June 15, 2024

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Cultures: This is why Americans think Europeans don’t drink water

Since Europeans don't trust water, these two tourists walk around with water bottles.

Since Europeans don’t trust water, these two tourists walk around with water bottles.



American Tourists in EuropeWater issue: “Ignorant Americans” spark debate

Videos of tourists from America wondering when and where Europeans drink water are circulating on TikTok. By doing so, they provoke debate.

Malin Mueller

“We buy big bottles because Europeans don’t trust water,” “Every time I’m in a hotel, I drink a lot because Europeans don’t drink enough water,” and “We take water bottles with us to fancy restaurants because otherwise water costs two euros per person” – Every year, various videos of Americans wondering about drinking in Europe circulate on TikTok.

In opinion, their compatriots agree with them, while the inhabitants of Spain, France, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland call them ignorant.

Clash of cultures

The debate in the comments is coming to a head: TikToker Bella Sweet’s clip has now garnered 4.7 million views and more than 4,000 comments, while Kate Kennedy’s video has garnered more than 2,000 responses. Voices of opposition are also getting louder. A video of user Philippa Frederick complaining about “ignorant Americans” is approaching the million mark. She asks: “Where do you get the idea that Europeans don’t drink water?”

Sizes vary

There are many theories about this. For one, Americans consume large amounts of beverages. Frederick says in his clip: “Just because we don’t carry big Stanley Cups doesn’t mean we don’t drink water.” Viral drinking cups hold about 1.2 liters in restaurants, and half a liter of ice water per person is served with a meal, sometimes more.

In the United States, one-liter cup sizes are not uncommon in movie theaters and fast-food chains. In the comments, one user complained: “On a nine-hour flight to Paris, I was only served two small bottles of water.” We also know from European restaurants: if you don’t order a whole bottle, you are often given a glass of two deciliters.

Tap water is not free everywhere

In the US, free water is part of the service – even without you having to explicitly ask. The Swiss are well aware that this is not the case everywhere in Europe. In Germany you have to pay with your neighbors. However: charging for tap water is prohibited by law in France, Great Britain and Spain – for example in restaurants.

Nevertheless: “You have to listen to it, and then you can get water in Europe too,” says TikToker @theallyfromcali.

Water is not available everywhere

And then there’s a third point that causes confusion and disagreement: Many Americans complain that they don’t have access to water everywhere. For example, one user comments: “I used to live in Spain and my gym didn’t have a drinking fountain.”

Another wrote: “After a week in France my kidneys hurt so bad I started drinking water from the bathroom tap.” As you may already notice: there is a lot of confusion on the US side. While tap water is safe to drink in most countries in Western Europe (caution is recommended in Eastern Europe, you can find a list here), in the US it is chlorinated or re-filtered before drinking. Depending on the state, consumption of tap water is also discouraged.

How do you feel about the water debate? Are we too stingy with water in Europe or are tourists from America exaggerating?

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