Reasons for the ongoing expat love affair with VPNs

Published:  9 Sep at 6 PM
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Tagged: Spain, UK, Canada, China, England
Wherever expats live nowadays, a reliable internet service is high on the list of must-haves, both for financial, social and business reasons, but a number of countries are now imposing restrictions on its use.

During the past several decades it’s been almost impossible to live life without an internet connection, whether in your home country or an adopted country halfway across the world. Expats rely on online surfing for information, smartphones for contacting friends and family back home and, most importantly, for banking and financial matters. Sadly, not all countries allow personal privacy online or even in the offline world, and a few have laws which, if broken unintentionally, can land expats in tricky situation or even in jail.

Incomers from first world countries see these restriction, quite rightly, as imposing on their personal freedoms and privacy, but there’s little they can do except ensure their online activities aren’t picked up by the authorities. That’s where VPNs (virtual private networks) come in, making sure expat emails, online banking and even which news sites they regularly read are unable to be traced back to their devices and are encrypted for even more security.

Older expats might find the concept slightly confusing, but it’s straightforward as to how VPNs actually work. Installing a VPN immediately creates a connection between your computer and a remote sever of your choice anywhere in the world. All your newly encrypted connections are routed through that server, and the websites you visit will show the remote server’s location, not yours. Even should a black hat manage to access your private communications, all they’ll get is the jumble of meaningless symbols resulting from the VPN’s encryption.

VPNs can also improve less than perfect, frustratingly slow internet speeds, giving less stress when you’re trying to research or using Skype or another online call provider. Expats wishing to comment on subjects barred by certain governments can do so safely via a VPN, and sites blocked by the same governments can easily be viewed, giving you an international take on what’s really going down where you’re living.

The all-time favourite use of VPNs by expats involves experiencing a much-missed slice of home by watching live TV, movies and news streams. Geo-blocking means that Netflix, for example, may not be available in your chosen expat destination, and the BBC’s i-Player only works in the UK. With a VPN, there’s no problem in, say, China or Spain, with accessing these as well as streaming music services.

A quick Google search will reveal a choice of dozens of VPN’s, some free and others charging a small amount renewable annually. User websites can help choose the right one for your needs and most downloads are straightforward even for comparative novices and those born well before the internet revolution. Basically,the use of a VPN nowadays is simply a combination of commonsense, total security and faster connections.
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