L’eau de Paris

Hands down, one of my favorite dinner conversations to have in Paris is about water. I’m serious. Nothing perplexes me more than the lack of water that Parisians consume on a regular basis. I’m practically like a baby, constantly nursing the water bottle that I keep in my bag at all times. I drink water all day, but I still manage to wake up dehydrated. Yet, spending the entire day with a French person, they leave me perplexed on how they survive on the lack of liquids. Are coffee and wine seriously enough hydration for the French?

If you ever have been to a Parisian cafe and asked for a “carafe d’eau” (aka, the free water that acts as the only means of ever getting a refill of water in this city) you’ll start to see the problem I face. Fundamentally one of the main issues I have is that the glasses they give you are about the size of a shot glass. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating – they’re really the size of a double shot glass. This begs the question, do people not get thirsty here?

Let me give you 2 examples from my weekend.

Friday night I was out with 2 American friends and a French friend. The 3 Americans completely downed a couple glasses of water, emptying the carafe d’eau before dinner even arrived. Meanwhile, the glass of the French friend stayed full, even after dinner. This then turned into the topic of my favorite dinner conversation – French and American cultural differences, and why the French don’t drink water. Honestly, it was something she had never pondered before, especially at the level I have. The best answer she came up with was that she tries not to drink when she eats. All I had to say to that was, but don’t you get thirsty?

The next day a different French friend came over to my apartment. I nearly killed her by making her hike up the 6-flights of stairs to my place. Whew. I did it, I made a French person thirsty! I ask her if she would like something to drink. A big yes to water. So, being the American that I am, I filled up a big (yet, still small by American standards) glass of water. All I have to say was that after our 2 hour project meeting, I was completely and utterly dismayed that the cup of water remained nearly as full after that time as when I gave her the glass. She even saw me pour the classy bottled water – no calaire-infused [the chalky, calcium build up that often is found in Paris water, even though it’s completely safe to drink] water for her.

Yet, I still don’t have an answer. Are Americans genetically mutated to need more water that Europeans? Does water magically multiply in the bodies of the French? Are Americans just socially brainwashed to need more water? All I know, is that even after sitting in my chair and writing this post, I’m thirsty now, and am off to get some water.

{image part of the l’Eau de Paris campaign to encourage people to drink city water; they even have these really cute carafes they sell around the city for 10 Euros – the carafes make me want to drink more water, so maybe the Maire de Paris is going after the wrong target audience!}


  • Haha I noticed this when I was there also! It’s a strange cultural difference. But in AUS we’re always downing water because of the heat.

    When I went on exchange to France in high school, my french teacher made fun of how I was always carting around a drink bottle and bought me a babies bottle as a joke!

  • I don’t get this either. I’m Australian and we drink a lot of water (hot summers and all). French people rarely ever drink water. But they drink so much alcohol and coffee I just can’t understand how they aren’t so dehydrated and tired all the time? Maybe they’re just used to not drinking a lot of water. Weird.

  • In Rome, you know, they have public (clean, delicious) water fountains all over and my husband and I got so much good free water. And then we went to Florence and it was kind of a culture shock. What? I have to go FIND water?
    I can’t imagine the H2O situation in Paris ….

  • Great post, Anne. This is something I have wondered too – Why do Americans drink so much water?!?! You’ll also notice the lack of water consumption when you head to Morocco. When we were there last summer, it seemed they rarely drank any water – even given the insane heat (although they do consume a lot of mint tea)! One of the Moroccans I met actually started teasing me for all the water I drink!

  • I’m a big water drinker myself, always w/ my re-usable bottle in hand. But, aside from Parisians not drinking water, how about those carafes?! Those are the cutest… that would totally make me want to drink water just to use them. I’d love to collect them all; I wonder if they can be bought outside of France? :)

  • Germans too! My friend subsists entirely on coffee, seriously 6-10 cups a day. Maybe you should start taking a poll to see what color their pee is and find out if they’re really dehydrated or not… Keep me posted!

  • how do they do it? just reading this post made me thirsty. and i find if i don’t drink enough water throughout the day, i get a terrible headache!

  • A large portion of my last visit to Paris was spent searching (rather frantically, I might add) for a public restroom. I kept asking myself, “Do the French simply NOT ever have to pee?!” Well, this post has been very eye-opening; Apparently, they do not. ;-)

  • July 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm // Reply

    Thanks so much for posting this!! I got to Paris yesterday and have been a bit worried about the water. It tastes very different to Australia, and none of my housemates are drinking it, so I’ve been a bit worried I’m poisoning myself. I bought a bottle of water anyway, and saw a very funny post about how bottled water rebuilt France, so am also off to drink my water. Water is good, water is life :)

    • You can drink from the green “Wallace fountains” too :) … some neighborhoods the water seems to taste chalkier (calcium build up), but I always drink from the tap.

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