My ugly American moment in Croatia: Be careful what you say about the water

When I was walking home from dinner on the second night in Split, Croatia, with my two friends, the conversation turned to water. As excited as I had been to get out of America and travel around somewhere quieter, slower paced and more tradition-bound than our country, I was beginning to have my moments of jingoistic pride in some of the more innovative things we do back home. That night for instance, I started in about the water and how I wish that, like America, nations in Europe provided you with tap water at dinner without you having to ask and sometimes pay for it. There are a lot of problems with America, I thought, but one thing we do right is having unlimited water refills at dinner. It’s important to stay hydrated!

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Perhaps this is the kind of observation Americans like me use to reassure ourselves that it’s not all bad living in one of the most overworked and increasingly unequal of wealthy nations. Sure, if I lived in Denmark, I could have five to six-weeks of vacation time and get out of work at 4:35 p.m., but I’d have to pay for tap water at restaurants!! 

After I made my comment, a man walked past us and said: “Croatia has the second-best tap water in the world!”

As he walked ahead of us, I started protesting, meekly “What I’m saying is that I want to drink your tap water. I want the wait staff to offer it to us.” But this fell on deaf ears.

After that, I did some research to find out if Croatia really had the number 2 best tap water in the world. It turned out it didn’t even make the top 10 list.