The Reason Tap Water Isn't Free In Europe

There are a lot of differences in how Americans go throughout their daily lives compared to their European counterparts, whether it be their super-sized portions, free public bathrooms, or the fact that ordering water at a restaurant is usually free. If you're an American traveling abroad, these differences might seem highly inconvenient or not make sense, but these restaurants have their reasons.

However, a quick disclaimer needs to be disclosed, not all European restaurants charge for water loaded with ice as they do in America, but expect to pay for it in most restaurants. Most European restaurants have paid for water from a bottle or sparkling water, so the costs of buying bottled water are passed on to the customers. Plus, in general, waiters may find it rude to ask for a free drink when dining at their enterprise. After all, they are a business, and they are trying to make a profit.

Safe for consumption

Another reason that European restaurants may not offer tap water as regularly as American restaurants do is that the water isn't always safe for consumption, depending on what country you are in. Although the most touristy countries Americans visit, like France, Germany, England, Spain, and Italy, have safe drinking water, other countries like Romania, Cyprus, Belarus, and Moldova do not.

This is often because these countries don't have the proper regulations or funding to make sure that their water is safe for consumption, but other times it's because there are bacteria in the water that foreigners may not have the immunity for. Sometimes environmental catastrophes have affected the water supply, such as in Belarus and Ukraine, where the water supply was affected by the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986. To protect your health, check if tap water is safe for consumption in the country you are visiting.

If you find water, remember to ask for ice

Even if you find yourself at a European restaurant and order tap water, whether you pay for it or not, don't expect to have your glass to be loaded up with ice as they are in America. Although there's not a clear reason as to why this cultural difference exists, one theory posits it's because most Europeans don't like how ice dilutes the drink. Before refrigeration technology existed, keeping and storing ice was tough, and the rich were the only ones who could afford such luxuries.

Over time, as ice became easier to store and use, it became easier to produce and be marketed to American households. Also, in European restaurants, free refills are not the norm like they are in American restaurants; therefore, the more ice in a drink, the less there is to drink. Many people feel they are not getting as hydrated as they would with no ice or at least a few cubes. But regardless, for any Americans traveling across the ocean, don't be afraid to ask for water or ice, as long as you do it politely and respectfully.