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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don't drink the water! (A bit of clarification)

If you've never been to the wondrous land known as People's Republic of China, I highly recommend it. BUT the most important thing you must know is this: Don't drink the water!

Image source.

Tap water in China has bacteria, so it's not safe to drink. But don't worry, it's completely fine for the following:
  • Showering (even if you get a few drops in your mouth, don't worry about it)
  • Brushing your teeth- surprisingly enough, this is safe. One of my friends even told me he takes a gulp of water to rinse his mouth, and spits it out, and he's fine.
  • Washing dishes
  • Washing fruit/vegetables
  • Giving water to my cat. He's a cat. Whatever.
  • Cooking, if you're making soup or something that requires boiling it.
A couple drops is no problem. But if you actually drink a bunch of the tap water, you might get diarrhea.

(If a restaurant gives you a drink with ice, well, that ice is also a bit suspicious...)

So then, what do Chinese people do for water?

Option #1: Boil water.

If you're making soup or noodles or whatever, it's fine to use the tap water- you just have to make sure it boils first.

And for drinking water, you can use one of these electric pitcher things to boil the water first, and then it's safe to drink:

Image source.


Almost every hotel room I've stayed in in China had one.

Also, China doesn't have water fountains. Occasionally you'll see a hot water dispenser, which gives you boiled water for your instant noodles or whatever. I've seen these on trains and in waiting areas at the airport.

Everything about this picture is so Chinese. Image source.
Be careful because the water is super-hot.

Option #2: Buy bottled water.

So you can buy bottles of water, just like in America. That water is safe.

Also, these water-cooler things are really common in China:

Image source.

My apartment is furnished, so it already had one of these. Whenever I'm at my home and I want to drink water, this is where I get it. The office where I work also has one, along with some free paper cups.

And what do you do when your huge jug of water is empty?

Well you could do what I did, the first time it happened to me, and go into the office for your apartment and start asking incredibly confused questions in broken Chinese.

But here's what you're actually supposed to do: There's a phone number to call, and you just tell them your address and what type of water jug you want (??? I had no idea what to say when they asked me this question- water is all the same, right?) and then some guy will show up at your door with a full one, which is incredibly heavy, and take away your empty one. And you pay him 15 kuai.

From time to time I see people (must be the water-delivery people) riding around on mopeds with like 6 of these giant water jugs.

Maybe the average American would be shocked at the idea of living somewhere where you can't drink the tap water, but really, it's not that bad. It's normal to me now. It's not a problem at all.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, things are pretty much the exact same in India. Except I totally can't brush my teeth with it. I did it once. A hospital visit and an amoeba later and, well, I'm never doing that again. :)

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