Abroad Perspective: Would You Like Ice with That?

Did you know water can spark a conversation? Remember that nice cold glass of water that restaurants offer you free of charge? It turns out that this courtesy evaporates abroad.

Surprised by a glass of water that I did not order, I learned quickly that dining in America is very possible without actually ordering any drinks. This puzzled me somewhat from a business standpoint, but it’s a wonderful service. Throughout the meal, the server replenished my water and I left the restaurant a well-nourished and well-hydrated man.

I also noticed the enormous amount of ice in my drink. Sure, I don’t care much for warm water, but this was some serious polar stuff. I am just not a fan of ice cubes traveling towards my face at high speeds when I try to take a sip of water. Whenever I am on a flight, I always make sure to let the flight attendant know that I do not want ice in my small drink.

On the other side of the spectrum I’ve seen fellow passengers order just ice and eat it by the cube. Since most places in the States allow free refills on soft drinks, getting more ice than beverage for your buck may not be a big deal.

To put things in perspective: I still drink piping hot coffee on a hot summer’s day, whereas my wife switches to iced versions of drinks whenever the temperature reaches a certain point.

Water with your meal comes at a premium in Europe. Tap water is good and safe to drink in most parts of Europe, but it is frowned upon to ask for it while dining. However, if you walk up to the bar and ask for it, chances are that you will be able to get away with a free glass. And on the ice: if there is ice in your drink, expect two or three cubes, but you will probably have to ask for it to begin with.

When you have a chance, try some sparkling water. It’s very refreshing and it makes it seem as if you are paying for more than just water alone.

As a Dutch American, I am well aware of cultural differences. In my series, Abroad Perspective, I will tackle the challenges of international travel.

Were you able to quench your thirst on your trip abroad? Feel free to share this or any other cultural shocks with us in the comments below and your idea could be featured in the next blog!

Ray originally hails from The Hague, Netherlands and one day showed up at Global Discovery Vacations’ doorstep. When he is not traveling or writing, you might find him engaged in playing ping pong, swimming or planting tulips.