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Germans and Their Scornful View of Tap Water

05/30/2009 05:12 am 05:12:02 | Updated May 25, 2011

I live in Germany, and Psychology Today recently did a fantastic article on something I've noticed for a while: Germans are brainwashed into drinking bottled water, and requests for tap water at a restaurant are often met with scorn, sour expressions, or downright refusal.

mineral water photo Photo via Margon

As the article notes,

Germans adore their Sprudel, most of which comes from certified mineral springs and is heavily fortified with carbonic acid, so much so that the term Rülpswasser (burp water) comes to mind. If you doubt this claim, ask a German friend (or better yet, a stranger) to open the trunk of his or her car...One can attribute medicinal qualities to Sprudel, pointing to the presence of numerous little-known trace elements, or one can denigrate tap water by raising suspicions about natural or government contamination. Lab tests do not offer much support for these views, though.

By now, most of us know that bottled water is a major waste of resources. Yet Germany is often praised for its forward-thinking approach to the environment. The Germans recycle like mad (the average apartment building has five types of recycle bins: biodegradables, dark glass, white glass, paper, and plastic), are quick to top buildings off with lush green roofs, and implement stringent carbon dioxide emission laws. Plus, the tap water in Germany is actually cleaner and better tasting than that in many countries.

bottled water photo Photo via Flickr

The good news? Germans are also crazy about their beer, and tend to drink it on tap. On the green scale, draft beer is hands-down the better choice, saving on packaging, transport, and overall carbon footprint.

It's also interesting to note that one in four Germans have a counter-top carbonating machine, dishing up the bubbly in a flash.

Jump starting global green change is a lot about psychology and changing social norms, and in this instance, the U.S. shines with its policy to automatically dole out tap water and, more recently, with bans of bottled water -- something that has not hit Germany at all. Perhaps, someday, requests for bottled water will be returned with that same oh-so-effective sourpuss face. We can only hope.