Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Techno-Expats: How Do You Communicate?

There’s no question technology's been a game changer for expat life, particularly when it comes to keeping in touch. Moving abroad means you're not cut off or separated - if anything, you're more likely to stay in touch due to all the new channels which have been created to keep people connected.

From video calling to video diaries; blogs; social media channels to digital messaging - there's always a way to stay in touch wherever you are in the world, be it a buzzing and connected city or a remote rural location. For some, the steady stream of alerts we receive notifying us of a new message or interaction can feel a little over-bearing – but even this can be managed through an array of settings to make sure you’re able to keep on top of who’s contacting you and when, however you choose.

The choices we have for communication are only set to grow, with experts working on new prototypes all the time. Who knows what this could mean for future expats - will we one day be able to beam digital versions of ourselves to different locations around the world, or arrange a virtual reality coffee with a friend overseas? Perhaps!

Creative Commons - Mark Ficher

Many expats recognise and embrace the benefits of this raft of communication options. After all, a move abroad brings with it a lot of things to consider, but one of the most vital questions is how we keep in touch with the people we leave behind; staying up to date and maintaining important relationships.

While digital solutions give us a fantastic outlet to do that, they also highlight the progression we've made from more traditional forms of communication, particularly the letter, which many consider a lost art. As our communication evolves, it feels like we’re at risk of losing sight of these more original forms. Who doesn't love receiving an envelope or parcel from someone they care about for example?

There's something about it which brings an element of mystery and warmth that just isn't delivered by email or messaging. This can be particularly comforting if you're feeling alone or isolated. There's also a sense of permanence which doesn’t come from emails or texts, and having something tangible that can be saved and preserved as a memory from your experiences abroad.

New communication technologies should be embraced, especially given the role they play in (most) expat journeys. Feeling completely connected is comforting for many; particularly when instant communication is needed to stem homesickness or see the face of someone you care about. However, as with anything in life there might be a case to make for striking a balance, this time between old and new.

So perhaps next time you hang up from your video call, or exit the family messaging group, think about how you can progress this with a nod to the old-school way of doing things. Grab a postcard, old menu, coaster, newspaper article or photograph - scribble a few words, and put it in the post. It'll probably make someone's day.

When it comes to keeping in touch, which do you prefer - digital or old school, or a balance of both? Tweet us @expatexplorer or leave a comment below. 

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