VPNs and Netflix – or What German TV You Should Be Watching

Photo: Erin Porter

Brussels in better times. Photo: Erin Porter

Prelude: I was all prepared to write something light – yet close to my heart – about TV. That was the topic of my first German-Way post and pertinent as recent changes with Netflix have made watching American TV in Germany much more difficult (details to follow).

But then the bombings in Brussels happened and this article idea felt just as silly and banal as it is. My family just spent Christmas in Brussels at a time of heightened security and I was quick to tut-tut my mom’s worries about terrorism. And we were fine. Better than fine – we were in beautiful Brussels around Christmas!

But I realize that is not always the case. It seems that terrorism is permanently occupying our headlines and holds a very real place in our lives. However, I strongly stand behind travel guru Rick Steves’ post Don’t Be Terrorized and embrace the idea that we must continue to travel. My sympathy goes out to all those affected by the recent bombings and I know I will be back to Brussels soon.

On to the pressing issues of TV….

VPN options for GermanyA hush fell over my fellow expat TV watchers when it was announced that Netflix would be cracking down on VPNs. If you haven’t enjoyed the wide world of global Netflix, you may have missed out forever. Let me explain how it was working…

Avid Netflix users like me have surely come across the frustrating scenario where a movie that was once featured on the site is now curiously absent. The fact is, the site regularly features content only for a limited time. However, you can find movies that appeared long-lost with a helpful app and a VPN. Flixsearch (as well as paid services like Smartflix) allow you to find which country a particular movie is available on Netflix – if at all.

This works a surprising amount of the time. While our default is using the US Netflix for TV shows and more indie releases, we have also found every bizarre version of Peter Pan squirreled away in different country’s Netflix. With a flip of the VPN we can be in Sweden, Israel or the UK and checking out their vast offerings. This has been a mind-saver for when the Germans are driving me nuts and I just want to pretend I am back in America again (except when my internet isn’t working like now).

But, as I mentioned, Netflix threats of limiting or stopping access through VPNs has come to fruition – kind of. Honestly, I don’t think Netflix is that motivated to stop the usage as it attracts more users as they go worldwide. But the people who own the movies and license them for a specific country are a little more keen. In my experience, the crackdown has happened and I have been blocked from watching some shows (good-bye Good Wife marathons!) while I have been totally free to VPN my way to others. By refreshing the page after connecting with the VPN or opening a new window we can get around the message of death (“You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy…“) a decent amount of time. If that will last remains to be seen.

What German TV You Should Be Watching

So what are us expat TV addicts to do? Get out of our foreign bubble and watch German TV, of course. Here are a few of my favorite German shows (yes, they lean toward the reality variety as there is nothing better than watching Germans in the wild).

Das perfekte Dinner – I have waxed on about my love for this show. Basically it is an amateur cooking show where each night a stranger invites four competitors into their home to show them their awesome knife skills. And because this is Germany, their chefing is often quite impressive. All week you watch a different guest host and by Friday someone has been declared the winner and earns a cash prize.

Brits may know it by the UK version, Come Dine with Me, and if you are familiar with both versions – all the better. In the UK, a large portion of the points seem to be designated on experience. Like, did you have fun? In Germany this is clearly not the case as they dissect how difficult it was to make each dish and points seem to be centered on how restaurant-worthy the dishes appear. The difference between the nations right there in a TV show. Who said my obsession was not educational?

(There is also a Sunday version of the show called Das perfekte Promi Dinner where B-list celebrities play. It is long, even weirder and lets you in on who Germans deem notable. Again – very educational.)

Tatort – Another old standby (and I mean old as this has been on since 1970), this is a German crime show and a Sunday obsession. Bars set-up like there is a soccer match and locals trickle in to see whodunnit? this week. Sarah wrote a whole post on the phenomenon so I won’t blather on.

Shopping Queen – This is (almost) total trash and I love it. Much like Das perfekte Dinner, the show lines up five competitors to be featured each day – but this time they are shopping for outfits. I’ve seen woman style themselves as Bond girls, Greek weekend and even a men’s episode, “Lord of the Rings – Find the perfect outfit for your marriage proposal”. You will meet host Guido Maria Kretschmer, apparently a German fashion designer and a perfect candidate for Das perfekte Promi Dinner. C’mon Vox! Make this happen.

The Team – We’re back into crime with this international thriller about a European investigation team. They are hunting down organized crime across the EU with features on Belgium, Berlin and some seriously sick shots of the Alps. The switching between Danish, German and English will make you very cosmopolitan and the action will keep you on edge.

So, what are you watching?

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