25 Jan 2024

Water, Water, Everywhere

A bottle of water has become a must-carry accessory for most young people aged under thirty and for many older people as well. Over the last two decades we have been repeatedly informed by the medical profession that we do not drink enough water and exhorted to keep ourselves well-hydrated. We have obviously taken heed of these warnings and now find ourselves unable to leave the house without an indispensable bottle of H2O.

Maybe you recognise that you have developed a dependence on water, clutching your flask like a baby’s bottle wherever you go, driven into a state of absolute panic when you realise that you’ve forgotten your water bottle, liable to take compulsive sips with an addict’s enthusiasm.

But are there times when our addiction to water might cause offence? And are there times when we should really remember our water-bottle manners?

Water Etiquette

•Show some respect

Gulping from a water bottle during a wedding or funeral service or any other solemn occasion would be considered inappropriate; these are not circumstances in which you should eat or drink, and you should be able to forego the lure of rehydration for an hour or so – you're not running a marathon.

•Don’t reveal your nerves

Drinking from a water bottle during an interview is also not a good look. We all know that our mouths become dry when we are nervous, so if you are offered a glass of water, accept it, and take gentle and discreet sips. Glugging noisily from your own bottle makes you look like you can't control your impulses, even in the comparative formality of an interview.

•Keep your cool

In any work situation where you are under scrutiny – in a meeting, on a video call, talking to clients etc – resist the urge to swig water with unrestrained abandon from your bottle, which looks needy and will undermine your authority. If you’re worried about dehydration, make sure you have a glass of water with you.

•Request water

You might see your own bottle as a kind of comfort blanket, but it’s really not a good look to drink from your bottle when you’re in a restaurant or at a friend’s house. If water has not been offered, it is always acceptable to politely request a glass of water. You do not have to spend money on expensive mineral water in restaurants, it is quite acceptable to request tap water.

•Beware sound effects

Many of us now have reusable water bottles or stylish insulated flasks, but if you are toting around a single-use plastic bottle, beware. An over-enthusastic swig can all too often lead to compression of the plastic, accompanied by embarrassing sound effects – not ideal if you’re trying to look cool and competent.

The Sharing Question

Are you happy to offer a friend or family member a swig from your bottle? If you’re out for a walk or it’s a particularly hot day, is it rude to hog your own water and not offer it around to waterless companions? We’re all aware that certain diseases (eg Covid, colds, flu) can be transmitted through saliva so is this a high-risk strategy?

It is very much a personal matter and, while some people are unbothered by sharing with close friends and think nothing of it, there are many people who recoil from the idea and would not contemplate it.

If your find the notion repulsive, then obviously you will not be offering your water bottle around. If someone requests a sip of water, the only polite response is to explain that you’re worried about sharing and prefer not to do so. This is a potentially difficult exchange and ­– as always with good manners – it is best if you take the burden on yourself and explain that it’s to do with you own anxieties rather than any perception of your friend’s infectiousness.

Give that this is a potentially awkward exchange, it is always best not to ask for a sip from a friend’s bottle unless it is freely offered (you can of course decline a proffered sip if you’re squeamish).

If you do share your bottle against your better judgment, avoid the performative wiping of the bottle’s rim when it is returned to you. This looks like a passive-aggressive attack on the bottle-sharer and is undeniably rude.

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