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

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).

Photo: Erin Porter

Brussels in better times. Photo: Erin Porter

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!

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German TV Options for North Americans

Watching German-Language Television in the US and Canada

When I wrote about the loss of most of NEXTV’s German channels in November 2015, I promised to review the quality and channel lineup of the German TV Company. You’ll find that review below – but I also cover some other options for watching German-language television from North America.

German TV Company

A screen shot of the German TV Company website. They offer both online and set-top box TV viewing.

Since my blog post in late 2015 there have been some new developments: (1) NEXTV has now restored some of its lost German channels, but the number of channels available is still far less than before the 2015 cuts. (2) German TV Company is a worthy replacement, and has even added a few more channels to what was already the largest German-language channel lineup I know of. (3) A new online service, Deutsches Fernsehen (“German television”), is now available, and it offers a wide range of channels in German for computer/mobile device viewing – currently for free! (4) In a later post I’ll also discuss the VPN (Virtual Private Network) option that some people like to use for foreign streamed TV viewing.

NEXTV | German TV Company | Deutsches Fernsehen

NEXTV Update
This Toronto-based video streaming service again is offering the two German public TV broadcasters ARD (Das Erste) and ZDF in real time. NEXTV now also carries some regional “third-channel” broadcasters (HR, NDR, SWR, WDR) and a few local TV stations (Düsseldorf, München, Zurich), but far fewer than before. The truth is that NEXTV is still a pale shadow of its former self, now offering only 30 TV channels (many being small local cable channels) in German, with fewer choices than before the autumn 2015 cuts. It no longer offers time-shifted versions of ARD and ZDF, and can’t compete with the recorded broadcast options of its competitors. For some reason the ProSieben Sat.1 Welt channel on NEXTV is not only distorted (squeezed horizontally) but also in poor-quality SD. Most of the other channels are in HD. Using a low-cost Roku receiver hooked up to your TV, it’s a lot like watching real German television on a normal TV screen at home in Germany. Continue reading

12 Cities, 12 Fates: Germany Looks Back on the Eve of the 70th Anniversary of World War Two

Cologne WWII

Source: Cologne Museum

Horror on an unprecedented scale engulfed Europe in the 1940s, but it was only after the smoke had cleared that the true scope of the brutality came into focus. Millions across the continent were dead, tens of millions displaced, and whole nations found themselves on the brink of annihilation. In the decades since the end of the war, much attention has been justifiably been paid to the victims of the Nazi ambitions that ravaged Europe, but oftentimes the German civilian suffering has been ignored or forgotten.

A new documentary from Vox seeks to address this oversight on the eve of the 70 anniversary of V-E Day. 1945 – 12 Städte, 12 Schicksale features the experiences of 12 different cities in the immediate aftermath of the war through the lens of archival footage and interviews with survivors and historians. In order to learn more the experiences of the German civilians featured in the series, I sat down with Sabine Wilmes, an editor at Vox, who was in charge of the development of the documentary.

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January 2015 in Germany: New Year, New Laws, New Rules

2015 ushered in new laws and regulations in Germany. Our overview of new things that expats and travelers need to know also reveals a lot about daily life and customs in Germany.

If you drive a car, use public transportation, rent a place, watch TV, take out the trash, get paid in euros, or use the post office in Germany, there are changes that can affect all expats and travelers. We’ll start with one of the more bizarre things that the new year introduced to German law and life (and it’s not the precipitous fall of the euro). Continue reading

How I Became Fluent in German Fast

I’ve been meeting many more expats now that I am living in the heavily populated Rhineland/Ruhr region of Germany. These expats range from old timers/lifers to newbie/temporary assignees. As any expat can relate to, the newbies are grappling with learning the German language: some try private tutelage, others secure places at the local VHS, while others make the deep plunge for the Goethe Institut in Düsseldorf. Most of them ask me about my level of German and how I learned. I admit that it was a quick ascent to fluency for me, and I know that I was fortunate to not have problems with the German language as an expat woe. (I was instead confounded by the local Swabian dialect while living in Swabia.)

A glimpse of my German language text books. Photo credit: Jane Park

A glimpse of my German language text books. Photo credit: Jane Park

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Electrical Appliances: That Old Chestnut

Facing an overseas move? If you are moving from North America to Europe or from Europe to North America, you will definitely face the question of what to do about your appliances. Because of the difference in voltage, every expat has to go through this process of trying to figure out which appliances to bring with them and which to leave behind. There are several options:

  1. sell everything and buy everything new in Europe,
  2. sell some things, bring other things and buy the rest in Europe,
  3. or bring everything and use everything with transformers and adapters.

We expats often use factors such as length of stay (are we on assignment or staying forever?), storage space, or immediate cash needs when making the decision. Continue reading

Nude bathing and traffic signs: 10 things that didn’t fall with the Wall

Lichtgrenze - East Side Gallery, Berlin

Temporary Lichtgrenze in Berlin to celebrate 25 years since the fall of the Wall
PHOTO: Andrea Goldmann

Last Sunday (9th November) Berliners celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A momentous occasion movingly marked by temporarily dividing the city again with a 9-mile “Lichtgrenze” made up of illuminated white balloons along the old division, which were then let off into the misty night sky at the same time the first people crossed the border all those years ago. Though the few remaining stretches of the Wall in Berlin are only there for the sake of history and tourism, not all aspects of GDR-life have been so thoroughly dismantled. From politics to bathing habits, what has survived these past 25 years? 

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Confessions of an Expat TV Addict in Germany

VPN options for GermanyThis is the most honest way to introduce myself to German-Way readers,

Hello, my name is ebe and I am an expat TV addict.

It’s true. Despite living in Germany for several years, I still watch American TV every day. As a writer working from home, I have the freedom to tune into the squabbles of various housewife franchises, observe the zombie apocalypse and evaluate cooking competitions any time I want. And I want.

It’s comforting in this strange life abroad to hear those familiar accents discussing things I understand. Unlike German politics, the best Fleischsalat or how to help the refugees in Oranienplatz, I have opinions on TV. It helps me stay connected to that life I left behind and keeps me in the loop with my stateside community. Continue reading