The best ways to stay in contact with those back home
While you’ll want to make new friends and connections while abroad, it’s really important not to forget about everyone back home.
Relocating to a new country for work is hugely exciting. Getting a new job and home and navigating new cultures, practices and languages is an immersive experience and can be incredibly consuming.
An “out with the old, in with the new” approach can be tempting – after all, you’re making a fresh start in many aspects of your life. However, chances are that you’ll have left behind a lot of people who care about you at home and they’ll be interested in your new life. Don’t leave them wondering what’s going on. Meeting new friends and making new connections is important for establishing a happy, healthy life overseas but maintaining contact with friends, family and networks back home is invaluable for maintaining your sense of self and identity. Our homes, cultures and the people who surround us make us who we are and it’s important to hold onto. So how do you ensure you keep in touch and maintain contact with loved ones back at home?
The world-wide web – navigating data and wifi overseas
In the digital age we’re lucky enough to have easy access to the internet just about anywhere in the world. And with a smartphone, you don’t even need to have a computer to get online and contact friends and family back home!
One of the first things that you’ll want to arrange when you arrive in your new home is a mobile phone plan. Do some research before deciding on a mobile provider – most countries have a few competing providers and you can often find good deals by researching what’s available first. In New Zealand many telecommunication companies (telcos) will offer plans that will provide you with minutes, texts and data as well as the option of paying off a new phone on a month-to-month basis. If you already have a phone you can buy a local SIM card with a plan that suits you. Pop into a few stores and talk to their salespeople about what’s on offer – most plans are able to be customised so you’ll be able to find an option that suits your needs.
While you’re at it, ask about what international calling rates are available. Talking on the phone will really help you to feel connected to your friends and family back home – it’s amazing how much of an effect hearing someone’s voice can have. Many Telcos offer good rates for international phone calls and some also offer even cheaper rates at certain off-peak hours. Failing that, why not see if you’ve got a friend or relative with a landline you can borrow to make a few calls?
Likewise, Skype is a really useful tool for keeping in touch – its video function lets you see and hear the person you’re talking to which helps to connect with them on a far more personal level than a simple email or social media message and its chat function is useful for sending quick updates.
Skype is free to use and widely available – make yourself a profile and add your friends and family as contacts so you can talk to one another whenever you like. Just be mindful of time differences while you’re overseas. While your friends and family back at home are sure to love to hear from you they probably won’t appreciate getting a call at 4 in the morning! As well as being available on laptop and desktop computers, Skype can also be downloaded and used from mobile phones, tablets Xboxes and TVs. If you’re using Skype on a mobile device it pays to do so when you can access Wi-Fi as it can use up a lot of data.
If you’ve got Wi-Fi at your new home then it’s easy to stay in touch with friends and family. But just in case you don’t, it can also be useful to know where there is free Wi-Fi that you can access to send messages, emails and photos. Many public places like libraries, malls, restaurants and cafes and sometimes even public transport offer free Wi-Fi. Keep an eye out for signs or ask the staff.
Email is a quick and simple way to stay in touch and you can use it whenever you like. Some people like to send personalised messages to friends and family, which is bound to make them feel great especially knowing that you’ve taken the time to personally contact them in amongst all the other things you undoubtedly have to do! Alternatively, some people prefer to use email as a form of mass communication sending one update to their whole network of contacts. This is a great way to let people know how you are and what you’ve been doing if you’re short on time and don’t have anything particularly personal to share. If you decide to share an email update to a lot of contacts at once make sure you “bcc” contacts in – otherwise, if someone responds to you their response will be sent to everyone!
Staying in touch with friends and family has never been easier thanks to the continuing rise in social media platforms. Due to its versatile nature and ability to give public updates, send private messages and share photos, links and videos, Facebook is the go-to social media option for many people although there are a few countries in which access is restricted (in China check out WeChat instead!).
Facebook is great for sharing updates that will reach a wide network – so make sure you add as many of your friends and family as you can so they can see what you’ve been up to. Why not share some photos while you’re online? When uploading photos to Facebook go for quality over quantity. Most people won’t want to see a lot of pictures of the same thing but many people will be interested to get a glimpse of the new food, landscapes, sights and people you’re experiencing.
If you enjoy taking photos, are living in a particularly photogenic area or are passionate about a particular topic such as food, fitness, nature or animals you might like to share some snaps on Instagram. Solely an image and video-sharing platform, Instagram is great for showing off the more photogenic aspects of one’s life. Instagram’s collaborative sharing function also means you can share photos directly from your “blog” to other social media sites as well as email so they can be seen by others who don’t use Instagram themselves. Most blogs follow a theme of sorts and yours is likely to do well with many people following and interacting with your photos or videos if you follow a theme too. What theme you choose is up to you! Just make sure you’ve shared your username with friends and family back home so they know how to find you.
Snail mail – it won’t fail!
Online communication is quick, easy and cheap but nothing beats the feeling of receiving a good old fashioned letter in the mail! “Snail mail” does take a lot longer to reach its destination but mailing rates are generally fairly reasonable depending on where you’re located. And there’s nothing nicer than opening up a letter filled with kind words from a loved one – especially when they’re away on an overseas adventure! You can include local stamps, magazine articles and photos too for a more in-depth look into your new home. Why not send a special someone a letter? It’s bound to make their day!
Posting gifts is the ultimate way to show you care about friends and family back home. Receiving parcels in the mail is a sure way to bring a smile to someone’s face and let them know you’ve been thinking of them. Why not send a few souvenirs typical of your new home? You can include a letter too – just pick things that are lightweight as they will cost you less to ship and make sure you check that the items you send are allowed to be sent via post. Depending on the country, biosecurity laws may prevent certain food items or products with wood or shells being sent.
Moving to a new country might feel overwhelming to begin with and maintaining connections with people back at home is one way you can help yourself adjust to your new surroundings. There are lots of ways to keep in touch with those you care about back at home. Whether it’s simply through a quick email or Facebook message, an interesting photo to share or through a handwritten letter or gift sent, make sure you take the time to contact the people you care about. No matter how you chose to do it, it will be well worth your time and your friends and family are sure to appreciate it.