Restaurants serve tab water for free.

Land of the Free (Water) and Complimentary Restrooms

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It is a totally new experience for me, free water and free bathrooms. Back home in Germany, you have to pay a price for these most basic of human needs.

How expensive is too expensive?

This was the topic of a big public discussion on tap water prices in German restaurants in 2017. Water in German restaurants, unlike in American ones, costs money. Thankfully, it is usually the cheapest drinking option on the menu, but you still have to pay. You want to keep that in mind, when deciding for alcoholic drinks as well.

Lauren Ramoser

But at least when you are done drinking all the water, you can use the restaurant’s bathroom for free. I can remember so many times when I sneaked into cafés or bought something small just to use their bathroom. Public restrooms in train stations or city centers exist, but you will have to pay up to $1.50 to use them.

The price of basic needs

And when you do use a restroom at a shopping mall, restaurant or bar in larger cities, you will need to tip the person who cleans the facilities after you are done.

People have developed strategies to avoid paying these fees. Sneaking out while the cleaning person is in another restroom, trying to talk the attendant to let them leave without paying, showing that they have no coins in their purse. Endless strategies to avoid a couple of cents. But why?

I think it boils down to the fact that spending money on two of the most basic of human needs, water and using the bathroom, hurts your dignity, just a little bit.

Do you want a refill?

After reading all of this, you can imagine the pure joy I experienced when I was asked if I would want a free refill for the very first time in the United States. If you want to have a second cup of coffee in Germany you want to make sure that you have an additional 2,50€ to pay for it.

Especially after living in the country of free water and complimentary restrooms, I will face most likely even bigger hesitation in future visits and situations of thirst in Germany.