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LIVING IN GERMANY

Five things to know about tap water in Germany

Although beer is cheap in Germany, it's good to stay hydrated. So here's what you need to know about tap water.

Five things to know about tap water in Germany
A refreshing drink of tap water - but it's not so common in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

It’s safe 

First of all let’s discuss the quality – across Germany it is safe to drink water from the tap, known as Leitungswasser in German.

According to the Environment Ministry, water in Germany “is of excellent quality and is one of the most strictly controlled food products”.

There can be differences depending on where you live, though. In Berlin, for instance, the water is hard and you can get a lot of limescale around your kettle. Some people buy filters for this reason. But the water is still clean and safe. 

Plus, as the Environment Ministry says, drinking tap water helps avoid plastic waste from bottles. 

Germany’s Consumer Centre says tap water is of “very good quality everywhere in Germany”.

“Provided there are no lead pipes in the house, you can drink it without any problems,” they said. 

They do advise that you should let the water run until it becomes cool before using it for drinking.

“Water that has been standing in the pipes is no longer fresh,” the Consumer Centre said. “Always run water for drinking or cooking until it comes out of the tap cool. This can take up to 30 seconds. The first gush of water in the morning or after a vacation can be used for watering flowers, rinsing or cleaning.”

Bottled water remains the norm 

Many Germans are still in favour of buying bottled water rather than drinking from the tap. 

It’s so popular that in 2019 Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze publicly called for more environmental and climate protection through turning to tap rather than bottled water. Schulze also promised that Germany would install more water fountains in streets.

A water fountain in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Tap water in Germany is “flawless,” the Social Democratic (SPD) politician said at the time. 

READ ALSO: Germany urges people to drink tap water to protect the environment

Anecdotally we’ve also heard that some Germans may find it strange if they’re offered tap water instead of bottled water when they visit someone’s home because it’s simply not the norm to do that.

Another factor could also be that most Germans prefer sparkling water, which you cannot get from the tap. 

Tap water can be difficult to get at restaurants

You may be used to receiving a jug of ice cold tap water on your table when you dine out in other countries. But in Germany that is not something you’ll usually get.  

And even if you ask for some Leitungswasser, you may receive some strange looks or be refused it completely. This anti-tap water culture has lead the Local team to break out in a sweat every time we dare think about asking for tap water in a restaurant. 

SEE ALSO: 13 things foreigners do that make Germans really uncomfortable

Although the culture has changed in recent years due to the international influence, tap water at the dining table or at a café is still not part of the dining experience in Germany unfortunately.

The below sign from a restaurant in Saxony tells guests:  “We would like to point out that our tap water is not suitable for drinking.”

Remember the different words for water

If you do simply order Wasser in a restaurant, you will be asked if you want it mit oder ohne Kohlensäure/Gas (with or without gas). So if you want tap water, you’ll have to ask specifically for Leitungswasser. As we mentioned earlier, you might not get it.

If you do want bottled water there are different words for that:

You can ask for Sprudelwasser, Mineralwasser, Sprudel or Selters. All of those mean the same thing: Sparkling water. Other words you might see to describe sparkling water include spritzig and prickelnd.

You can also ask for Wasser ohne Kohlensäure/Gas or stilles Wasser if you’re looking for non-carbonated water. 

Member comments

  1. A friend of mine from Switzerland would ask for Hahnwasser instead of Leitungswasser and get strange looks from the staff in restaurants here in Freiburg.

  2. Of course you can get sparkling water from tap water. Even discount supermarkets have Sodastream machines on an average 40 euro price or less from time to time. CO2 Cartridges cost 9 euro or less for 60L water.
    And if you want to round it up to perfection, use it with Britta-filtered water. It tastes better than some low end bottled sparkling waters.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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