Being European Apple Fanboys

Photo by Juehua Yin

As European Apple fans, we sometimes have to suffer from the American-ness of Apple’s product launches. But it’s not just Apple causing troubles for us; there are a lot more problems non Americans are facing. Let’s discuss a couple of points of view in this article.

Product Availability

This is probably the worst. Apple announces a shiny new toy in January. iPad is its name and we Europeans want it — desperately. But how do we actually get one?

Crazy things are happening all over the world, and Apple might not even be aware of it. I, Andreas, know people who reserved an iPad in New York’s Apple Store for pickup. They flew there over the weekend, stood in line like only real fanboys do and got their iPad. For me that’s just insane!

Others ordered their iPads through an American friend later, when there were more available. The ones who aren’t lucky enough to have American friends order their iPad using a packet delivery station that acts as temporary deposit storage. Those companies offer a “real” American address, but forward all packages to a foreign address. All in all a tad pricy.

On the other hand it’s good for us Europeans to wait for device availability, because the Americans are those who get to play with the more prototype-like devices. Then when they are finally available here, we sometimes get second generation products already.

It’s like with Television. NTSC was introduced in the States first. Europeans thought about that system and reinvented it as a more improved version. (Which leads to a lot more problems by the way….)

Availability 2

It’s not just product releases that take annoyingly long. Other products are simply not available in other countries. No matter how long we wait. My favorite example for this is Netflix. Oh god would I love to pay for their streaming subscription model. I hate every day I have to go to the movie rental store, take a DVD, watch it and then in the middle of the night have to take it back. Otherwise it would cost more money. It would be so great to stay at home, where it’s warm and comfy, watch a movie and go to bed afterwards.

All right, we have LoveFilm, but they don’t offer a streaming subscription in Germany. They do in the UK, though. Which brings me to the whole point of this paragraph. What we do to actually get Netflix in Germany, the UK or anywhere else, is to find an American VPN service and register for their service with a fake US address.

By the way many of us have a fake US address. Remember that App Store redeem codes weren’t redeemable without a U.S. iTunes account until Apple changed that recently? Every iPhone app won before had to be redeemed in the U.S. store. That often upset and frustrated people. You make a raffle and give something good to your subscribers, but can’t because the whole process for them getting their won app was so clumsy.

Personally I have three iTunes accounts. I got my German one, a UK one and a U.S. one. It’s rather complicated making up, and remembering, all these fake places and names!

I need the German account, because it’s my main account. The British one, because I lived there for a year and needed to have an UK account to activate my iPhone (was net-locked to O2 UK). And finally the American account is the one I use to redeem apps I have to make a screencast of (for my clients) or download apps that are not available in Germany. Siri, the searching company Apple bought? Nope, not here!

Those who are desperately trying to get their hands on apps as soon as they are released, actually create a U.S. account and deposit money on there with iTunes gift cards they bought from eBay. Crazy, huh?

Germans need to have two VPNs by the way. An American one and a British one. Spotify is not allowed in Germany. It conflicts with German laws for some reason. Some companies would surely love to bring their service to other countries, but can’t because they are prohibited by law.

Language Difficulties

Language problems are another huge issue. I know this is a diverse argument, but let me explain.

The German Audible website gives me a mixture of German and English audiobooks. Nothing wrong there. I speak two languages and it’s no real problem to switch. That’s what I do all day. But some books are originally in English and only available in their German translations. What’s wrong about this is that a lot of information gets lost when being translated. In most cases there is no foreign exact equivalent and so the translation needs to adapt to local “circumstances”.

For us, my girlfriend and me, speaking or listening is no real problem. She lived in the states for five years, and my English isn’t bad either.

Why does Audible prevent us from consuming content in original language? An actual answer from their support center explained that they are trying to make all content available in German and English, but are more focused on the German translations.

Books from Amazon need to be delivered through America and sometimes take weeks to arrive. Movies are a bit pricier when they have more languages on the DVD. And these are just minor problems.


Sweden, I believe, shows movies in the theaters mainly in their original language. In Germany they get overdubbed with German voices. Again those who are able to at least understand English need to find special theaters showing movies in their original language. Those are often much smaller and can’t show every movie, for obvious reasons. In Stuttgart we have one theater showing English movies. Corso Cinema a nice and friendly place actually.

iTunes in Germany often does not even offer an English version (the original version) of many movies. I don’t like lip syncing or line dubbing, whatever you want to call it.

Watching movies in their original language is a reason why some people here get movies illegally. They simply don’t have a choice. In Germany people expect everything to get translated to German. Foreign languages in movies, not even subtitled movies, are accepted.

We can really benefit from movies shown in their original language. Why do the Scandinavian countries speak such a better sounding and more sophisticated English than Germans do? Is it because they start English classes in school at an earlier age? I believe watching original (English) movies as a child growing up and throughout your whole life as a non native speaker really makes a big difference.

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