your article is still being discussed even after 2 years. That shows its importance and quality. :-) I think I’m going to try out Andrés suggestion of buying a drink first and then asking for Leitungswasser.
    “Enjoy the differences” can be translated literally, i.e. word by word: “Genieße die Unterschiede”. But it’s no German proverb afaik. Is it a proverb in English?

     
    Reply
  • Brent Van Arsdell
    Brent Van Arsdell

    Hi Alexander,

    Actually “Enjoy the difference” is a French proverb “Viva la difference.” Most educated Americans would know and use the French version.

    I was hoping there was a German equivalent. In any case, I now know that when in Germany I should keep a few bottles of carbonated water to offer to thirsty guests.

    Brent

     
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  • Avatar
    Maria

    I’m German and I only drink tap water. I live in Leipzig, and out water quality is superb. I actually started not liking bottled water, because you can taste the additional stuff in it. I mean, it’s not fresh water out of a brook on top of a mountain in the Alps, but out tap water is pretty awesome.
    I do know that my mum doesn’t like tap water because it’s not carbonated. So she bought a machine where you can carbonate tap water and all is well :)

    If people get offended by ‘only’ being offered tap water it means they simply feel like you’re trying to get off cheap, because all other beverages cost money. We do make jokes, calling tap water Rohrperle (rough translation pearl from the pipe).

    Every restaurant will serve it…but some might charge for it (fee for waiting servive, washing up etc). If they don’t, their service isn’t up to standard and you have every right to complain.

    Starbucks will give you free water (even filtered) if you just ask.

    Oh, and if tap water is of a bad quality here, it’s usually the pipes in the house or the neighbourhood…the water itself is usually way above the necessary standard.

     
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  • Avatar
    Anna

    Hi,
    I just ended up on this page by chance and I am SO amused that this is what foreigners think of us Germans! I’m from the northern part of Germany and I think it’s safe to say that most people from Germany do drink tap water – maybe most ist the wrong word. Educated people do, young people do and you do get it in a restaurant, just don’t do it if you don’t order anything you have to pay for, that would be considered rude. A lot of uneducated people buy bottled water – or don’t drink water at all but strictly stick to coke etc. But i believe this does not go for Germany only.
    One reason for people buying bottled water is that a lot of poeple prefer carbonated water.
    Still all of these people will use unfiltered tap water to make coffee or tea – NOONE uses bottled water for that in Germany, except if you live in an old house with old pipes (since we have a rather old culture in Germany, a lot of houses in small towns and villages date back to the 15th century and the pipes have not been replaced for quite a few decades).

    The reason why youget carbonated water in hospitals is simply because it’s relatively unusual to only drink uncarbonated water in Germany – I’m usually the only one ordering uncarbonated water in a restaurant (bottled, for politeness’ sake) while the group will order several bottles of carbonated water to share.

    And this is I guess what you interpreted as Germans being offended when you offer them tap water – they simply expected you to offer them carbonated water, because that is what most people in Germany drink! =)

     
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  • Avatar
    Barry

    Hi Brent and all of you preceding commentators. First I should mention, that I`m native German and also live here in the North-West region of it. As I only participate from my school English now, because I never had the chance to stay or live in an English speaking country, I apologize in advance if my English should be kinda poor.

    Reading this article including all the different comments was interesting and kinda funny same way. In general I see 2 different believes, why people here seem somewhat offended, if offered a “only” a glass of tap-watewr if asking for something to drink, what really is true for many of them.

    But imho in fact it is a mixture of both esp. 2 reasons: as told before, I was born and raised in Germany. This was during the ’50s and 60’s, which means at young years I experienced the after-WWII-effects on my own. I can well remember the time, when money, goods and even food was real rare for most average families, and sometimes cooking and meals at all were put off as long as possible up to a point, when it was absolutely necessary.

    Some food was so expensive and difficult to get, that I remember that we always talked about e.g. “Die gute Butter” which roughly means “the precious butter” – and this, of course, was absolutely forbidden to use for all day purpose as it was with some other “high-classed” goods as beef, cream, alcoholics and the such, too.

    Nowadays view, this merely may sound and seem ridiculous, as these belong to basic food these days. BUT – when you came to visit, only the best we had in the fridge or storeroom was served, even if it was the last things we had for ourselves. Hospitality first! And so, there grew a feeling, that if someone wouldn’t act like this, he might not like you, as a subliminal hint meaning: YOU are NOT welcome as my guest. (otherwise I’d offer you the best I have). And I think, parts of that subliminal feelings still remain in most of Germans – at least the ones of that generations. And in 2nd place – but in addition to the above- I support the idea of preceeding commentors, that Germans are too much used to carbonated water, so pure tab water is too tasteless to them unless used for tea, coffee or mix-drinks with fruity powder, cappuccino powder and the like. Yeah – weird – you may say – but that’s what we are – and you are the way you are educated from childhood on.

    BTW Brent: I think I can answer your question regarding the french proverb “vive la difference!” There IS an exact german equivalent, which is a proverb here too – but it is more equal to the translation of the french original than the english term with “Enjoy…” and to what Alexander translated- it says:

    “Es lebe der kleine Unterschied!”

    which would mean, translated word by word to English:

    “Long live the small difference!” (whatever it meant ;o))

    In this sense – all the best … Barry

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Barry –

      Thanks for the great expose on German hospitality! It’s good to have someone articulate so well the little differences that are being expressed in this ongoing commentary. I hope more people read your comment and have a better understanding of the whole concept now.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    poppy

    Hi there,

    I believe that the tap water in Germany (Mannheim where I have been living for the last few months) is OK to drink,however it taste gross and the white traces of minerals on the glass is a put off for me.
    Poppy

     
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  • Avatar
    Jenny

    Just came across this thread and as I am currently on home vacation in Germany from China, just had to add my two cents’ worth even though I’m late with a response :) I am glad so many already replied to correct some statements and relate some background information, and also believe that the national question of Leitungswasser also has regionally different answers.

    My hometown is in the country’s southwest and our very “soft” tap water which even contains minerals is with a high degree of certainty even healthier than some bottled waters available in the supermarkets while other parts of Germany do have “hard” water coming out of the pipes – BUT after all this time abroad I am simply not used to drinking water from the tap at all anymore, let alone carbonated water which is a staple water here!

    Everytime I return home for a holiday, it takes me forever just to get used to the thought of potable tap water. Growing up, we always drank tap water, but we also always had “Mineralwasser” in the house, which would be offered to guests or brought along in handy bottles to sports activities.

    My second week back here in Germany, I was waiting for a friend in a café. The waiter came to ask if he could bring me something in the meantime, and I asked for a simple glass of tap water, which posed no further problem neither to me nor to him :-) Because in China I got so used to drinking plain hot water, I’ve made it a bad habit to pour myself a cup of Leitungswasser and heat it up in the microwave – now THAT’s something that Germans truly find odd!! But in general, tap water makes for a perfectly fine and acceptable drink…it’s simply not as “salonfähig” as mineral water, Mineralwasser. Zum Wohl!

     
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  • Avatar
    Paula Duvall

    I visited Munich 3 years and didn’t want to come home! My understanding about Germans not drinking their own tap-water was that the fear began with not being able to trust the water-supply, due to the tremendous devastation wrought by Allied bombing-sorties, and furious fighting. I filled my water-bottle from the bathroom-vanity, and found the tap-water to be fine. With God’s blessings, I shall see Munich, again, this coming October. I shall always love it, and its people.

     
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  • Avatar
    Sven

    As a German clean tap water is what I miss most when traveling abroad. I really like to travel.

    But brushing my teeth with chlorinated water is just disgusting. Even in the US chlorinated water seems to be standard. I found some places in England where it is standard as well. However the English should not be short of clear water.

    In some third world countries you can only use bottled water to brush your teeth or even wash your face. You always need to buy bottles of water and carry them around. So when returning home I enjoy the pure luxury of having fresh and clean tap water.

    As it seems most Germans despise the common and prefer to drink bottled water. When going to a restaurant we Germans want to eat and drink something special. Not what we usually get at home. That’s why a good restaurant will offer some special brand of mineral water, not the ordinary one you buy at the supermarket. And of cause they make most profit from drinks.

    Food in Germany is usually not as expensive as in most other countries. The most common drink for those who do not want to have a beer or wine at the restaurant is “Apfelschorle” – sparkling water with apple juice. This is what you should really try when in Germany (apart from German beer) because you will not get it anywhere else.

     
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    • Brent Van Arsdell
      Brent Van Arsdell

      Hi Sven,

      Okay I plan to be in Germany in july and I will make sure to try the “Apfelschorle”. That sounds Good to me.

      Brent

       
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    Alexander

    Oh, I didn’t you that you can’t get Apfelshorle anywhere else. I just had one this evening and I guess it’s good to be in Germany. ^^

    May I ask where in Germany you’re going to be, Brent?

    Alex

     
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  • Avatar
    Nick M

    I’m in Munich now and this page has helped me decide to drink the water from the tap rather than the costly minibar, Thanks.

    I’m used to holidaying in the med somewhere where I would never dream of drinking from the tap but this is Germany and I hoped tap water standards to be at least as high as those in England. Will let you know if I get sick heh.

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Nick –

      Ya know, everyone has there own style and flair! Do let us know what you think about the tap water there. If you can even get a municipal water test result that would be delightful to see!

      Thomas

       
      Reply
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    Katja

    What a funny and interesting discussion. I’m a native of Germany and have been living in the US for over 20 years. I used to visit regularly, haven’t been back for about 10 years now, but will take my family to my hometown near Mainz/Wiesbaden in a week. I didn’t drink tab water in Germany when I was growing up. I think it was the association my parents had with the contaminated water during and after the war. Growing up, I only drank carbonated water. I drink A LOT of water and will have to drink tab water on this trip to save money and because it’s always available. My own parents might think that is very odd :)

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Thanks for sharing! When you get back let us know what your water experience was. :)

      Thomas

       
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    erica

    Thanks so much for the past contributions. I am visiting Munich now. When I boiled water in the hotel, I found a lot white residue at the bottom of the water. I tried a different kettle but the result was the same. However, surprisingly, the tap water is crystal white. So I came here and found all the valuable comments. Thanks you guys a lot with my heart. Erica from HK.

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Erica –

      You are welcome! This mineral content in the water is what we in America call ‘hard’ water – usually containing a high enough level of Iron and Lime that the water will leave residue in places where it runs for a long time, drips, or is often boiled (coffee urns, boiling pots, sinks, tubs, etc). Filtering and softening removes a LOT of these minerals and makes it safer to drink from the tap.

      Thomas

       
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    Audrey

    We lived in southwestern Germany for a year, and found that asking for tafelwasser in restaurants usually resulted in a 500 ml carafe of tap water.
    Audrey

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Audrey –

      Thanks for letting us know. Might be a regional thing. Could also be a local water treatment that made the tap water much more desirable.

      Thomas

       
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  • Avatar
    mq

    I’m often in Germany and I carry a small bottle that I can fill. The leitungswasser in the Taunus region is outstanding and superior to the drinking water in nearby Frankfurt.

    I will often inquire “Kann Man, die Leitungswasser trinken?” (Is the tap water suitable for drinking?) The answer is usually a surprised “Ja,Naturlich!”

    If you’re drinking bottled water, check the sodium content on the label. You’ll soon figure out why the bottled water is leaving you thirsty.

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Great info!

      Did you know that sodium levels in water actually help the body retain that water more effectively, thereby creating a more hydrated body? As the sodium is used the water bond is broken and the water is released. There’s a trend in the health awareness communities of using a product called ‘sole’. Check it out.

       
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    Vjd

    Great conversation. I’m in Bavaria Germany now and have been perplexed by the lack of available tap water. The tap water here tastes good! (And I am very fussy about water) In restaurants plain water costs anywhere from 2,20 to 3,75 euros (beer is generally around 2,60 to 4 euros). I too drink a lot of water so I’m filling containers rather than buying all those bottles.

     
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  • Avatar
    Weihnachtsmann

    I would say that drinking tap water is actually encouraged within most families in Germany. My mother always said that carbonated water is just a waste of money. We only bought some bottles when we expected visitors for birthdays etc.

    Tap water is indeed something you don’t want to offer your guests directly. But in the end it’s how you approach things:

    If you get asked for a glass of water you usually mention that you only got tap water and if that’s okay (“ich habe aber nur Leitungswasser, wenn das okay ist…”). Most of the time the guests will say yes of course, because it would be rude to refuse it or ask for something else (more expensive).
    And to be honest: guests refusing to drink tap water are idiots.

    On the other hand it’s totally fine to ask your host for a glass of Leitungswasser and even considered polite and frugal, as you don’t want to “trouble” your host etc.

    That being said, I live in Cologne and prefer buying carbonated water since the tap water has quite some limescale. Plus gassed water “tastes” a bit more refreshing :)

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Weihnachtsmann –

      Thanks for sharing your insights. Water is a peculiar thing and everyone seems to have their own preferences. I prefer, here in the states, at least a filter for the chlorine. My preference is ionized distilled alkalized water with just a tiny sprinkle of pink salt for mineral content.

      Pure and refreshing.

      Thomas

       
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    Nick

    I wonder how much it cost to buy a bottle water (in liter)in Germany. Thanks!

     
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    • Avatar
      thomas

      Nick –

      Great question! I wonder if anyone will respond with a recent value they recall from their visit.

      Thomas

       
      Reply
  • Avatar
    destinee

    IN NASSAU WE DONT DRINK TAP WATER BECAUSE IT TASTE BAD AND HAVE DRINK FRESH WATER

     
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  • Avatar
    Matt

    As a German who visited Canada I was really surprised that you get free water in every restaurant, but positively surprised of course. I actually always drink tap water since it’s much cheaper and tastes perfectly good. I can’t imagine that someone would get seriously offended when you offer him or her tap water to drink :D

     
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  • Avatar
    Glenn

    Cost us between Euro 0.35 and 0.50 for a 1.5 liter bottle in the supermarket, didn’t bother to drink water in the restaurants because beer was cheaper, no contest.
    We were in Germany mid September 2013

     
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  • Avatar
    beau

    Water is cheap here in the markets, like .19 per 1.5 liters! but you also pay a Pfand(refund) upfront, per bottle, which is usually .25. That’s to encourage recycling, and you get it back when you return them to the stores. We used to do this with glass bottles in America when I was a kid, but I’ve rarely seen it since the 1980s. so, a 6 pack of 1,5 litre bottles is 1.14 EUR plus 1.50 in Pfand equalling 2.64 for 9 liters of water, 1.50 of which you get back if you return the bottles afterwards! so pretty damn cheap! So like really it’s about $2 for over 2 gallons. Beat that America! However, if you buy water in a restaurant, it’s steeply marked up, as listed above. I once bought a liter of still water at a cafe across the street from my house, and was charged 4.95 Euro! so, nearly $7 per liter. As opposed to the .12/.13 cents per liter from the store. That was the last time I did that! Hope this was helpful. By the way, I live in Frankfurt, and the Leitungswasser is just fine. There is just lots of Kalk(calcium, limestone, whatever) in the water in all of Germany it seems. But I’m from KY and TN, so I’m used to it. Great water for making booze! :) Cheers!

     
    Reply
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