If you were to take some of the American web sites and forums as your guide you'd think Europe was a single, rather small country. Which in terms of marketing, product launches and music it probably is! Or so I thought until recently. A visit from my German friend Reiner Harth last night seemed to show that I've become just as brain-washed about what Europe is, as my American friends.
I know Reiner from my time working as a contractor for Ford in Germany back in 2000/2001. Reiner was one of the guys who helped make it a really enjoyable year, and although he's a lot younger than me he's another gadget geek so we tend to have a lot in common. For instance the last time I was over I enthused about the XBox 360 HD-DVD player and this trip he told me he now had one, and a Blu-Ray player on order too!
Reiner popped over on a flying visit to borrow my DVD of A Scanner Darkly which, I was very surprised to learn, isn't available in Germany. As we chatted about favourite movies and discs, it became clear how different the German and English markets can be, especially when it comes to movies and TV shows.
For example, Pan's Labyrinth has apparently only just hit the cinema's in Germany, where it's not sub-titled, but dubbed. If I was surprised, I think Reiner was more so to learn that a movie that had been dubbed in German had been released with sub-titles in all the English-speaking markets.
Like many of us, Reiner buys DVDs he can't get locally from international online suppliers, but he pointed out that British DVDs are a nightmare because, by his estimate, less than 5% of British releases actually have a German language track. The funny thing is I've seen so many of those wretched 'Choose a language' screens on DVDs I'd assumed the figure was more like 95%.
Perhaps my biggest surprise was learning that Doctor Who and Prison Break seem to be unknown in Germany, at least if Reiner is typical. The subject of Doctor Who came up when Reiner wanted to know what on earth the full-sized dalek in my lounge was meant to be. I think I probably made a slight international faux pas in describing them as 'not good guys, but like robot versions of the Nazi's' (his English is so good I keep forgetting Reiner's German)! Knowing so many American and Canadian friends who are familiar with the series I'd just assumed Doctor Who had traveled across Europe too, but apparently not.
Fortunately the traffic doesn't just go one way. In the UK we still haven't had a DVD release of one of Peter Jackson's best films, his spoof documentary Forgotten Silver. Forgotten Silver caused quite a ruckus when it aired in New Zealand because people thought they'd watched a real documentary, not a very clever spoof, and got quite upset when they found out. It's thanks to Reiner and the German market that I've been able to watch a copy of the film on DVD, and it even plays in English! Hoorah!
In an attempt to educate Reiner I gave him a DVD of new Doctor Who so that he could be educated on an important part of British sci-fi culture. Not one of those God-awful Russel T Davies dalek stories, I hasten to add, but Moffat's genius The Empty Child episode. I wonder if it will 'travel'!