Being back in Cologne I am constantly reminded of THE QUESTION! Mit oder Ohne (literally with or without) is the first Kulturschock for a naive foreigner discovering Germany. It does nor refer to anything existential but how you would like your water and specifically how carbonated should it be. If surprised by the question, you do not know what to answer an attentive waiter will bring you a glass of sparkling water. If you don’t like it and specifically ask for still water, you will at best be served with still mineral water or worst case scenario be offered a bottle of medium (less sparkling) water.
As a student I asked one of my German flatmate how to order tap water and he mischievously told me to order “Abfluss Wasser” literally sewage water. Innocent me ordered like this the week after and caused a major scene in the restaurant. Thank you Martin! It taught me that despite having one of the best tap water quality in the world, Germans have been made to believe that tap water was bad for them. Demanding free tap water in a German restaurant is the most revolutionary thing you can do in Germany.
A German inventor Johann Jacob Schweppe invented in the 19th century the industrial process to manufacture bottle of carbonated water and went on to fund an industrial empire of soft drinks. The consumption of sparkling water increased consistently since then.
Anywhere in Germany you will be offered Schorle meaning mixed with sparkling water here like white wine or all kind of fruit juices. German citizen drunk an average 147 Liter of mineral sparkling water in 2015, a world record!
I still find it ironic that German who are among the first mover in term of eco-friendliness, carry a tote bag everywhere to avoid poly bag but still waste bottles. Of course their is the water deposit that enable Germans to buy and carry heavy glass bottles everywhere, pay a deposit (Pfand) and get it back when they return it. However you can also buy plastic bottle that cannot be recycled and still get your deposit back. For family on a budget there is also the option to buy a machine with rechargeable capsule to carbonate your tap water in the comfort of your home.
Do not get me wrong I like to have a bit of sparkle in my life once in a while but I am not convinced by the health benefits of drinking literally anything but plain water. My work colleagues may not be convinced by my arguments but I will continue to believe that love and fresh water are the food for a happy life.
PS: Here a link to a short video explaining how a Pfandautomat (machine to return all type of bottles and containers with deposit) works. A true wonder of german engeneering… Der Pfandautomat! 😉