If you happen to be an English-speaker living in a mainland European country, you’ll be happy to hear that Amazon Germany now offers shopping in English. Granted it may still be in the Beta testing phase, but all shoppers can access the website in English.
There are a number of reasons this is positive move for expats living on the European mainland, especially those in countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and France which border Germany. For starters, many retailers’ websites are only offered in the local language, making it a bit of a chore to shop if you have to depend on Google Translate or another program to understand what product descriptions actually say. If and when you eventually get to the payment screens, the security features built in to those pages can often interfere with the translation app you use and vice versa, leaving you to pull your foreign language dictionary to get through that last checkout step. Suffice it to say it is never as easy as purchasing online from a retailer which offers shopping in English.
So how have English-speaking expats been coping up until now? As it relates to those customers who were frequent Amazon shoppers before moving to their current country of residence, most have been shopping the Amazon UK website. Since one of the main goals of the European Union is the free flow of goods between member countries, Amazon UK delivers to all the mainland European countries. The shipping cost is only marginally higher (if at all) than it would be if you had purchased from an online retailer in the European country you live. This has been the common solution among many an expat.
The United Kingdom, as most people know, is a member of the European Union, but is one of the few countries which decided not to join the shared currency system of the “Euro” which was introduced in 1999. Instead the UK decided to maintain its own currency, the GBP (Great British Pound) or Pound Sterling. Because the UK currency is different than that of the “Euro” countries, the exchange rate fluctuates. The GBP has always traded above the Euro (although the Euro did at one point almost catch up to a one-to-one exchange ratio in December 2008 when it was trading at .9786 against the GBP), which makes purchasing from British companies (including Amazon UK) somewhat more expensive. However, it has really been in the past 2 years that the Greek debt crisis has weighed on the Euro’s value, lowering its value to the Pound. As of October 2015 it is trading around .741 (i.e. €1.35 = £1). This drop has meant goods bought from Amazon UK in Euros have become even more expensive than they were before.
This is why Amazon Germany offering shopping in English is great news for expats living on the European mainland. Not only will shipping be less than from the UK (assuming you live in a country which borders Germany, like the Netherlands), but you will not have to pay the exchange rate premium for buying goods from Amazon UK in GBP rather than from Amazon Germany in Euros!