Can 1 Drink Tap Water Safely in Germany?

Drinking Water in Germany is a big deal; not many expats seem to drink tap water in Germany, even though Germans will tell you it’s perfectly safe to drink. And it is often even of better quality than the water you buy in a bottle. I used tap water in our kettle for a couple of months until it got clogged with a greyish-white sediment and had to be thrown away. Because then you start thinking about what’s going on in your stomach… 

Annotation by Michael: That’s simple chalk and at worst will make your voice higher like the Wolf und die Sieben Geißlein and you can easily declog your device with something as simple as baking powder or natron. Only if you live in a very old house which hasn’t been renovated in the last 50-60 years, you should have your water tested and if you are living in Berlin, you can do so for free here I’m certain there is such a possibility in any other bigger or even smaller city. This talk at Creative Mornings Berlin actually shows how you could make a business by filing the Berlin tap water into bottles. It was meant as a joke / marketing stunt / art project but it too an unexpected turn. Short: you can drink tap water in Germany in 99% of the cases. You also don’t really need those fancy water filters. And if you love bubbles, what made my life easier was getting one of those bubble makers for my kitchen. Over are the days when I had to carry 10kg of water bottles up to the 4th floor. But now weiter geht’s mit Jeremy’s experience.

Modern apartments, GP waiting rooms and workplaces often have fancy built-in water filters, with two settings: one for still water, and one for bubbles. Bubbled water (Mineralwasser) is also very popular. When I’m preparing for a German student to arrive in my classroom and I don’t know what his or her preference for water might be, my default is for bubbles. Germans even drink it in gyms. 

Water Delivery

So, if you don’t have the fancy filter, you have to buy it bottled. You can get it delivered to your door, (like we do) and we get glass bottles that are re-used and you get the deposit back for the bottles on the bill at the door. We also tip the driver pretty well, being on the third floor with no elevator. There’s twelve large bottles in a big plastic crate, and these guys are under huge time pressure for their runs. They’re always breathless by the end of the delivery … which makes understanding their German difficult. I simply can’t get myself to drink tap water in Germany.

No Delivery? no problem

A man on a water gun spraying water as a funny metaphor for getting your water delivered in Germany rather than drink tap water in Germany.

The other option is to buy at the supermarket, and of course older people—who are not so internet savvy—usually do this (even though they could probably most benefit from delivery). We were at Trinkgut this morning, which is a big ‘drinks’ supermarket chain. The Trinkgut near us has a Bäckerei and Bistro attached to it, so we were there buying bread. (The bread in Germany is a revelation … but that’s another story.)

I was putting the trolley back when I noticed an old man, probably in his eighties, maybe born during the war, struggling to lift the first of the three crates of water he’s bought into the back of his tiny hatchback.

There’s no question about it: I should help this guy. My German fiancée is still at the bakery, so I have to get over my initial reluctance to speak German to an old guy in a parking lot. 

You Can Drink Tap Water In Germany

but why make your life easy, right? So here’s how a very German habit brought me to the Genuss of a nice encounter in German.

‘Kann ich Dir helfen?’ I manage. I immediately realise, dammit, should have used Sie. This is the trouble with talking with friends and family all the time. It’s always ‘Du’. I remind myself to do more smarterGerman Preaching using Sie and formal pronouns.

But it’s okay. I’m there to help, after all. He says something in fast natural German, and I pick up ‘danke’ and ‘kaufen’ in it. Fortunately, he also uses hand gestures, indicating where he’d like the crates to go. I put them in and he’s still talking, but I’ve got no idea what he’s saying. 

Once I get the last crate in, I go to my standard explanation: ‘Es tut mir leid. Ich lerne Deutsch aber ich spreche noch nicht sehr gut Deutsch.’ This usually slows people down, at least.

He smiles, and says (more slowly) ‘Wo kommst Du her?‘ So we are good mates already, swapping informal pronouns. I feel better about my initial mistake.

‚Ich komme aus Australien.’

‚Ach das ist weit weg.’

‚Ja Du hast recht,‘ I manage.

He says something else that I don’t pick up, but my German back-up has just arrived. I introduce her to him, we swap a few final pleasantries, and then we shake hands. His hand is rough like sandpaper, obviously from a life of work. And sure, this Virus is still around and I’ll try not to touch my face before I get home, and I’ll wash my hands thoroughly too, which I would have done anyway, but I’m sure as heck not going to refuse a handshake from a guy like this.

He happily thumps me on the shoulder and says: ‚Bleib gesund. Alt wirst Du von alleine…‘ meaning “Stay healthy. You will get old by yourself.” And he’s quite right, again. I hope I’m nearby next time he needs to load his water or that he figures out that he actually can drink tap water in Germany. 😉

Written by Jeremy Davis

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