Monday, 5 September 2011

Expat Explorer's Guide to Keeping in Touch using Technology

Technology has been making the expat life easier and more accessible, both physically and emotionally, for decades now. From being able to travel across the globe in a matter of hours rather than months, to being able to check in with friends and family home and abroad practically for free, advancements in technology have been largely to the advantage of those living abroad.

Whether you are going away for Christmas or indefinitely have a look at Expat Explorer’s top ways to keep in touch when away from home, friends or family.

The basics
Most people who are familiar with the internet are familiar with email, but it is the only place to start when talking about technology and keeping in touch, and it keeps getting better. It is a great way of organising all of your contacts, of having a conversation with a single person or with a group of people. Basic, but does the job. The natural progression from email is instant messaging, like email, but, as the name suggests, used when you are both on line and can have a more fluid conversation. The downside of instant messaging, compared to email, is that you have to be on the same platform. For example, when emailing you can email anyone with an address, regardless of whether they are with Hotmail, Gmail or a company address. You can instantly message people on Facebook, more on that later, Gmail has its own instant messaging feature, as does MSN (Hotmail), Skype and many others. But you do both have to be on the same one. Skype has many more features than simple instant messaging, the most prominent of which is video messaging. Most laptops now come with a video camera, microphone and speakers (all the equipment needed for a video call) so that you just have to download the Skype software and you can start video chatting with friends and family across the world.

Added extras
Whilst the above might be everything needed to keep in touch with loved ones across the world, there is a whole world of technology out there to explore and discover. So here is a rundown of Expat Explorer’s top added extras for keeping in touch with technology. Blackberry Messenger (or BBM as it has become known) works well for instating keeping in touch with anyone on a Blackberry, with features such as group chat and being able to see when a message has been delivered and read. There are, however, drawbacks such as the fact that you have to be connected to the internet, so not great for roaming, plus it is only for Blackberry smartphones. Downloadable apps, such as What’sApp, are available for download on any smartphone and have many of the same features as BBM. Inevitably social networks must figure on any good keeping in touch with technology list, and the most popular ones are Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is great for keeping up to date with what lots of friends and family are up to, photos that they share and who’s where is the world, getting married, having children (all those things that many expats feel they should know about their global network of loved ones). Twitter works well for short messages shared to many, sharing links and generally keeping in touch. The final piece of technology is a gem: Pandigital’s Photo Mail Digital Photo Frame. This fancy frame can receive photos sent in an email and show them instantly in the frame!

This is just a few of the ways that technology is making expat life all the better, but this is not the full list. What is your top tip for keeping in touch with your global network? 


  1. For the more technically advanced expat installing a home SiP server is a godsend.

    Properly configured you can have your home phone automatically select between skype calls and regular calls depending on who you are calling. Likewise you'll receive calls the same whether they're from skype or a traditional phone call.

    If you're not technically inclined you can often get somebody locally to set it up for you, assuming you have a server or computer running 24/7 in your house. It sure has made a difference for me!

  2. WhatsApp & Email - of course nothing beats a visit in person!!


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