One sure fire way to identify an expat is to start talking about your favorite TV shows from the US. When their face contorts into a confused stare as you talk about the dress so-and-so was wearing at the last award ceremony or that killer cliff hanger season finale of your favorite show, you know they have been living in the expat bubble. If you have ever tried to watch hulu outside of the US or watch music videos on YouTube, you know just what I mean.
Unfortunately, it happens to all of us at some point, whether it’s when friends come to visit, we’re reading Facebook updates or we open a US news site. We just fall out of touch with the shows back home. And although you can often watch many of the US series on German TV, I still cannot bear to watch dubbed over actors that sound nothing like the originals. Perhaps it’s just because I know they don’t sound like that. Or the mouths not matching the words being heard makes me crazy. But whatever it is, if it’s not a German series or movie, we’re not watching it.
For the longest time, it was nearly impossible to watch American or other international TV station in Europe. The producers want their cut of royalties, I get it. But there were few legal ways to get video on demand at home — and for some reason, we’ve never really lived within walking distance to a DVD rental place (which are now even more scarce than they were 12 years ago when we moved here). So for a while, our DVD collection flourished, because it was one of the few ways to always have new things to watch in English. But trust me, that’s an expensive habit — and you often end up with movies that are just alright and you never want to watch them again.
So what can you do? Well now, there are some great services that you can use which help you get around those pesky ISP bans when you try to visit your favorite TV station websites — and they are super easy to use.
My first experience with a VPN
A few years ago, Stefan discovered a service called StrongVPN. They offered a way to mask your ISP so that you could basically dial up from anywhere in the world to an ISP in whatever country you chose and make it look like you were in the US, UK, Australia — where ever you wanted to be so you could watch TV, pull a credit report or do other things that required you to be in your home country.
It was a fairly easy service to use but it had it’s bugs — and sometimes you’d get knocked off without warning, causing your stream to crash. Or the connection would be painfully slow and you couldn’t watch anything at all. I know, it sounds so unimportant when you can just turn on your TV and watch your favorite shows in English. But when you are living overseas and just want to catch up on the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother because if you have to hear another word of Germany you will scream, it really does make all the difference in the world.
We’d been using the service for a year or two, when I was contacted by a new company who was offering the same type of service, but for a fraction of the price.
Meet VPN Authority
VPN Authority works in a slightly different way, in that it doesn’t actually require you to dial up, but it runs in the background on your computer and masks your IP through your browser. And it lets you stream in real time so you usually don’t even notice that you are using the service in the background, unless you go to a site like Hulu or YouTube and they tell you that “this video is not currently available in your country.” Ugh.
VPN Authority is very easy to set up, even if you’re not a techie. Just download an .exe file, install it, select the country you want to appear connected from and you’re good to go.
You can sign up now for a free VPN trial. The paid service costs as little as $5.30 per month when you subscribe for a year. But let me warn you — once you’ve had a taste of this, you’ll never want to cancel.
Are you an expat? Do you still keep up with your TV shows and movies back home? What do you use to access everything?
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