The Problem with Living in Germany

I seem to not be conform with the German standard in more ways than one. For example, I haven’t watched real TV in at least half a year except for the snippets I get when I visit my grandma. Not that I don’t watch TV shows like there’s no tomorrow but I can’t do this the right way. German TV translates every show into German which delays their broadcasting to at least half a year or never. The West Wing for example was never broadcast on free TV over here and the show has been off the air for 7 years.

And I don’t want the translated version, I want the original voices and jokes and references. I don’t understand how we can live in the 21st century and not have found a way to allow broadcasting a show in two languages at once. Why is this not possible? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here. Maybe I could even deal with the time delay and I don’t care for add breaks but it just bothers me that the translation is thrown upon me. Not that they are all bad but it’s just not the same. Watching FRIENDS in German is a real challenge because the voices of Ross and Phoebe make me want to throw stuff at my TV.

The next big issue I have is finding english books in bookstores. Granted, I live in a city with about 120,000 inhabitants, not that big but I can be lucky to at least have an international section in most bookstores. Most of the books I read are written in English so why should I not read them in their original language? Not unreasonable right? But here’s the problem, the books I want to buy are not available there.

Every time I pass a bookstore I have to go in and take a look around because I really can’t help myself in that regard. The last couple of months I have taken it upon me to look for John Green’s books. I’ve been to 3 stores semi-regularly and I’ve never found one of his books, in German or English, until today. In bookstore number 3 I found two copies of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ in English. Huzzah!!

Still, this makes me sad because it has taken me many months to find this and the last time I was in the same store they didn’t have it. But hey, why would you even want a John Green book when you can have the Fifty Shades trilogy in both English and German wherever you look? There are enough of those books on display to last you as toilet paper for an entire year which is the most useful thing to do with them, really.

Not all of Germany is this terrible though, when you get to bigger cities the international sections expand. Last December when I was in Frankfurt I found a whole store with international and mostly English books. It was like walking into heaven. But the thing is, I cannot travel to Frankfurt any time I want to buy an English book. Sure I could order them at any local bookstore but then I’d have to go their first to order and another time to pick them up. Sorry, no, too much trouble. So I order most books and DVDs from Amazon. Hate me all you want for their destruction of the publishing world and whatnot. At least they have every book I want and I can also pick the format. (Yes, I am that person who checks the measurements of the books to see what size they are because some english publications come in very weird formats.)

There’s Amazon Germany and they ship my books free of charge no matter the size of the order. And if they don’t have the DVDs I want, or they are way too expensive I can go to Amazon UK and order my complete box-set of The West Wing or Doctor Who series 1-4 there and it’s almost as fast as ordering in Germany but usually much cheaper even with the added delivery charge.

I just seem to live in the wrong language for my own good. Why must I be this demanding? I have a couple of books and DVDs I tend to look for in the respective stores that allow me to rank them in my own little universe. Thanks for reading my ramblings as I am now done with my anger. Phew, it feels good getting things off my chest like this.

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  • Not sure what city you live in, but if you’re close to the Netherlands, you can find a much bigger selection of English language books. I lived in Germany for almost 5 years (in Duessledorf), and I also found it wasn’t easy to live there. The Germans are not exactly open-minded people, which contributed to the difficulty. Best of luck.

    • Unfortunately The Netherlands are not too close either but I know they have a LOT of international books. My uncle lived close to Den Haag for a couple of years but doesn’t anymore. Thanks for the comment though.

  • I found that most bookstores can order the books in English, even though they don’t actively promote that. And sometimes they’ll actually mail them to you. And more stores are discovering the world of email for taking orders, so that could possibly save you a trip.

    And the translating thing, I see what you mean there. I was looking for a particular movie on Youtube the other day and all the clips were the german translated ones. I knew those german classes i took in school would pay off eventually :p

    And you know… you could always ask a friend who lives near an small independent international bookstore (hint: me) to order you the book(s) you want and mail them to you. I know it’s not the same thing as physically browsing the shop, but it’s better than reading a (usually badly) translated version.

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      Bookstores here do that as well and I have ordered from them in the past, it’s just not the same. When I know what I want that’s totally fine, but sometimes just browsing through a store is where the fun lies and it’s just not possible.

      The dubbing of every show and movie drives me crazy.