Here’s the scoop on ICE in Europe.  Simply put, “There is no scoop!” Until recently, Europeans would look at you as being “mad” if you’d asked for ice with your drink. It’s not common, it’s not the custom and it’s only for outsiders. In the early years of traveling in Europe, a request for ice would simply get a quizzical look from the waiter. That’s provided you got the word “ice” translated into the local language. Then in later years, the request would get the response “Finished” from the waiter. That meant he understood your request, but would not honor it. Or more to the point, there just was no ice in the kitchen dedicated to putting into your drink. As one snooty Parisian waiter said, “There is ice for keeping fresh fish cold, would you like some of that in your drink?”  But in recent years, a request for ice will get you ice… but only one or two cubes filling the bottom of your glass. The best you can hope for is that the little cubes will lower the drink’s temperature at least a few degrees before melting away into oblivion.

We North Americans are spoiled with ice-cold drinks. Think about it, we go to McDonald’s, order a large Diet Coke and get a cup full of ice with a little bit of cola. No wonder they make a killer profit! Ice costs practically nothing to produce.  Ninety percent of the world’s population make do without ice everyday and don’t even know what they are missing. So it’s no wonder when my tour groups arrive in Europe, they are appalled when there is no ice for their colas, frappuccinos and water! Ice is only “expected” and taken for granted in North America.

Ok, I know it is possible to travel to Europe, be pampered, waited on hand-and-foot and get all the comforts of home. Doing so puts you in a bubble, a shelter for most of your tour, letting you out only a few hours a day to see the tourist sights, and then bringing you back into the safety and comfort of the bubble until the next tourist sight pops up on the itinerary.  That’s all well and good and I am the first to say I love to be pampered. But this is not my “Exploring Europe” travel style. When in Europe, I love to try to fit in. I don’t mind bumbling the language while trying to speak it. I try to look at fashion and sort of fit in. I try to order the local food, drink the local drink and do it without ice if necessary. In short I try to become a temporary citizen of the community where I am staying, and on my tours I try to pass this philosophy onto those traveling with me.

So I say, “Why bother, why make a scene?”  Instead, “Why not adapt to their way of life?” You know “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” There are two types of people who tour Europe: those who go with an open mind and “experience” Europe by adapting, and then there are those who try to impose their customs and expectations on those with whom they are visiting. It’s simple… do without ice and get on with experiencing Europe!


Read the next article in this series: “Water and Gas”

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About the Author
David McGuffin established David McGuffin's Exploring Europe, Inc. in 2001 to formally offer European tours. Since then, he has taken several thousand satisfied customers on memorable and educational tours to Europe.

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