Few things are more frustrating than dialing up a video online and being told you can’t watch it because it’s not available in your area. If you’re an expat, you know exactly what I’m talking about – you’ve probably had this happen too many times to count. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way, though? What if I told you that you can watch virtually any video you want online, whenever you want, from wherever you are?
Due to licensing and copyright restrictions, streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and many more can only show certain content to users in certain countries. This means that if you’re not within the service area where the content you’re trying to access is licensed to be streamed, then you’ll be blocked from accessing it.
Essentially, any website you visit (including streaming sites) will determine your location based on your IP address. If you’re an American expat living in Germany, let’s say, and you try to get into your Netflix or Hulu library, you’ll find that the Netflix library is entirely different than what you’re used to seeing in the US, and you’ll find that you won’t be able to watch anything on Hulu at all. In the words of Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski, “this is a bummer, man.”
But as The Dude well knows, there are usually ways to get around obstacles to get what you want in life. The Dude wants his rug back; you want your Netflix and Hulu back – so you both do what you need to do to get what you want. Simple.
Let’s not worry about what The Dude needs to do to get his rug back right now, though. Let’s focus on what you need to do to get your Netflix and Hulu back. What you need to do is get yourself a virtual private network (VPN). That’s your next move. A VPN will not only help you get your Netflix and Hulu back, but it will also give you the power to unblock all kinds of geo-restricted content from all over the world. As an expat, you’ll need a VPN to unblock streaming sites from abroad. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck on the outside looking in.
Good thing you ask, because I’m getting to that right now.
Think of a VPN as your own virtual skeleton key for unlocking content on the internet. A VPN is a piece of software that routes your internet connection through an encrypted tunnel to a secure server in a remote location. In doing so, not only is your internet traffic secured and kept private, but your IP address also changes to the address of the remote server you’re connecting through. Remember when I said that websites know where you are based on your IP address? If Netflix or Hulu see that you’re accessing their sites with an IP address based in the US – you know what? – they’ll think you’re in the US and serve you the content you want, even if you’re actually all the way across the Atlantic.
All you need to do is launch your VPN app on your phone, tablet, or computer, use the interface to choose a server in the US, and in a single tap or click, as far as Netflix is concerned, you’re in the good ol’ US of A.
Not just that, but you can unblock all kinds of geo-restricted content from around the globe by connecting to servers in other countries. Fan of the English Premier League but you’re not in the UK? No problem – just connect to a server in the UK and unblock sites like Sky Sports to catch all the action. Want to check out what’s on BBC iPlayer? Again, all you need to do is connect to a server in the UK and grab your popcorn.
You can use your VPN as a key to unblock virtually any geo-restricted content from any country – it’s your skeleton key for global content.
The best thing is that VPNs are ridiculously easy to use and affordable. Some VPN providers even offer what’s called a SmartDNS service, often as a free add-on included in the price of your VPN subscription. A SmartDNS service similarly changes your IP address and can make it easier to unblock content on smart TVs, streaming boxes, or gaming consoles, but doesn’t provide you security via encryption as a VPN does.
This all sounds too good to be true, so there must be a catch, though, right? Of course there’s a catch, what’d you think? There’s always a catch.
The catch here is that the vast majority of VPNs won’t work to unblock content on big-name streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know – why would I be hyping this technology if it doesn’t even frickin’ work for the sites you actually want to unblock?
You see, Netflix, Hulu, and others dedicate a lot of resources to blocking VPN connections to their sites (basically to appease copyright holders and comply with licensing agreements). They do this by blacklisting known VPN IP addresses and through other technical means. We don’t need to get into the technicalities of how they do it, the point is that they do it, and it can be difficult for VPNs to bypass those blocks. So difficult, in fact, that most VPNs have simply given up trying to develop workarounds for the VPN blocks (i.e., you won’t be able to rely on them to unblock content).
But there are VPNs out there that actually make the effort to unblock Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming sites. There are VPNs that can reliably and consistently unblock virtually any content from any country. If you’re an expat and want to unblock streaming sites from abroad, then you’ll have to go with a VPN provider that can actually unblock the content you want to watch, any time and anywhere you want to watch it.
Whenever I want to unblock Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Videos and access their US offerings from Europe, I like to use ExpressVPN. It’s a solid overall VPN provider that gives me the connection speeds I need to stream smoothly in HD. I’ve never once had any issues unblocking Netflix or anything else with ExpressVPN in all the years I’ve relied on the service as an expat. It is a bit on the pricier side, though, when compared to its competitors. But it’s a world-class VPN that really delivers on all fronts and makes it worth every penny. ExpressVPN will let you unblock basically any content you want from almost 100 different countries around the world, solidifying its status as a top provider for unblocking content.
If you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, though, then I’d suggest trying either NordVPN or Surfshark. I’ve used both of them and I really liked how easy they were to use and how I could count on them to reliably unblock streaming sites of all shapes and sizes. You’ll find both Nord and Surfshark to be light on your pocketbook, yet fully capable of unblocking all kinds of content from all over the world.
Either way, as expats, you and I know all too well that the expat life is challenging, it’s taxing, and – let’s be honest – it’s sometimes lonely. But it’s good to know that there are tools you can use to enjoy some of the comforts of home, to get full access to the streaming sites you’ve been used to enjoying back home. With a VPN, you’ll never have to worry about missing your favorite shows and movies, and you’ll be able to open up a literal world of streaming options on top of that.
So, as The Dude abides, so shall you with your VPN and your capacity to unblock streaming sites from abroad, wherever you may be. Take comfort in that.