Why Can’t I Find Anything Online? And When I Do, It’s in German!
First of all, I’m going to tell it to you straight: Most of your small town businesses aren’t online. Period. And those that are online, their websites aren’t as developed as in the States; some look like they might look if your grandmother made one. You look at it thinking, “Is this the real thing, or is this someone’s blog?” Oh, it’s the official website, all right.
And that’s if your lucky and there’s a website.
Problem #2? “The website is in German!”
Even if you’re plugging away in Beginner German classes, you’re probably not to the chapter that covers the pages you’re trying to decipher.
So. You have some options, including these:
- Do your searches using Google Chrome as your browser and it’ll automatically translate the page for you when possible. Success rate high. There might be other browsers out there that automatically do this, but Google Chrome is the one I know about and have used.
- When using Google, if you see that the results list is looking to be German, look for “Translate this page” (see below, to the right of the web address; it’s the first result that came up when I searched “Messel”)
- Go to any translator program, such as Google translate (http://translate.google.com) and paste the text giving you a headache. There are quite a few free translation programs out there.
- Look for a flag, such as the British flag, and click on it. For example, go to this page (http://www.aschaffenburg.de/de/) and look at the very top bar*. See the British flag? (The second one). Click it. It should be in English now. It’s like magic! I’ve also seen these translation flags on the bottom of a page.
Which brings me to when you desperately want to use the US website, not the German one. Often, you’ll be automatically directed to the German .de site when you type in the name, or even the .com address itself. Snapfish has two ways that are good examples of where to look to change that situation: (http://www2.snapfish.de/snapfishde/welcome). First, the most common way: Scroll down to the very bottom of the page, to where you never look. See all the countries listed? Click on the United States link. Now you’re on the US site. Snapfish also has, in the upper right corner, a pull-down menu. Click on DC, go down to North America, select United States US. Simple as that. This is good for ordering in dollars, to APO’s, etc., whenever possible.
And now I’m passing along some additional information about emailing businesses. Just because there’s an email address listed on their site does not mean that someone will reply to you. It is entirely possible that 9,000 German businesses share one inbox.
I’m not just saying this because I have sent multiple emails to multiple types of businesses for multiple purposes, and received very few replies. I also say this because of an exchange I had when we moved into our home: The realtor and our landlord asked where we would be sending our daughter to kindergarten. I replied that I’d emailed two local kindergartens the previous week but hadn’t heard back from them. My realtor and landlord looked at one another, and back at me, as if what I’d attempted to do was absurd. Oh, no, they said; that’s not what you do—you just go talk to them.
Speaking of realtors: Of the four realtors that I emailed during our house hunt, one replied within a few days, one replied one month later (ONE MONTH), and the other two never replied…to emails…sent to their email addresses…listed where?…on their listings. So don’t be surprised or discouraged. Pick up the phone. Just like we did before we had the internet. If you weren’t legitimately around before the internet and cell phones, then Germany might give you a taste of what it was like when you used the phone book and actually dialed the phone.
Sometimes you’ll have a phone conversation to make Landhotel or dinner reservations and then the owner will ask you to email them all of your information. Do it. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll reply with a confirmation, so you need to ask for one if you’re someone who stresses that you’ll show up and not have a bed. My advice? Do not rely solely on email to conduct business with German businesses. Outside of the city, Germany is like 1950. In a good way.