Ah, location! Typically, when we think of location, we think of something we get to choose, from where you want to live to where you’re going on holiday. In the current pandemic, we are reminded that location is also something that can play against us.
Some countries have shut their borders to travelers from specific destinations, including the U.S., in an effort to keep covid infection rates under control. Last summer, American tourists were denied entry to Sardinia after the EU decided to impose travel restrictions on countries with high covid risks. At the time, the number of cases in the US had peaked dramatically in the space of one month, which prompted the decision by the Italian authorities.
This is only one of the cases in which location is not a choice, but a factor that can impede access to services, facilities, or goods. Can your location be a bad thing? Here are the top 10 everyday situations in which you may not realize that location is everything.
#1. When you buy a new car
You’ve finally found it: Your dream car!
You’ve seen it online and you’re ready to secure it with a deposit. Most people are willing to commute a short distance to buy a vehicle. When you’ve got your eyes set on a specific make or model, you could find yourself traveling cross-states to buy a vintage Mustang or having your 4×4 wheels imported from overseas.
This could be a costly process, but you may be prepared to pay for your dream car. However, what you may not realize is that some vehicles are engineered for a specific market. Off-road vehicles that are designed for a specific kind of landscape and challenge are unlikely to perform at their best in other locations.
They may not even be safe or road-legal elsewhere.
#2. When you watch your favorite show on Netflix
Whether you’re following the journey of psychological thriller, The Fall, with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan, or you’re catching up with the original British Office that inspired our U.S. version, there’s plenty of choice of Netflix to meet everyone’s tastes.
Perhaps, that’s why most holidaymakers seek accommodations that provide access to the streaming platform. But did you know that Netflix’s program differs depending on where you are in the world?
Your pre-booked vacation in Indonesia, for instance, may not play the same Netflix shows.
#3. When you browse online
Digital technology brings businesses and people together in a click.
But you may still come across some restricted websites or services online. Typically, you will see a notification informing you that the website is not available for your location. There are ways around the local web restrictions if you are confident with IT. You may be tempted to use private browsing in an effort to avoid the issue.
Private browsing, however, doesn’t hide your location. It only keeps your online history private, which makes it a great choice for buying gifts online without letting your spouse know. Location-based restrictions use IP addresses to exclude visitors from some websites and online services.
You will need to set up a VPN system at home to hide your IP.
#4. When you’re buying clothes
If you’ve got teenage kids, you’ve probably heard them swoon over BTS, the South-Korean boys band that’s become a global phenomenon.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get them a BTS branded hoodie? So, you browse online for the best product until you come across a Korean site that exports to the U.S. Victory! But when you receive the top, you discover, a little too late, that the size is incorrect. You ordered a size S, but there’s no way your teenage daughter will fit in it.
It is way too small! We tend to blame the Asian market for their “wrong sizing”. In reality, there is no standard size system across the world. If you’re buying clothes abroad, you need to get familiar with the local sizing guideline.
#5. When you bake cakes
Anyone who loves baking is familiar with flour, and the best type of flour to use for each recipe.
What you may not know, though, is that there is more than one variety of wheat in the world. Approximately 60% of U.S. wheat production consists of hard wheat, which is high in gluten. Comparatively, in the E.U., soft wheat is the main variety. This difference affects baking.
If you buy a pack of regular flour in North America and in Europe, you won’t be able to achieve the same results.
#6. When you use electrical devices
American travelers are the first to experience problems with their electrical devices abroad.
Many holidaymakers are not prepared for international plugs and voltage differences. European voltage is 220V, while American voltage is 110V. Some devices cover a broad voltage range, which makes them suitable for both markets. However, others may get damaged, even if you use a plug adapter.
That’s because you need to convert and transform the power to the right voltage to use your device safely.
#7. When you plan international meetings
The pandemic is changing the way we work. If you’ve had to cancel your international business trip, you can thankfully run the meeting online, using a tool such as Zoom.
A lot of companies fail to account for international time zones, especially if they are not used to working remotely. As a result, you may plan a video call with a partner company that is 6 or 8 hours ahead without considering the local time.
Unfortunately, even when you try to accommodate for time differences, it could still affect your work/life balance. You may need to book a meeting outside of work hours to find a slot where everyone will be available.
It’s not uncommon to have online meetings at 7AM or 8PM when participants are in different countries.
#8. When education matters
When you are in the process of buying your home, you will take a lot of factors into account, including the quality of local schools. Some parents are willing to move homes to get closer to a better school.
So, it’s an area where we understand the role of location. But, we may be too short-sighted when it comes to education. Each country has a different education system. A recent study compared the performance of students across the world. Almost 25% of American students fail to graduate from high school, ranking the U.S. 18th among 36 nations in secondary-school education.
In other words, some students have a better chance at finishing their studies and getting a degree because they live in a country where the education system provides better support.
#9. When access to essential facilities is necessary
This is no novelty. We are all aware that when it comes to healthcare, not every country is the same. Everybody has considered at least once donating to charitable organizations to provide international support.
The pandemic increases differences and puts a lot of pressure on areas where hospitals and medical equipment are under a lot of pressure.
#10. When you want to see the value of your coins
What can you buy for $1? One dollar can get you a small cup of coffee at McDonald’s.
But in Peru, for instance, the same dollar could pay for your taxi ride in town. If you prefer to compare foods, in Vietnam, your dollar would get you a large glass of freshly made smoothie, using tropical fruit and sweetened condensed milk. What you get for your money depends on your location.
In countries where the cost of living is low, you can make more of your finances.
Location is both a blessing and a curse. It can boost your chances in life, or it could expose you to further challenges. In a constantly changing world, it’s important to understand how much difference your location can make to your lifestyle, your education, your health, and your choices.
We can only hope that the future will erase those disparities.