Oct 28th, 2023, 12:00 PM

Water Is Waging a Cultural War.

By Maple Hughes
Image credit: Maple Hughes
How different are American and European water-drinking habits, really?

In the wake of ‘Euro Summer,’ you may have seen your social media feed inundated with American travelers lamenting the cultural differences that they encounter while on vacation. As newfound experts on European culture, users took to platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to inform their followers of ‘Five Things that I Didn’t Like About Europe’ or ‘Differences Between Europe and America.’ Throughout these videos, certain statements appeared constantly. One of these is the bold claim that “nobody in Europe drinks water!”

@shayshaygold gotta stay hydrated #europe #water ♬ America Is Great - Hillary Clinton

Is it really true that Europeans don’t drink water? According to an Food Research Group survey concluded that the majority of Americans in the U.S. drink just under one liter of water daily. It seems that Americans actually take in less water than Europeans, so where does this great water conspiracy come from? The answer lies in the fundamentally different cultures surrounding water consumption in Europe and the United States.

The same stereotype exists in Europe about the United States. Americans have the unfortunate fate of being known across the globe for their unhealthiness. One aspect of this is the idea that Americans drink excessive amounts of sugary beverages rather than water or coffee, from a Starbucks Refresher in the morning to a Diet Coke after work. 

Jacob Brink, who was raised in Austria but now attends Denison University in Ohio, acknowledges the stereotype.

"They are drinking red bull a lot, or like the pedialyte drinks with the electrolytes and stuff," Brink explains. "I've seen a lot less people drink coffee here rather than energy drinks." 

While some Americans fit the unhealthy stereotype, others are immersed in health and fitness culture, which affects the way that they consume water. 

"Americans really like drinking water especially, and this is not meant in any way offensively, if they're more obsessed with health. They're a lot more like, 'I've got to drink a lot of water', and they always have a Hydroflask with them," says Brink.

Brink notes that large water bottles and refrigerator ice makers are far more prevalent in the United States, and many of his friends will make a point of frequently rushing to the refrigerator's water dispenser to fill their bottles and will express significant agitation when they forget their water at home. "It's almost like they drink water competitively," Brink states.

Excessive consumption, generally a trait associated with American culture, is certainly found in its water culture. When Americans drink water, they sip it out of supersized Stanley cups with copious amounts of ice. It’s no wonder they are shocked when they visit European countries and receive only a "carafe d’eau" to pour into small glasses that are emptied in three swallows when they order water for the table.

Brink theorizes that Americans may drink less water because American water simply does not taste as good as the water found in much of Europe, "Growing up in Vienna, we were blessed with very good water. And water here is just not good. So, it's more like a necessity".

Perhaps this is the reason for WaterTok, a TikTok-based community that revolves around preparing different "water recipes" in which flavor packets or syrups are emptied into large cups filled with ice water. This type of content has garnered scrutiny, with users leaving comments such as "that's juice" and "this is so American". Where do we draw the line? How many pink starburst-flavored packets can we add to water until it becomes soda?

@theoriginalmochababy definitely a nee favorite flavor 😋 #rollforwater #watertok #fyp #waterflavoroftheday #waterecipe #hydrationation #waterrecipeoftheday #hydration #waterflavorhunting #waterflavorhunter #hydrate #hydrationstation #watertok💧 #waterrecipes #watergirly #foryou #hydrationtips #hydrated #waterflavor ♬ original sound - Roll for Water 💧

Amidst the disagreements on the correct way to drink water, Americans and Europeans forget that neither group is getting enough of it. Sufficient water intake varies based on factors like age, activity level, and environment, but scientists recommend around three liters a day, a considerably higher number than both the American and European averages. Perhaps the best course of action is for both parties to log off of TikTok, grab their preferred form of water receptacle, and focus on staying hydrated.