I had to go and work in France a few weeks ago, and it was an incredible experience. However one of the difficulties I had was being a single (and slightly disorganised) person I found it very difficult to keep my domestic life running smoothly. I had presumed that the internet would make managing my affairs more straightforward, things like paying bills, utilities and subscriptions could all be done online. However this actually wasn’t as straightforward as I initially thought, for one very simple reason.
This is the situation that what you can do online from an American home is not always the same as can be achieved from a French hotel. The reason is a technology called region locking which restricts access to various websites and services based on your location. My first problem was a direct result of this, when I couldn’t access my online banking in order to pay some bills. It turned out that as an anti-fraud measure my banking site was only available to someone connecting from the USA. Any access from a foreign country e.g France was blocked in case it was fraudulent – sensible but extremely inconvenient.
It wasn’t just this, a myriad of sites I discovered either didn’t work properly or certain features were disabled because of my location. Even simple things like my Netflix subscription didn’t work properly as I got redirected to the French version (with lots of French dubbed movies!). I did figure this out in the end by using a US IP address for Netflix which was a revelation to me.
Using a VPN like this turned out to be the solution, if I needed to use US only websites then I merely connected through my US VPN service. The site would think I was in the US and my online banking worked and lots of other sites too. It made life much simpler and gave me that link back to home that was being denied me because of all this region locking. I also discovered that using the VPN actually made sense security wise too, it ensures all your data is encrypted whilst connected protecting it from anyone who was eavesdropping!
For anyone in the same situation I can recommend using one of these services. They’re relatively inexpensive and can normally be subscribed on a monthly basis which is useful for people who travel occasionally.