This blog requirement has me writing about one cultural item that is different here than in the U.S.
The first thing that came to my mind was water. Water didn’t seem like much of a cultural item until I spent some time here and realized how vastly different the everyday European approach to water is.
In the United States water is everywhere. When someone sits down for a meal at a restaurant they can expect water; and not just a cup. They will be treated to glass after glass of water for no charge. It is nothing for me to go through three tall glasses of ice water over the course of a meal. However, that same drinking habit here would cost me over $7 a meal. There is no courtesy water with meals. If you want water you have to order it by the bottle. One bottle (normally about 1/3 of a liter) usually costs around 2 euros (about $2.40). Personally, I don’t need the water out of a bottle. I would be perfectly content with tap water poured into a glass. But that simply is not an option at most places around here. I’ll at least admit that water is usually the cheapest drink on the menu, however it is still a large difference to the limitless water I am used to enjoying at meals back home. It is an especially stark contrast when I consider the fact that I could get a significantly larger soda for just $1 in the U.S.
Drinking fountains also seem to be non-existent. In the U.S. you can expect a drinking fountain in any school building, public building, commercial building, and most other places. Not here though. I have not seen a real drinking fountain since we arrived. There is nothing that stops businesses from putting them in, it is just not a thing that companies in Europe do.
These two factors combined make water feel like a rare commodity. I usually find myself drinking plenty in the morning and evenings at the hotel. Most of the time I pass on getting any drink with my meals and often go through the day without ever finding a chance to get a drink. This works fine for me if I am prepared and ready for it. Seeing how water is treated as such a commodity here is interesting. I was not expecting this to be the case because water is not inaccessible here. There is clean water available everywhere we have gone, it seems to simply be a culture thing. It has definitely given me a new appreciation of the easy access to water we have back home and I look forward to the opportunity to drink all the water I desire when I return.