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drinking tap water in Belgium, Netherlands

Hi,
I read in Rick's book that in Belgium waitstaff refuses to provide tap water. I realize they want to make money on bottled water, but wonder if the tap water is safe to drink. We often refill our water bottles at the sink in public bathrooms.

Also, is it potable in The Netherlands?
Thank you for considering these silly questions

Posted by
2081 posts

Nancy,

I was in Brussels and Bastogne Sept 2013 and im still alive......so far.

Also, ive been in Amsterdam several times since its my Hub. Same as anywhere else ive been. The H20 is fine. so-far-so-good. One thing i did notice in AMS is that the water has more of a processed taste.

i was someplace, where it did say NOT to drink the water, but the tap wasnt in any building/room so i didnt. I know in Boise Idaho, where my Bro lives, you dont want to use the outside taps since they are usually runoff from farms. They plumb their houses with 2 separate lines. Im sure its not that uncommon here and around the world.

Happy trails.

Posted by
179 posts

Thanks,
My Frugal Self is thinking we will carry our little plastic travel cups in our purses and take a drink when we go to the loo to avoid paying for bottled water.
Again, thanks!

Posted by
2081 posts

Nancy,

I was able to get tap water at the restaurants/shops i frequented. No problems.

just so you know, in the places you are going, you can get and should try the FRESH SQUEEZED OJ over there. they were sweet and its something i treat myself to when im overthere since its not that common over here.

happy trails.

Posted by
30020 posts

Nancy,

I've found the tap water to be perfectly safe in the two countries you mentioned. I normally buy a 500 mL bottle at the local airport, and use it for the entire trip if possible.

I'm not sure why the Servers in Belgium would be reluctant to provide tap water? The reason could partly be that they want the profit on bottled water. However I've found that many Europeans believe bottled water to be "safer" so that's what they serve in restaurants.

Posted by
11945 posts

"I read in Rick's book that in Belgium waitstaff refuses to provide tap water." Don't take everything the man writes as an absolute. If you insist, you can get a glass of tap water.

In some parts of Belgium, the water has a rather acrid taste, but its as safe as anyhere in Europe.

Posted by
8722 posts

"...If you insist, you can get a glass of tap water..."

But the catch-22 is that it will be at room temperature; they don't do ice.

If you want cold water you will have to order/buy the bottled stuff.

Posted by
4358 posts

In Belgium there is no legal requirement for restaurants to provide tap water, as there is in France.

Posted by
179 posts

Thanks for all of you help. I'll just ask nicely for a glass of tap water, avoiding any merci's, and try to pronounce a Flemish thanks.

Posted by
3788 posts

Nancy, although it can happen, it is unlikely that you will meet anyone in either country who does not speak fluent English. (We're the "provincial" ones ... ) It's probably better not to initiate conversation in French in Belgium because language (French vs. "Dutch") is currently the same thing as "politics" in Belgium. Most people will give Americans a free pass, but you will certainly be answered in English.

The food is much better in Belgium.

Posted by
445 posts

On my RS tour of Belgium & Netherlands we had tap water pitchers at the group dinners. On our own time it was a hit or miss experience. Some provided it but mostly they didn’t. A couple of times when we asked for tap water they bought a liter of non-still water to the table.

For meals I split the cost of a half liter bottle with another single or with a couple. A couple of times I was thirsty enough I even paid for a single bottle (I do not drink soda & I didn’t want beer or wine at that particular time of the day).
I did my normal inexpensive purchase of water at the local grocer and filled my thermos each morning and had water for my room.

Out of 26 people I knew 8 who drank tap water whenever they could get it. The rest did as I did or just had soda. For me the taste was awful. It was very acrid. Hopefully, you will be okay and like it more.

Posted by
179 posts

So, it's not a good idea to learn some Flemish phrases?
In France we got a lot of attaboys for our poor French.
Thanks to All!

Posted by
2923 posts

In the Netherlands and the Flemish (Dutch) speaking areas of Belgium they did act surprised at our "alstublieft(s)" and "Dank u wel(s)!", praised us and carried on in English. In the French speaking part of Belgium they were the same way about our "S'il vous plait(s)" and "Merci(s)".

About the water, we never encountered the problem because we always take advantage of the easily available sparkling water that is not easily available in the US. One surprise on our trip to the Netherlands and Belgium in April was that iced tea was on the menu. It came over ice in a typical special glass and it was made with sparkling water. Delicious and refreshing! We were also able to buy it in the grocery stores along with our frequent purchases of sparkling water and occasional ones of still.

My husband even found an acceptable alternative for his beloved Schweppes Agrum and was thrilled to see he could easily get buttermilk (karnemelk). But the tastiest drink we had was the dark chocolate milk drink in called Cecemel dark in Belgium and Chocomel dark in the Netherlands. The lighter chocolate versions weren't nearly so good.

I agree that the food in Belgium is better, but we drove and the roads in the Netherlands are better. It was immediately noticeable when we crossed the border.

Posted by
11945 posts

My experience is that unless you know the language really well, the Flemish would rather you just used English instead of Dutch. English just makes communication easier. Now, if you're a native French speaker who lives in the Flemish region, that's a different story (hence, some of the current political problems in the country).

Posted by
9110 posts

There might still be a bit of a problem.

In our county when you want to send a sample of well water in to determine potability you have to (using household bleach):

wipe down the entire faucet and the first eighteen inches of pipe to which it attached

insert the faucet into a vessel of bleach as far as possible

wait five minutes and repeat the above

run the water for five minutes or until a measured ten gallons has passed through it

take the sample into the just-then-opened container provided by the lab

Now, about this bathroom spigot in various places.........?

Posted by
179 posts

I think I'll risk it(tap water).
I think I'll risk it (some Flemish).
Thanks

Posted by
76 posts

I learned some Dutch before going to Europe. I only ran into one restaurant where the server didn't know Engish, but I could read the menu by that time. And everybody was happy with my Dankjewels, and Alstjebliefs. ("Je" is the less formal than the "u", and the u is rarely used I am told. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04y8hONTxyM

Posted by
2696 posts

Tap water is safe in The Netherlands.

The reason many restaurants won't serve it have nothing to do with quality of taper water, but rather just a different way of doing business on the hospitality sector (it is the kind of difference that is just there, like absence of ice machines, embedded taxes on displayed prices etc).

This being said, you might find that the sink design on many public bathrooms will not allow for an easy refill.

As for learning Dutch: if you want to do it, then go for it. However, the basic fluency in English among Dutch population is very high as non-native speakers go. Not only is English taught at schools from age 9 but also students have some non-language content classes taught in Dutch. You are unlikely to find a restaurant where you won't be able to get by, at least on the basic, with English only. It is also likely that servers will not want to engage you in broken Dutch, but just reply in English.

Posted by
11945 posts

"("Je" is the less formal than the "u", and the u is rarely used I am told. "

In the Netherlands, maybe you can get away with "alsjeblief" (perhaps Andre can comment further). Definitely not in Flanders, though. If you really want to step into this minefield, use only "alstublieft" in Belgium.

PS- "Je" is only the shortened, unstressed form. "Jij" is the stressed form. And to make matters more confusing, some people in Belgium also use "gij", which is equivalent to the now-antiquated English familiar "thou".

Posted by
21570 posts

Maybe things have changed in the couple of years since I last had a long visit to friends in the Netherlands (North Holland). I have a little Dutch and use what I can. Even with friends of friends over a cookie and coffee I don't think I ever heard the informal, just with my friends. I would never use it in business or commerce, or with people I don't personally know very well, and only after they have led the way.

Posted by
2716 posts

You can always try asking for tap water. You may or may not get it. Don't be surprised if you ask for tap water and get fizzy water from the bar tap (which you will be charged for - it's called taffelwasser in German, not sure about Belgium and Netherlands), or just a bottle set down on your table anyway. Happens a lot in this part of Europe (why can they not be civilized like the French?). Unless you're on a really tight budget, I'd just sigh and accept that sometimes, if you're really thirsty, you're gonna pay for your water.