Buying Things Is Hard

The process of acculturation in Germany, for me, has been particularly challenging.   Every time I start to feel like I’m making progress, I encounter things which are enormously difficult for me, despite being rudimentary and simple for a native.

Purchasing concert tickets, for example.

For most of the concerts I’ve gone to this year, I’ve used for my purchases.  Eventim is a great deal like Ticketmaster, except easier to use.  It also allows you to select English for the Website, so I’ve been able to get by.  However, sometimes the concert I want isn’t available through Eventim and I have to go a different method.

This is where I start to have trouble.  My command of the language isn’t very strong yet, so I use Google Chrome, which translates German to English on the fly.  The only problem is that the translations aren’t always precise, so I really have to employ some educated guesswork.

The word Karte can be a problem.  Karte can refer to a map, a card (such as a credit card,) or a ticket. You can imagine the confusion when you’re being asked to put enter payment information.

Dates are reversed here.  Using the first day of summer as an example, when I arrived, I thought the first day of summer was written as June 21st, 2012.  Here in Germany, it’s written 21 June 2012.  This is also true on Internet forms.  This leads to still more confusion: Is my card’s expiration 11/2 or 2/11?

Many of the line items on order forms don’t translate very well to English.   The idea for this post popped up while I was fighting with an order form for a concert ticket in Mannheim.  It took me three tries to successfully navigate the form to completion.   I was ultimately successful, but I would not have been able to place that order without help a year ago.


5 thoughts on “Buying Things Is Hard

    1. Enoooormously complicated. I filed my taxes in March with the help of my friend Jenny. Then in July I got mail from the finance authority asking for more documentation from my US wages the previous year. Finally, I got a refund back from the finance authority about two weeks ago. That was only seven months- on the bright side, I have a Steuernummer (Tax ID number) now!

      All that being said, I’ve had conversations with locals which lead me to believe that filing taxes is not as compulsory here as it is in the US. They already have your money, pulled from paychecks, and they don’t seem to mind as much if you never file for any allowed refund because they’re happy to keep your money.


  1. I haven’t had a problem with the date order: I think in the UK we must use both pretty regularly, but I do occasionally get confused by American dates when they are I number format – 04/10 or 10/04 that sort of thing.

    But I have been caught out buying tickets online. I’ve used Eventim a few times, but then bought tickets on a slightly smaller ticket website and thought I’d done everything correctly. Chosen tickets, put in card details, entered our name and address, clicked confirm, got the confirmation email, but no tickets arrived. Why not? Because apparently all this info was required just to *reserve* the tickets for a few days and you had to go and pick them up from somewhere else. Not where the concert was being held, but a little record shop in another part of the city! Luckily there were still some tickets left!


    1. I got used to the date order stuff pretty quickly. If it’s a dropdown, I just have to see which one goes past ’12.’

      Side effect of translating with Chrome- it reverses the dates, too.


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