Americans Love Ice Cubes. And we’re the only ones.

They do things a little different over there in Europe.
The main course comes before the salad, and they eat cheese for dessert. We’ll grant them a certain logic there. But the ice thing is a mystery.

Nothing refreshes a European like a lukewarm glass of Coca Cola.
We can assume they are refreshed, since that’s the beverage of choice when the thermometer hits 32° (that would be 90° to you and me). Ask for ice and the request is either met with a blank stare or fulfilled with two tiny slivers that dissolve on contact with the tepid beverage.

Here in the land of plenty, we take ice cubes for granted. We expect them in our soft drinks and in every glass of water at every restaurant. Our home refrigerators dispense a continual stream of them, and when there’s a party we buy bags of ice cubes to fill buckets and tubs. There’s an ice machine in the hallway and a bucket in every room of every hotel or motel from coast to coast. Just try and find that in Paris’ George V.

The ice cold war.
Historians, cultural critics, economists, culinarians, and the medical community have all weighed in on European ice avoidance. Theories abound to explain the continent’s cold shoulder:

  • The poor quality of many of Europe’s urban water supplies produces unpalatable cubes.
  • Energy costs are higher.
  • Smaller houses, smaller, kitchens, smaller freezers.
  • Teeth are overly sensitive to cold due to the notoriously inferior dental hygiene of certain nations.

And then there are the explanations for America’s warm embrace:

  • Big cups, loads of ice, free refills—in the U.S. we believe that more, not less, is more!
  • The taste of our inferior whiskeys and other spirits welcomes dilution.
  • Our taste buds lack an appreciation of nuance and subtlety.

Puis-je avoir de la glace s’il vous plaît?
Posso avere un po di ghiaccio per favore?
Могу ли я иметь лед, пожалуйста?
Kann ich etwas Eis bitte?¿Puedo tener un poco de hielo, por favor?
Can I have some ice please?


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4 Responses to Americans Love Ice Cubes. And we’re the only ones.

  1. Janice says:

    Danke, Joachim. My conversational German needs a lot of help.

  2. Joachim says:

    Nice Article. Personally, I prefer not having ice cubes in my beverages because of the dilution…a coke mixed with water just does not taste as good as a pure coke. I do like cold drinks, though. I Just store them in the fridge!

    By the way, the German translation of “Can I have some ice please?” is “Könnte ich etwas Eis haben, bitte?” (“könnte” is more polite than “kann” and more common to use in such a phrase)

    Greetings from Konstanz, Germany

  3. Rachel M says:

    I haven’t had ice cubes in my freezer in twenty+ years, until last month (mid-July). The heat is so unstinting here in central TX this summer and the pipes are buried so shallowly that I can’t get cold or even cool tap water… I went out and bought ice cube trays!!

    The good news (if there is any) is that I don’t have to bother turning my hot water on when I shower… so I’m saving on energy there even as my AC runs and runs… sigh.

  4. Monet says:

    I can’t stand ice cubes…so I guess I take after the Europeans…in many ways! But my mom LOVES ices. She won’t drink a glass of water or tea without it. Thanks for sharing with me. I’m about to go to work, and I’m glad I had time to visit your blog. I hope you have a wonderful end to your week!

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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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