(Editor’s note: This post has been updated with news about Amazon’s expanded Europe services.)
Amazon is the global king of online shopping, and if you are reading this, you have probably made purchases from Amazon before.
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon as an e-commerce/fulfillment company in Seattle in 1994, initially selling books. The fact that it grew to the largest retailer in the United States and spread to many other countries around the world says enough about shoppers’ attitudes to this online giant.
So you are used to doing quick orders from Amazon. But what do you do once you move to a foreign country and want to continue taking advantage of the vast selection and the convenience of shopping on Amazon?
Shopping from Amazon.com is still an option in Europe, but you may quickly find there are complications, such as the ineligibility of quite a few items for international shipping and added delivery times, as well as taxes and customs.
A lot has changed since we first posted this in 2016. And as you can imagine, Amazon is pushing hard into Europe’s most populous markets including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Here’s some of the news about Amazon’s recent expansions in Europe:
• Last month, Alexa learned French as its Echo smart speaker technology arrived in France. The personal assistants were already available in Germany.
• Also last month, Amazon introduced its Amazon Business analytics and B2B software in Italy and Spain.
• Amazon executives announced last month they’ll add 1,000 tech jobs in Dublin, ultimately bringing the number to 2,500. This positions Ireland to be one of Europe’s fastest-growing tech hubs.
• Rumors are flying that Amazon Web Services will make a bold move into the Nordics with new data centers in Västerås, Eskilstuna and Katrineholm, Sweden. Many, if not most, digital companies in Scandinavia such game giant Supercell and conventional retailers such as IKEA use AWS.
So, the Seattle-based etailer/computer services/logistics company’s biggest push seems to be in B2B. What about actually buying stuff?
Well, Amazon builds its logistics networks fairly rationally, putting fulfillment centers in countries where warehouse lease space and wages are low, which would Eastern Europe these days. They have five high-tech fulfillment centers along Poland’s border with Germany – in Poznań, Szczecin and Sosnowiec, plus two in Wrocław, according to the Wall Street Journal. In Italy, where space and labor is more expensive, Amazon has four fulfillment centers in Italy even though Italy has 40 percent more people.
There are also new fulfillment operations in the Netherlands, so you might be able to access the entire Amazon inventory sooner than later across Europe. Just not righ now ….
There are currently a total of 14 Amazon sites.
- United Kingdom
- United States
Not all the national sites provide the full range of Amazon products. American, British, German, Spanish, French, and Italian sites have an impressive range of products. However, the Dutch Amazon.nl site provides mostly Kindle content in the local language. Still, after years!
Dutch shoppers get their full range from the German site.
Not all products will be eligible for delivery if ordering from one country to another, but you will be notified about this on the product page if you have entered your preferred shipping address in your Amazon account.
Speaking of the billing and shipping information saved in your Amazon account ….
If you have ever shopped at any of the Amazon sites, your login information is saved and can be used in the same form on any of the national sites. Yet again, Amazon provides convenience, so you sign in with your existing login information. Even your delivery addresses and bank account information is saved for your next purchase with any of the national Amazon shops.
The specific country Amazon site will be in the local language. However even if you do not speak that particular language, Amazon has you covered.
The American Amazon.com and the British Amazon.co.uk shops are obviously in English. The question is, “How you can navigate other amazon sites in French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, or any of the other offered languages, depending on the country?”
German Amazon in English
The good news is the German language Amazon.de has an English version (so far this is the only one in a non-English speaking country). You can find the language option at the top, on the right side, off center indicated with a small globe. If the letters above the globe are “DE,” you are in the German language mode. Click on that and the window to select browsing in English will open. Select EN and off you go with your shopping. Most, but not all, information on shopping and products is available in English. Customer reviews are always in the language they were written in. Very often the product description is still in German.
Why would you care about Amazon.de in English? Well, if you live in Germany, or in fact any other country, it is a great way to use this well-known reliable shopping platform whether you are looking to get those shoes that sold out in the store in your size, doing price comparison, or you just do not want to deal with the masses of peak-time shopping in downtown Amsterdam, Berlin or London. Perhaps you live in a small village with limited shopping. And let’s not forget the convenience of having your purchase delivered to your home.
And speaking of delivery…
Amazon delivers your purchase using the local postal service and/or Bonn-based German shipping giant DHL. The local postal service in Austria, Post.at, is outstanding. German postal service is also outstanding. I can continue with further countries … In case you are not at home when your package arrives, the carrier will leave a note specifying the closest post office where you can pick up your delivery.
Similar scenarios happen with the DHL shipments, except it is likely that you will be picking up your package at one of their affiliate offices, otherwise known as the Tabak, cell phone shops, or similar existing businesses where packages are dropped off, awaiting your pick up. They are usually shops that have longer opening hours and are in the vicinity of your address.
Do not be surprised about people picking up their packages from businesses that are not typically related to postal services. Two years ago, I was in a supermarket in Oslo, Norway buying some bananas when a woman ahead of me showed her package pick up slip to the cashier and was delivered her Amazon package at the supermarket. Perhaps it was not from Amazon, but you get the point.
(Editor’s note: Amazon currently is expanding its Amazon Locker network across Europe.)
We all want to buy the goods without paying for the extra shipping costs. You qualify for free shipping if your purchase total is 29 euros or more from German Amazon. It has to be delivered to a single address within Germany, Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Switzerland.
“Purchases exceeding a total value of 29 euros are delivered to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland at no delivery cost. Orders to these countries that contain books on their own, or books combined with items from our Music, DVD, VHS, Games or Software categories, also qualify for free delivery, irrespective of the total order cost,“ according to the Amazon help section.
Typically, regular delivery takes about three days. Prime customers can get the next day, and in some countries the same day delivery. You can track your delivery if you sign into your account and click on your order.
What happens if you do not live in one of the listed countries and still want to order from Amazon? You can get information on international delivery here.
If ordering from Spanish Amazon.es, Italian Amazon.it, French Amazon.fr, with delivery to another European Union country, shipping costs typically are between five euros and six euros. This allows you to do some price comparison and snatch those shoes from the Italian Amazon for 20 euros less than on the German Amazon.
Taxes and Customs
The prices on the product pages are shown with the applicable tax rate of the specific Amazon site country. However, the Value Added Tax or VAT of the country that goods are shipped to is applied at the last step before order confirmation. So in case you are shopping at German Amazon.de (19-percent VAT), the price will be changed to reflect the Austrian VAT (20 percent) if your delivery address is in Austria. Do not be surprised by the slight price increase due to the tax rate adjustment.
The great news is that you do not pay additional customs when shopping within EU. For a list of EU countries, click here.
Additional taxes and customs may be applicable for deliveries outside EU. Check Amazon’s help section for further details.
Tax return for NATO and U.S. Armed Forces
If you are stationed in Europe as part of NATO or U.S. Armed Forces, you are probably familiar with your tax exemption status. Well, this is also valid when shopping at Amazon.de. You just have to submit a form that entitles you to the tax return. Details on this can be found here.
As you may know, you have to sign in and provide information on what you are returning in order to get a return label, which you then have to print out. It is a bit of a hassle if you do not have a printer, but you are probably shopping on amazon because the advantages outweigh this little inconvenience.
Contacting Customer Service
Amazon states on its Facebook page “Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.“ I cannot help but agree they have pretty much achieved that based on my customer experience, mostly shopping on the German site.
On two occasions I had questions for customer service. It was a bit complicated to navigate to the page where you enter your phone number if you want the customer service to contact you and provide support. Your phone rings instantly! And there is a helpful, friendly, real person on the other end. You would not believe it if you are used to the typical customer service, but you get a feeling they genuinely want to help you with your issue. My issues were quickly resolved. I give Amazon customer service my top score.
Oh, you might be wondering, how you can communicate with customer service if you do not speak German? In English of course! You select the language you want to communicate in, German or English, and voila!
Do you still have questions as to on how you can do some online shopping on Amazon? Ask us and we will do our best to provide you an answer. Our email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
And please share your experience with us of shopping on Amazon in another country. We would love to hear about it.
Very useful, Terry! Did want to point out that the Japanese site has had English functionality for about 10 years. Just to the left of your account name, you’ll see a globe icon; click on the icon and a default menu will appear. To change the language from Japanese (JP – 日本語), click on the English option and a translated English version of the site will appear. It doesn’t have all the functionality of the Japanese page, but more than enough do browse and purchase stuff.