How to Keep in Touch with Your Loved Ones while Overseas

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Keeping in Touch After an International Move

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Keeping in touch after a move is rarely done as much as originally intended. When the move is international, it’s even rarer.

Sometimes regularly contacting friends and family drops on your priority list while you’re trying to adjust to a new culture and area. It shouldn’t be that way. Despite some added difficulties with overseas communication, there are several ways to keep in touch after an international move.

Why keep in touch?

No matter how alone you feel, somebody will probably miss you if you move to a new country. You are likely leaving behind friends, partners, parents, siblings, extended family, acquaintances, and neighbours. Many expats leave their home to start over, but that doesn’t mean they should forget where they came from. If you are moving to a new country to run away from your problems, you are not moving for a good reason.

On the other hand, you could honestly want to keep in touch, but get too caught up in your new life to remember to contact the people from your old life. Here are some reasons why that is not a good idea:
  • Your friends and family love you. They deserve to know what is happening with you and would like to hear from you.
  • You love your family and your friends. Even if you are busy, you know that you care about those you left back home. Checking in with them is a good way to show it.
  • You probably will be back at some point in the near future. Alienating yourself from your friends and family in your home country is not a good idea because most international moves are temporary. Within a year or two you will likely be travelling back home and if you haven‘t been keeping up with your loved ones, you’ll be going home blind.
  • You’re trying to maintain a long distance relationship. If you have left a significant other behind with the intention to continue the relationship, you need to nurture it with a lot of communication beyond just “keeping in touch.” The more frequent you talk, the better your chances are of making the long distance relationship work.

How to keep in touch

There are a variety of ways to keep in touch with loved ones back home, which helps when you move to another country since not all forms of communication will be available to you. 

Via phone

Phones have come a long way in recent years and offer a wide variety of ways to connect people at long distances. However, some, if not all, of their services could require the purchase of a new SIM card to make the phone work in foreign areas. Also, services to another country could be expensive. Landlines are not widely used anymore and are usually even more expensive when calls are being made overseas.
  • Texting is quick and easy. It usually only takes a second to send and read and it doesn’t require a lot of disruption on either side of the line. Just don't always expect the recipient to read it and respond right away -- there is probably a substantial time difference between you and your loved ones back in your home country.
  • Phone calls are generally considered more formal and personal than texting. Big news should probably be shared via a call rather than a text. Older friends or relatives who struggle with texting may also prefer phone calls. Both parties need to designate a certain amount of real time to a call. This means coordinating schedules and noting the time difference.
  • Phone video chat is a relatively new way of connecting at long distances. It has the same timing limitations as a phone call, but it really adds an additional layer of connection and it is exclusive to newer cell phones. You can actually see your loved ones back home in real time. Phones typically need a specific app for this service to work.

Via computer

If you have access to a computer with the internet, you have a means of contacting people in another country. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as some means of communication are blocked or restricted in a few countries.
  • E-mail is the most obvious way to communicate with loved ones back home. You can e-mail from most cell phones as well. Still, if service is bad, a computer may be the more dependable route. E-mails are usually considered pretty formal, but they also are responded to rather slowly in most cases.
  • Messenger programs have gone out of favor in recent years with texting becoming so widespread, but if your new country has better computer internet service than phone service, it is still a viable option. Messengers act much like texting and have similar advantages and disadvantages.
  • Video chat is usually better on computers than it is on phones. Programs like Skype are usually downloadable for free throughout the world. Sitting down to talk face to face via computer video chat is a great way to keep in touch, but it requires coordination and a good internet connection.

Via snail mail

If all electronics have failed you, you can always resort to mailing actual things to your loved ones back home.
  • Letters are hardly sent anymore and take a little longer to compose than a typical e-mail. That said, your friends and family will appreciate the effort. They will probably be excited to get a letter. The drawbacks are that they take a while to deliver, are one way communication, and they require you to buy postage.
  • Postcards are similar to writing letters, but brief (and with a photo, too). They tend to be very touristy, which is somewhat appropriate (or cliché, depending on your viewpoint) for sending something back to your loved ones from another country. Typically, there's not a lot of substance to postcard messages due to the limited writing space -- but they can still get your message across -- that you're thinking of your loved ones. 
No matter how you chose to contact your loved ones back home, there are enough different ways to do it that there is no excuse for giving them the silent treatment. They will appreciate hearing from you, no matter what.

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on January 19, 2015

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