How To Watch American Entertainment While Living Abroad

Posted in: Everything Expat, Expat Hacks

This is a guest post by Jess Signet, of Tripelio.

“Special thanks to Gringos Abroad for sharing this article with their readers. It is an excellent resource of tips and advice for those considering whether to expatriate any time soon. I particularly found this article about how moving abroad can benefit your family.” ~ Jess

American Entertainment While Living Abroad

Living abroad is a lot of fun, but there’s no denying that you can start feeling a bit out-of-the-loop with things back home.

Maybe you’re feeling homesick, miss the sounds of your native language or are frustrated with not being able to join in conversations about popular shows that everyone else is talking about—there are plenty of reasons why you might seek out American entertainment when you’re traveling.

But finding reliable sources that you can access abroad can be difficult.

How To Watch American Entertainment While Living Abroad

Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting yourself set up:

1. Find a source.

Although it used to be that the best movies debuted in cinemas and the best shows debuted on TV, these days, increasingly more content is popping up online. Netflix has a whole string of popular shows that they’ve created, and they’ve taken over the rights to continue some popular shows too, such as Black Mirror or Arrested Development. It’s not just Netflix either. Hulu and Amazon have come out with their original content too. Not sure what your friends are watching? Here’s a list of some of the best.

For sports, you can generally look for live streams listed in forums. Reddit usually gets a good selection of them. And as for movies, you should also try Googling for cinemas in your area; many movie theaters abroad still show American movies either subtitled or dubbed with English subtitles.

2. Know about geo-restrictions.

Many online entertainment sources restrict their content only to be accessed from the US. Let’s say you have a Netflix account back home and try to watch Netflix abroad, as soon as you try to access their streaming content, you’ll be faced with an error message. Now, it’s not just that Netflix (or Hulu, BCC iPlayer or whatever else) are trying to be mean to you; instead, geo-restrictions are mandated in the contract agreement between the streaming provider and the owner of the rights to the content.

3. …and know how to get around them.

How does Netflix know you’re out of the country? They look at your IP address, or where your network server is located. So tricking Netflix into thinking that you’re located somewhere else is as easy as hiding your real IP address. Of course, your internet traffic has to appear as though it’s coming from somewhere, but that’s where a Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes in. A VPN will reroute all your information through a third-party server located in the country of your choice. If you have a US Netflix account, set your VPN to route your traffic through a US server and Netflix will never know you’ve left the country.

4. To torrent or not to torrent…

The great thing about torrenting shows and movies is that you often get a better selection than you would with a streaming provider and can download things for off-line viewing. For example, let’s say I know I have a long flight coming up. Maybe I’ll download a few shows that I can watch at the airport. The legalities of this are in a bit of a gray area, though, and penalties vary from country to country.

Make sure you know your local laws!

If you do decide to torrent, you should still make sure you’re using a VPN to restrict who can see what you’re up to on the internet. Even if you’re torrenting legal content, internet service providers have been known to block people who torrent, partly because of how much bandwidth the downloads can take up and partly because of the possible legal issues. If you’re torrenting illegal content, well, you have even more reason to hide what you’re doing. Beyond obscuring your location, a VPN also encrypts your internet connection. This will also make you a lot safer from would-be hackers and identity thieves.

5. Join expat groups in your area.

Another way to keep up with American entertainment while abroad—particularly when it comes to sports games—is to join expat groups on Facebook and other social media sites so that you can find out about group viewings in your area. For example, you might find out that the Superbowl is being broadcast live at XYZ bar or that a group is getting together to see a new movie. It can be a fun way to meet some new people with similar interests, especially if you’re looking to watch that show or movie anyway.

Although it can be challenging to keep up with American entertainment while you’re living abroad, it’s definitely doable. And even though you might expect that when you’re abroad, you’ll spend the whole time meeting new friends, exploring new cities and living a whole new life, different from what you had back home. Well, sometimes you just need a night to kick back and watch something from back home.

Now, the quest to find decent popcorn.


Update (January 7, 2016): After publishing the post yesterday, I shared it with the Ecuador Expats Facebook group. Here are some additional tips for catching your favorite shows abroad.

  • Tom Bombadil: I watch all sport etc on Stream2watch.me…all free!!
  • Kelly Reeves: We use our Roku to watch Netflix. We can live without watching all the current stuff on Hulu. I miss it in a way, but it also keeps me from spending so much time in front of my TV. Sometimes we watch Netflix using a laptop instead, where we can go through the Hola unblocker, and watch the US-based programming instead. but SO many US shows and movies are available on the SA-based Netflix offerings, that it’s rare now.
    We also rent or buy movies through Amazon, and watch those with the Roku. (They rarely have anything on the free Prime options that can’t be found on Netflix anyway).
  • Nathan Hahn: I’ve been using Netflix in Guayaquil for a few days now in Safari without added measures. I haven’t experienced any problems. Is anyone having problems with it?
  • Steve Brown: The only thing I want to watch from back home is NASCAR ! I will have a VPN line before February 22nd !
  • Dean Alcorn Keyes: We have an Apple TV box.
  • Linda Todd Murphy: I was given Chromecast for Christmas. It works well with Netflix to cast what’s on my computer or celular to my TV.
  • Susan Mullins: try tvmuse.com
  • Patrick Van den Nieuwenhuysen: AppleTV
  • Bard Webb: These all work great with uninterrupted high speed internet. If you live in an area with slower speed you can use DirecTV, although more expensive.

english televion living abroad

Editor’s note: Watching familiar shows while living abroad can help reduce culture shock.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

9 comments… add one
  • Jakob Jan 11, 2016, 11:11 am

    I am surprised that you state Netflix as an example. It has been the one online streaming service I am signed up for without geo restrictions. I use my Canadian Netflix account in Canada, US and Ecuador in pretty much the same way from all possible devices (Wii, Apple TV, Roku, PS3…). Newsflash: There IS an Ecuadorian Netflix you can sign up for. From what I could see the monthly subscription in Ecuador is about twice as expensive as in Canada or the US. However, given that my Canadian subscription works just fine in Ecuador, it is currently not relevant to me. One thing I have noticed is that the content is geo dependent, i.e. when I am in Ecuador I see some shows and movies that I do not see when I am in Canada and vice versa, logging in with the same account.

    • Bryan Haines Jan 12, 2016, 9:13 am

      We had good success with Netflix – even better with a VPN because it opens up a whole new set of programs.

      • Jess S Mar 2, 2016, 4:39 am

        Yes, it’s nice to be able to access everything sometimes rather just the shows available in your current location – especially if you were getting into something when you were overseas and can’t find it back home!

  • Greg Basso Jan 6, 2016, 4:42 pm

    We purchased a “Slingbox” in the States and connected it to a relative’s TV and we are able to watch all of the channels that are available in the U.S. Streamed to our computer which we connect to our TV. The box was not very expensive and there is NO monthly fee. It is perfect, except when there is a heavy load on the internet here.

  • Greg Schultz Jan 6, 2016, 3:41 pm

    We just returned from an exploratory visit to Cuenca and my VPN (VPNExpress) allowed me to use Hulu and Amazon on both my laptop and tablet.
    I realized that when we move to EC, I’ll want to flash a router with a vpn so I can use my Roku down there as well. Thanks to Google, it looks like it is a pretty straight forward process. Several sites provide advice on which routers can be flashed and which ones offer that as a value added service once you buy. Pretty cool.

  • TerryE Jan 6, 2016, 12:31 pm

    As you may already know, the Netflix that we get in Ecuador (without a VPN or DNS modification scheme) has alternative programming from the North American versions. Many movies are in English – there are some Spanish and Portuguese as well, but most are in English. A lot of what is presented down here is different that what is offered up north, so having access to both is preferred. I use a notebook computer (with a VPN) wired directly to my TV for one, a Roku for the local version – then switch back and forth as needed.

    Bye the way – USTVnow.com is a wonderful source for getting American TV while overseas. It is intended for US military as well as expats and is free for the basic off air networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, etc.) An expanded cable option is available for a fee. (the free part is sent in HD for a certain period, then dropped to SD if you don’t subscribe to one of their optional services)

    • Bryan Haines Jan 6, 2016, 1:57 pm

      We used Netflix in Ecuador – and with the VPN we alternated between the local and US versions. Thanks for the info on USTVnow.com

    • Jess S Mar 2, 2016, 4:40 am

      USTVnow.com is a new one to me, better get researching that today.

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