Moving abroad presented a number of issues. Some of them good, some not so good, some that we can't do much about, and others we can. For example, we can't do much about the food not available to us in the grocery store (unless we want to pay $8 for a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, plus shipping), but we can find a solution to German only TV programming. Thanks to my incredibly tech-savvy husband, we can now watch English language US TV programming. This girl = happy.
Years ago, we ditched cable in favor of internet based TV. We pay $16/month for a Netflix and Hulu subscription, plus the cost of internet. While it's not a perfect system (we have to wait until the next day to watch some shows, and not all movies/shows are available), it's worked pretty darn well for us. Until we found out we were moving to Germany.
If you're not so tech savvy (like me), then it might come as a shock to you that logging into either Hulu or Netflix from a foreign country doesn't exactly work. Those sneaky people know where you're logging in from and can block your access. While there are a few English language TV stations over here, you have to pay an additional fee and are restricted to whatever programming they feel like playing. Who wants to be confined to whatever happens to be on TV at the time? I'm from 'Merica, I want choices! I want unlimited access to Netflix and Hulu. This is where Strong VPN comes into play.
Strong VPN is a service that allows a user to VPN in to an IP address in the US and access websites through a US domain. Whew. Don't worry, it took me a long time to figure out what all that meant, too. Basically, you log into a server in the US, and from there, you can access US-based websites. This not only applies to video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, but it also applies to websites Pandora, Google, Hotels.com, anything that uses your location to determine the "best" results to display to you (any idea how annoying it is to search on google and have all the results come back in German?). Basically, these websites "think" you're logging in from the US. Don't worry, this is all legit and completely legal.
And just like that - voila! - American internet! And before you ask, yes, there is a difference.
Now, to get into a few of the more technical details. We are using an ASUS RT-AC68U router (shown at right) that we have permanently configured to connect to Strong VPN. The process was fairly complicated, but Strong VPN provided very clear and detailed instructions and if you're even the slightest bit computer literate, you should be able to figure it out. If you don't have a router, or don't want to go through the effort of configuring it, then you can purchase one from Strong VPN already configured. You can also connect via a software program if you don't want to configure a router or purchase one. Then, to connect your TV, you have a couple of options. If it is a smart TV, then you should be able to connect directly to the router. We don't have one of those fancy TVs so here is what we do:
- Downloaded the Hulu, Netflix, and Google Chromecast apps to our smartphones
- Purchased a Google chromecast and plugged it in (it really is that simple)
- Connect to the Strong VPN-configued router
- Open Hulu/Netflix as if to watch a program (remember, you will actually need a subscription to these services), and connect to the Chromecast
- Bam! You are now streaming video through a US IP address, to your phone and broadcasting it a TV
I know this sounds complicated, but it really isn't. I even made a fancy "infographic" below to help explain it :) If I am able to figure it out (and that's saying something), then anyone can.
Strong VPN is a subscription based service, but it's not too expensive. Packages start at as little as $55/year which is easily less than what it would have cost us to have English programming in our cable TV package. And we have a LOT more options of what to watch (not to mention we are able to binge-watch entire seasons of Orange is the New Black).
We've only been using the Strong VPN service for a month, but we have been really happy with it. We have never had any interruptions, and our download/upload speeds are crazy fast. It's been a rock solid service (in the words of my husband), and I get to watch the latest episodes of Vampire Diaries.
If you have any questions about Strong VPN, how it works, or how we have configured our system, let us know in the comments.
- Meghan -