No Free Refills

In the United States, we are accustomed to the consumer focused economy, a world of all-you-can-eat buffets and never going thirsty. Paramount to this is an unlimited beverage of sweet, cold soda pop to wash down our Big Macs.

American Soda © Flickr/poolie

American Soda © Flickr/poolie

I recall visiting Ireland when I was six years old and asking a waitress if there were free refills on my Coke. She replied in a thick Irish accent, “what’s a fre-rufflee?” Even by the age of six, the American in me had made me accustomed to such things as free drinks and bread at the table – not the case in Europe.

Yet, as the world has globalized, one would expect these little habits to spread across the Atlantic. However 15 years later, there are still not many Free Refills in Europe, even though McDonalds and Pepsi have not been in Russia that long.

Some attribute this unlimited beverage consumption as part of “Why America is Fat.” This makes sense considering  soda is packed with sugar and calories.

Ultimately, it seems that the availability of plentiful food and drink – even the basics like Coca-Cola and peanut butter for a typical college student – are not to be expected in Europe, as one Expat in Spain describes:

“A Coke costs about the same in the States as it does in Europe. The size is what counts. In the States, the smallest serving size for a beverage is a 12 ounce (oz) can. However, most Americans drink 20 oz. or larger bottles or they get free refills at a restaurant, which gives you the freedom to drink as much as you like.

In Europe, most places serve Coke in a bottle that (according to U.S. measurements) is a mere 6.7 oz. That’s roughly half as much Coke as the smallest serving size in the States. It’s infinitely less Coke than getting free refills.”

There you have it, spend some time in Europe and you’ll soon find yourself with a smaller wallet for those sweet drinks, but perhaps a smaller waistline as well.