1. Safe – The first thing to point out is that tap water is perfectly safe to drink in France. In some areas of the county that have particularly hard water people often buy filters to save their kettles but the water itself is clean and safe.
2. Free – Free drinking water is also readily available – most cities have water fountains and some of them even contain sparkling water. If you see a tap that says eau non potable that means the water is not for drinking – such as the hydrants that the Paris street cleaners use. But most tap water is potable – drinkable.
During heatwaves, French authorities encourage people to fill their bottle at the free water fountains and stay hydrated. Photo: AFP
3. Socially acceptable – Once you get into restaurants, tap water is again widely available. Unlike in some countries, Germany for example, it's perfectly acceptable to drink water with your meal if you don't want wine.
In fact ordering just water is probably more acceptable than having soda or coffee with your food, which tend to be thought of as 'Anglo Saxon' habits. If you're sitting down to eat, most French restaurants will bring you a carafe of tap water and a basket of bread as a free addition to the meal.
4. Not mineral – If you're ordering water, however, be careful what you ask for. If you just ask for l'eau or d'eau you are likely to get mineral water, which can be more expensive than wine, especially in tourist areas.
Unless you specifically want mineral water ask for une carafe d'eau or un pichet d'eau which will ensure that you get tap water.
— Nora Hamadi (@NoraHamadi) September 16, 2019
5. Not iced – If you want ice in your water you will need to ask specifically for it. Unlike in the USA water – and other soft drinks like Coca-Cola – are not routinely served with ice so you will need to specify that you want your water avec glaçon – with ice.
6. It can change depending on where you are – There is also some regional variation in how people usually ask for their water, pichet or carafe are pretty well understood everywhere, but depending where you are you might also hear pot d'eau or cruche. The below map by French linguistics expert Mathieu Avanzi shows which is most common in each part of France.
Pour la confection des prochaines cartes, vous pouvez répondre à quelques questions sur vos usages des régionalismes ici https://t.co/FjUM3Pd3eA – la dialectologie française vous remercie ❤️ https://t.co/y9TVe8FSBc pic.twitter.com/Tt0hvadl30
— Mathieu Avanzi (@MathieuAvanzi) November 3, 2020