Expat VPN Services: Your Internet Content Faves Might Not Follow You Overseas

Moving to a new country is a complicated process. For many, dealing with importing their belongings, buying things for a new household (not to mention finding new digs!), potentially learning a new language, and acclimating themselves to a new environment all take a heavy toll. At least, you think, I'll still be "at home" online!

What do we mean exactly by "Blocked Content while Overseas?"

Many websites block users from certain countries, or from outside of their own countries, period. Some foreign governments block websites entirely. The point is that you may well discover that the Internet isn't quite the open territory you took it for. Do you want to download content to your media device? You might find your content shopping sites won't let you do so, because you're in Malaysia, or Korea, or France. Are you looking to log in and do some online banking? Your U.S. bank may not trust a login from your new country. Maybe you just want to keep up with your favorite BBC shows via the BBC iPlayer, but you're no longer in the UK. Maybe you're more of a Netflix junkie, but you soon discover that while you can still log in, some of the shows you're addicted to aren't being served due to your location. Perhaps you're in a country such as China, where the government itself imposes strict controls on which sites you can visit, thereby leaving you completely out of luck when it comes to thousands of different websites. In 2015, approximately 3,000 websites were being blocked from users on the China mainland, by the Chinese government. Good luck getting to your Gmail or Google accounts, Instagram, or even your Facebook account. Do you want to access news and entertainment sites? Not happening! The New York Times, TIME, and The Economist are just a few of the mainstream sites deemed off-limits. The answer to these inconveniences, annoyances, and hindrances online is simple: Start using a VPN!

An Overview of VPN

VPN Defined

A VPN, or "virtual private network," is a tool/service provided by VPN companies. It allows users to have their Internet traffic served through a server in the country of their choice. Websites are able to identify a user's country through his or her Internet protocol (IP) address. Much like a physical address, an IP address can determine a user's region (and, if the Internet provider is cooperative, his or her identity and exact location). When a user connects through a VPN, however, the actual IP address is not viewable by websites or other sources. Instead, the user's IP address appears to be associated with the region in which his or her VPN server is located. For example, a British expat in New York City could use a VPN service to make his or her IP address appear to originate in the United Kingdom. Then that user can download and use the BBC iPlayer as usual. An American in London would simply need to choose a server located in America to ensure that his or her usual online content is available.

Other Advantages of Using a VPN

A VPN service isn't just useful for expats. Not only does a reliable VPN service greatly facilitate access to more and different content online, it also provides users with another layer of security. Using a VPN secures your personal connection to the Internet, encrypting your traffic, obfuscating your location, and making you safer regardless of the network you're using. A VPN is a great tool to use from home, but it's also a wonderful way to secure your data when you're using a Wi-Fi hotspot away from home on your mobile device or laptop. You can use VPNs on most types of devices, including computers, smartphones, and tablets.

Is Using a VPN Difficult?

It is not difficult at all. Once you've chosen a VPN service, such as ZenMate, you'll need to download or install the VPN software itself, which is a simple process. Then, you'll log in using your account information. Once logged in, you'll choose the country you want your IP address to appear to be from (or simply have a random IP address generated, if it's not particularly important). Once your VPN service fires up, it will give you an indication that you're ready to browse, download, and surf the Web safely and anonymously.

Choosing the Right VPN Service

Whether you're an expat seeking access to your home country's websites or you simply want to keep your data more secure, it's important to choose the right VPN provider for your needs. If the country from which you want your data served is important, it's critical to ensure that the service in question actually has servers located in that region. There are numerous free VPN services, along with just as many paid services. Regardless of which you choose, research the company's reputation for security, reliability, and customer service. In many cases, a premium service offers you more options and features, as well as greater security, making it well worth the modest cost.

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