You know the rest…
Despite the second largest economy on Earth, clean drinking water is still many years away from reality in China. Tap water is not safe to drink, so citizens must resort to other options. China isn’t unusual in this regard (CDC and WHO list zero countries with drinkable tap water in Africa or South America, and less than a dozen in Asia).
The lack of safe tap water changes so many things coming here from America.
No complementary glass of ice water at every restaurant. In fact, no ice at all. If you order a Coke in a restaurant, you must specifically request it be cold, or it will be given to you in a sealed bottle at room temperature. But even if you request cold, there’s no ice cubes to keep it that way. On a summer day, you best drink quickly.
(The bottle thing takes getting used to on its own. I have only seen fountain drinks offered at KFC and at the movie theater. Everywhere else, even in “fancy” restaurants where meals are far more expensive than a typical resident could afford to eat regularly, beverages arrive in a sealed bottle.)
Water served at restaurants in Changchun is nearly boiling hot. If you ask for a glass of water, that’s what you will receive. Water at roughly 90C. It isn’t enough for the restaurant to boil the water for you in the back and then serve it to you at a lower temperature. Restaurant patrons in China would simply not accept not having verification the water has been boiled.
Bottled water is everywhere. And cheap. Typical 600ml bottles (roughly 21 ounces) will cost just 1 RMB in convenience stores. And there are purveyors on nearly every corner on warm days selling bottled water for 2 RMB (just 33 cents). Bottled water is cheap enough that it’s worth using it for everything from toothbrushing to making tea. And after just a few weeks in Changchun, it’s second nature adjusting the new reality.
I just feel sorry for all those kids that will never know the joy of drinking from a garden hose on a hot day.