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When moving abroad it’s easy to get caught up in all of the new and exciting possibilities that come from living abroad and becoming an expat. However, there are also certain challenges that must be faced. It’s not all sunshine and palm trees and one of the main difficulties can be keeping in touch with family overseas and staying connected with friends.
These days though it is easier than it has ever been to stay in touch when living abroad. This post is going to show you all the different, fun and unusual ways how to keep in touch.
Good old-fashioned phone call
When you live abroad it’s easy to forget that sometimes you can just pick up the phone and call home. We are fortunate in that our mobile phone package from England has an exceptional roaming package. It includes unlimited calls, texts and mobile data to all UK numbers and the same to local numbers here in St Kitts. Yay for Vodafone! Meaning we don’t need to get a local sim card and spend a fortune keeping in touch with family overseas. If you don’t have a roaming package though it is still easy to call home, it just takes a little bit more planning.
With the uprising of internet call services like skype, facetime, google hangouts, WhatsApp and zoom, all of which are free to use. It has never been easier to stay connected with friends and see your loved ones. We regularly have a zoom call with Lewis’s family in England and WhatsApp video chat is useful for keeping in touch with grandparents as it’s like being face to face.
Internet calling will use either mobile data or wifi. So if you have a limited mobile data package check your limits before making tons of internet calls abroad. Of course, you can also use wifi to make internet calls which won’t cost anything. And even better still, if you are out and about many places offer free wifi so you don’t necessarily need an internet package.
Skype also has a paid package where you buy international minutes and you can use your computer to call any phone number in the world including landlines at a set rate. This is great for avoiding roaming charges while abroad. Or for calling grandparents who may not have a mobile phone or the internet to keep in touch with you.
Write a letter
There is something very personal about receiving a handwritten letter from a friend or loved one. It has a nostalgic feeling to it, almost like a paper hug. There are some things that can be conveyed better on paper than in a digital format too. And if you’re anything like me it’s a great excuse to buy cute stationary. Writing a letter or sending a postcard is a great way of keeping in touch with family overseas. Just be aware that it may take some time for a letter to arrive. So if you are going to write about things happening in the next few days or weeks, your loved one may already know about it before their letter or postcard arrives.
Send an email
Emails are quicker to send and again can be personalised. The thing we love the most about email is that we can stay connected with friends and send photos and other attachments to people back home. Safe in the knowledge that they won’t get lost in the depths of a conversation like they would in SMS or instant messaging chats.
Use messenger services to stay connected instantly
For instant communication there are many messenger services available these days. Our favourite is WhatsApp because there are no charges to send messages to users with a foreign number. This means we can add our friends with numbers from around the world and it doesn’t cost us a penny. SMS often comes with international roaming charges per message. So check any charges with your network provider before using text messaging to keep in touch.
Facebook messenger is another good option for keeping in touch but not everyone has Facebook. Also, if people do have it, they may not be checking it all the time so for staying in regular contact it is not very efficient.
Send E-cards to keep in touch
On special occasions you may want to send a card abroad but sometimes it just isn’t practical. Like here on St Kitts the postal service is so unreliable it can take 3-4 months (yes MONTHS!) to get a greeting card from abroad by mail. The solution to this is e-cards. Still with cute designs and sentimental messages, you can personalise them and they will be delivered directly to your recipient’s email inbox. Or with some services you can share a link via a messaging service for them to open the e-card in a web browser.
Send a gift
This could be something small that you have delivered straight to the person. Such as flowers, chocolates, wine, or even something directly from their amazon wish list. Or you could send a pre-made gift box or sign them up for a gift subscription box such as blurt box, therabox, book box or beauty box depending on what they like.
Another option would be to put together a gift box of your own with things you have bought personally, like a care package. The downside to this would be international postage costs can get pretty crazy, depending on the method of transport and how big the parcel is. Also, you might send something amazing to your friend abroad only for them to have to pay a huge customs tax charge when it arrives in their country.
If you are thinking of sending parcels abroad, we would recommend doing some research or asking your friend or family member about any charges they may incur when it arrives before sending it because it might not be worth the taxes.
Host a virtual movie night
A virtual movie night is an awesome way to spend an evening and stay connected with friends. Use zoom or google hangout to schedule a call with loved ones and watch the same movie at the same time. It’s always fun to do this as a group, so the more people, the merrier. Make some movie snacks and drinks and afterwards you can discuss how insane/awesome/crazy the movie was together. Alternate who gets to pick the movie so that you everyone gets to watch a genre they enjoy.
Play games together
We’re not suggesting everyone set up a Monopoly board (although this would probably work). We are thinking more along the lines of online play. Whether it’s loading up your favourite game on xbox or playing online roleplay games like Minecraft. There are games for everyone to enjoy. One of our favourites that doesn’t require any special equipment or skills is Jackbox party games. It is played over zoom or google hangouts using Steam and the only thing that is needed is that everyone has a phone to connect to the same games room. The phone becomes your controller and you follow the prompts on your screen to answer questions or draw and play together.
Start a book club
If you know lots of bibliophiles, then make a date and get everyone reading by starting a book club. Choose a book once a month for everyone to read. Then at the end of the month get together and discuss the plot and the characters and any likes or dislikes over a skype call and a glass of wine. Arrange a schedule so that someone new chooses the book to read and leads the call each month, so that everyone gets a turn to read a genre they like.
Use Social Media to stay connected
If you are a keen photographer, you can keep your friends and family updated with Instagram. You might also cause some envy with your fantastic beach pictures and glowing tan. But hey ho! The good thing is you can send private messages to friends and family and people can comment on your photos and you can respond. Likewise, on Facebook you can write short posts abut what you’ve been up to and share pictures to keep family and friends updated and they can comment and like your posts.
The downside of keeping in touch via social media is that posts have a short lifespan. So unless friends and family are clicking on your page or profile, they may not necessarily see what you’ve been up to. Also, not everyone has social media accounts so it might not appeal to everyone as a method to keep in touch.
Start a blog
One of the ways you can keep people updated back home with what you are doing is to blog about it. A blog doesn’t have to be super informative and packed with helpful tips and advice, like this one haha! It can literally be an online diary of sorts, where you write down what you’ve been up to and upload pictures. It also doesn’t have to cost anything. There are many websites now days where you can start a blog for free.
Keep to a communication schedule
Once you have found your favourite way to stay connected with friends and family, you need to keep on top, of keeping in touch. The best way to do this is to schedule a time and method that works for everyone involved. Time zones can be a real pain but no matter where you are in the world they can be worked around. Work out a realistic schedule to keep in touch because time really does fly and before you know it a week turns into 6 months and you still haven’t gotten around to chatting with your bestie.
Work with the time zones that both parties are in and set yourself up in a quiet space free from distractions. Get yourself comfortable with a drink and settle in like you would if you were having coffee in person. The last thing anyone wants is to arrange a long awaited chat and for the other person to only be paying attention half the time because their favourite tv show is on or their parents are visiting or the kids aren’t in bed yet.
Once you are in the call don’t let it be one sided, yes it can be tempting to talk about all the exciting things going on in your new life and all the people you’ve met and how perfect the beaches are. But conversations are two sided, give the other person chance to tell you about what they’ve been up to too. Ask them about work, their family, kids, pets, significant other and any milestone occasions that are coming up or have just happened. Also, if you know they have a hobby they are into ask how it’s going. If they play sports ask about if they have any big games coming up.
There are always things to talk about, so make sure it’s not always about you or people will begin to feel left out.
If you miss a call send a message or try to call back immediately. If it’s not convenient then set a date and time to reschedule. Everyone forgets things now and again and it’s not the end of the world to miss one call. However, if you do miss a call make sure to apologise and let the other person know you didn’t forget them, and you weren’t ignoring them. Don’t make a habit of missing calls, it’s the fastest way to hurt someone’s feelings and make them feel unimportant.
Now that you know the many unique ways to stay in touch from overseas, there are no excuses for not staying connected and present with friends and family when you are abroad.
What’s your favourite way to stay in touch? Do you have a different method of staying connected? Let us know in the comments!
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