Moving to a German-speaking country when you’re still learning the language is never easy, but when you have online shopping, you can at least get light bulbs and underwear delivered. Sure, you could use a translation plug-in, but there are always times they don’t quite work. Like the time the IKEA website said something about new dining chairs being horny (turns out geil means ‘cool’ and ‘horny’ and my auto translator got confused).
Start with the categories
You need some clothes, and it’s Sunday, so you decide the buy them online. Navigating a shop like ASOS, Otto, or Galeria Kaufhof is the same as it is in English. You look for Damen (‘Women’), Herren (‘Men’), or Kinder (‘Kids’) to start. If you’re looking for underwear, that’s sometimes in its own section labelled Wäsche or Wäschemode, which includes lingerie and sleepwear for all genders. Schuhe leads you to footwear, and Accessoires cover purses, bags, scarfs, hats, and more. Große Größen is plus size, and Zierliche is petite.
Sizing in Germany
Clothing sizes are on the European model, with women’s sizes running from 32-54, and men’s 36-54. The S, M, L sizing is used for more casual clothing as well. Of course, clothing sizes are as variable and unpredictable as they are everywhere else, so make good use of those size tables, called Grösentabelle, located right near wherever you are choosing your size from the menu. These will all be in centimetres, but may include an option to convert it to inches. I don’t know whether it’s essentially impossible to measure oneself accurately at home alone, or whether these charts are as random as the sizing from one brand to another, but you can still get it wrong. Which leads us to…
Shipping and returns
Online shopping is big business in Germany, and that means the delivery and returns procedures from the big online shops are pretty simple. The key terms here are gratis versand or graits Lieferservice: ‘free shipping’. Some companies offer Liefer-flat, which is usually an annual fee that gives you free shipping all year, often expedited. For returns, you will be looking for Rücksendung. If the shop you ordered from has brick-and-mortar locations, you can usually bring your receipt and the ill-fitting thing in question and do a return in person.
Flowers, groceries, and more
Germany was big on catalog shopping before online shopping ever became a thing, so that means they are well into it now. When you don’t have a car, online grocery shopping and delivery really makes it easy to get those crates of water up to your 3OG flat. If you want to avoid the colourful hard-boiled eggs (buntes Eier) they put in to replace the regular eggs you usually buy, watch out for the Ersatzartikel, ‘replacement items’, on your final confirmation email. There are even flower, cosmetic box, and sports clothing delivery subscription services, which are called abo. Your neighbours will be impressed at all the gifts you’re receiving, or curse you when they have to sign for all your deliveries.
One of the coolest ideas for a society really into mail order and delivery is the Packstation from DHL. Big yellow package lockers are available for receiving all your online shopping, and you just go pick it up when you can. Watch out for text saying keine Packstation, ‘no Packstation’ when you are filling in your address, but otherwise you can go ahead and get your items delivered the the magic yellow box. You will need to sign up ahead of time on the DHL site.
As long as your favourite things aren’t Ausverkauft, ‘sold out’, you’re good to go.