Tag Archives: communication

Cross cultural communication and the International Dinner Lads. Defining Moves, The Art of Successful Relocation

Duck and Cover – Cross Cultural Communication and the International Dinner Lads

Cross cultural communication and the International Dinner Lads. Defining Moves, The Art of Successful RelocationYou’ve got to love teenage boys. When faced with a challenge, they take a long hard look at the problem, assess what needs to be done, and then choose the most complicated, messy and stressful way to achieve their goals. And then call in their mothers.

The problem of the moment was the latest Mandarin Project. The Wiggy One is lucky enough to have a fabulous Mandarin teacher who rises to the challenge of teaching a mob of reluctant teenagers a seemingly incomprehensible language with a serene smile and an endless supply of engaging teaching strategies. And while I am pitifully grateful to her skill in instilling a formidable array of Chinese words and characters into Wiggy’s somewhat distracted brain, the resultant enthusiasm sometimes backfires.

The latest project was the preparation, filming and sharing of a traditional Chinese dish with the rest of his class. As Wiggy is rather an expert at stir fries,  I was gently relieved. And then the teenage talent for self sabotage and grade suicide kicked in as his group opted for a more challenging culinary route. Peking Duck. From scratch. For 30.

The Other Half may have DIY limitations, but he has the patience of a saint. His after-work activities for the next three days involved sourcing ingredients from obscure locations, scouring the neighborhood for a duck of appropriate lineage and 3 hours spent in a Chinese supermarket desperately trying to decipher the Mandarin character for pancakes wraps.

I was left with the task of transporting three bodies (human), a bicycle and copious amounts of video equipment home from school, whereupon my Mother, the Feisty One and I spent the rest of the evening locked outside in the yard while teenage boys laid waste to the kitchen.

It didn’t get off to a great start. It took them 30 minutes just to remove the plastic bag that the duck was packaged in, a further 10 to recover the giblets, and another 20 to clean up the resultant blood now dripping down the counters and spattering the walls. For a dead duck, it put up a hell of a fight.

Having finally freed the bird, they now turned to YouTube for guidance on further preparation, at which point the strident English tones of Delia Smith filled the kitchen. I was a fan of Delia before, but had never fully appreciated her commanding presence and the power of her teaching skills. Across time, space, cultures and the internet, she successfully instructed Mandarin II’s version of the Three Stooges in the lost art of spatchcocking a duck. The woman is a genius, and should be put in charge of fixing the global economy immediately.

We watched transfixed from our chilly vantage point outside the window as they poked, prodded and skewered, then attached some of Feisty’s lilac knitting wool under it’s now alarmingly protruding wings wings and suspended it from the saucepan rack to dry. The strategy was partly successful; the draughts of air set off a dynamic swinging movement and relocated the moisture from the skin of the duck to the doors of the kitchen cabinets.

It also relocated the previously forgotten giblets from inside the carcass to the conveniently located frying pan below, causing hyperventilation in the surrounding males, and me to sourly suggest they avoid viewing childbirth videos any time soon.

Watching duck skin dry is second only to watching paint in terms of boredom, so after a brisk steaming, the unfortunate bird was slapped onto a roasting tray and stuffed into the oven, along with a pan of glutinous, faintly brown liquid, whose purpose was never fully explained, but was, apparently, vital to authenticity.

Up until now, all the videoing had focused on the action, rather than the words, and so the running commentary from Grandma (still shivering out on the decking) were able to be ignored. Now, however, there were orders for silence and stillness while the serious on camera presentation began.

The thing about Grandmas is that they have learned to ignore the raised voices of children and to carry on regardless. This served us well through the teething, tantrums and tale-telling years, but in the face of videography, it is rather a handicap. No sooner had they got to the final sentence of their monologue, than a face would appear at the window and ask “Have you really learned all those words in class?” or “Are you sure the duck is alright?”, quickly followed by “ooh, ooohh, I am sorry”, and a Fawlty Towers-esque comedy tiptoe out of shot. It was funny the first time; by the fifth the Wiggy One was set to explode and even the dogs were cowering.

Thank God for editing, and the power of practice. By the seventh take, the pressure of impending elder arrival and the need for some dinner had compressed their communication into short, speedy authentic sounding sentences and a confidence with the subject matter that only practice, repetition and frequent consultations with Google translate can foster. The golden brown, roasted to perfection duck that eventually emerged from the oven was a triumph of cross cultural communication.

I’ll say this for them. If they ever get to China, they will be able to impart some very useful culinary tips in flawless Mandarin, and providing the recipients are happy to shop, clean and watch from a distance in utter silence, they will get a mighty nice meal.

The bad news? This was the prerecorded version. We get to do it all again this week..

 

Expat Communication for Friends and Family - What We Really Mean By "Fine". Part of the Defining Moves Expat Essentials Guide

Expat Communication with Friends and Family.. What We Really Mean by “Fine”

Expat Communication for Friends and Family - What We Really Mean By "Fine". Part of the Defining Moves Expat Essentials Guide

Conversations about resilience and coping strategies at FIGT 2012 prompted a great deal of thought about the role of the people who we leave behind when expats relocate. In my ‘7 Habits of Successful Relocation’ seminar, we talked about those who have invested time, energy and emotion into relationships with us, despite knowing that we may not be around for the long haul. Ruth Van Renken, author of “Letters Never Sent”, described it as “all of the grief, with none of the anticipation”. News of an impending transfer creates anxiety, stress and  uncertainty in more than just the immediate family.

It’s a communication no-win situation. When we try to put a brave face on it and focus on the positive, it sounds like we are having a wonderful time and not missing you one bit. When we moan about how miserable we are, we can almost hear the phrase “sure, living a life of leisure in the sun with no work and plenty of help – it must be awful” sarcastically running through your mind. And if you have enough patience and understanding to let us vent for hours without telling us to shut up, at some point we start to hear how whiney and unpleasant we sound and really wish you had.

The good news is that we do get though it, and the support of the people we leave behind is something that we value above all else. We may not speak to you on a daily basis, but I can promise we think about you often  and talk about you to our new friends, wishing you were there in person to join in.

So for those of you who are leaving people you love, or are finding it difficult to explain how conflicted life is as an expat, I’ve put together some pointers that you can share..

 

We are a confused mix of emotions right now, so please bear with us.

Some of us are excited to be going on this adventure, but we are also quietly terrified of what lies ahead, and can’t show it for fear we won’t get on the plane. We feel guilty about leaving you, but it’s like going into school for the first time – we are trying to put a brave face on. It doesn’t mean that we love you any less – the opposite in fact. If we didn’t have you as a safety net, we’d never step out into the unknown.

 

We need you more than ever, but it may not seem like it.

Remember when you started school, and it took all of your energy just to keep track of where you should be going, what the rules were and who and where to avoid? That’s what relocation is like. We hardly know what time of the day it is, let alone our own phone number.We are just barely holding it together, and a text or email make a world of difference, especially if it makes us laugh.

 

If you really love us, forgive us if we don’t answer immediately.

We are overwhelmed, we don’t know anybody here, the paperwork is bewildering and every waking moment is spent trying to keep our heads above water. When we finally get through this transition phase (and we will), we will remember for ever the fact that you stuck with us.

 

Birthdays and celebrations are always the hardest, especially for the first year.

Remember how I moaned about having to cook the Christmas turkey, or that every birthday card reminded me that I was getting older? I was wrong. All those things reminded me that I have friends and family to share my time, my home and my life with, and without them, it can be very lonely. We do find new people to share them with, but if we could have one wish, it would be to have everyone we have ever shared those times with all together in one room..

 

I may say ‘it’s fine’, but I’m being brave.

Please don’t be fooled. But I also don’t want to waste precious time talking to you by sniveling about the woman at the school, and I want to hear what is happening in your life. Just talking to you makes everything seem a whole lot better, and hearing about your day helps to put mine back in perspective. It reminds me that we all have our good and bad moments, and the trick is to have friends to laugh, cry and share them with.

 

You don’t have to write an essay – three words will do.

Or a photo, if that is easier. What we miss most is the day to day interactions with you all – the smiles, the snatched conversations in grocery stores and school yards – the sense of connection and belonging. So don’t think you have to send a three page letter for it to be worthwhile (although we love those too) even the smallest contact lets us know that someone, somewhere is thinking about us, and is missing us too.

Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress
Communication Gaffes: French kissing in the USA - part of the Defining Moves Trailing Spouse relocation series

Communication Gaffes: French Kissing in the USA

Communication Gaffes: French kissing in the USA - part of the Defining Moves Trailing Spouse relocation seriesI have a confession. When I previously wrote about my expat communication mishaps, it was just bait to hook the big fish. The French Kissing story.

In my world, I’m usually the master (mistress?) of the intercultural miscommunication, but someone somewhere has seen fit to bless me with the most wondrous of gifts. Someone who is just as impressively misguided as I, and who is not only willing to laugh (and be laughed at) about it, but also generous enough to let me share some of the more hilarious moments.

The potential for a kindred spirit became clear when, early on in our budding friendship, Daisy* substituted the Other Half’s phone number for mine. While I was sitting alone wondering just how I had offended her enough to not to return any of my messages, the Other Half was having senior management meetings routinely interrupted with offers of manicures, pedicures, coffee and even introductions to other women by a seemingly desperate female he had never heard of..

Fast forward 18 months and an endless stream of hilarious attempts to bridge the transatlantic language gap later, and it’s clear that the problem is far from solved. In a curious reflection of US history, it seems to be the presence of the British that causes consternation.

It took a single well meaning comment from Emily* (another British expat trailing spouse) to start the downhill slide to chaos. Predictably, it was at that most damning of public forums, where every comment is carefully monitored and revisited for hidden clues into the parenting psyche; the PTA committee meeting.

Emily: “Your sons have excellent social skills.”

Daisy: “Do you think so? I’m working on them. I’m teaching them to kiss the French way.”

At this point, Emily’s’s face went a deathly white, and a funny buzzing noise started in her ears. She is known for her forthright honesty, and was struggling valiantly with the urge to blurt out “FRENCH KISSING??? WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU THINKING???” at the top of her lungs. Only the strength of her friendship with Daisy and the presence of two steely faced PTA committee members limited her response to a choked:

“Really? Don’t you think that’s something they should learn for themselves?”

The purple tinge that had spread as far as Emily’s ears should have given Daisy a clue that something was amiss, but she was blissfully oblivious, and proceeded to stumble further into the minefield.

“No, I think it’s important that they learn to do it properly. Their Dad is hopeless at it, so I can’t leave it to him. Actually, I think you should give him some lessons.”

“ME???”

“Yes – you’d be great at it, and he’d listen to you”

Emily has been attending cardio boot camp classes recently, so her blood pressure is in pretty good shape. It’s didn’t stop her eyes bulging ominously as she stared at Daisy in disbelief.

Thankfully, the quiet voice of a forgotten PTA member spoke up from the depths of the couch.

“I don’t think she means “French kissing”, I think she means European kissing –  on the cheeks..”

I will leave it to your imagination to picture Daisy’s face as she mentally revisited the conversation and it’s previously unseen connotations, but should you need help, Googling the word ‘horrific’ will pretty much take care of it.

You’ve got to hand it to her; when she does it, she does it in style. And publicly. With minutes.

*Names have been changed to protect the inept innocent.

So, now that we’ve got the ball rolling, let’s hear yours!

I’m off to the Familes in Global Transition conference on March 29th, so I would love some giggles to take my mind off my stage fright.. There’s a Harriet Stanes print for the best one received by the end of March, and you are allowed to change any and all names!

 Photo courtesy of the US National Archives

 

 

Sometimes, It’s better not look.. FIGT 2012

It’s been a very tricky day, which has taken me further and further from the cosy little comfort zone that I have created for myself. Up until now, I had considered myself successful at this relocation stuff, mainly because we managed not to lose anyone en route, the family are happily installed in work / school /dog training classes, and I had finally got around to finding a personal sense of purpose – this website. It’s not intended to set the world on fire, counteract global warming or generate world peace, but hopefully, someone somewhere will find at least one thing useful.

Not really an ambitious goal, but it works for me. So when someone suggested that I submit an application to present at the 2012 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) in March, it seemed like a good way of meeting like minded people. Which brings us back to today.

I spent the morning with a Social Media consultant to sort out my inept and haphazard Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter accounts. She wanted to know why I needed help, so I told her about FIGT and not wanting to be caught showing my knickers, metaphorically speaking. After a lengthy and very informative discussion, she gave me homework, which involved researching the other speakers at the conference so that I would have a list of people that I want to meet.

It has backfired badly. I am now in a state of abject terror. They are all far more qualified, experienced and connected, with excellent relocation pedigree, and I don’t know a single soul in the entire conference. I feel like the pound mutt at the Kennel Club show, and not only am I too frightened to want to meet any of them, I would rather eat my own tongue than admit my own existence. I have paid the registration fee and booked a vendor’s table and have no idea what to put on it apart from an all-you-can-eat pastry selection and a ‘Sorry I Missed You’ sign.

The Feisty One was with me when I began to hyperventilate, and was quick to offer a bracing pep talk. “Mummy”, she said “You have to stop being silly. You have a website, you’re building an app, you were a lecturer and a nurse” (here she starts to look a little panicky as she began to run out of material) “and you have a husband and two children and three dogs.” A glowing recommendation indeed – especially when two of the dogs run away on an almost daily basis -, but not necessarily the most professionally reassuring.

Thing are not going exactly to plan and I can see only one way forward – fake popularity and alcohol consumption. If you promise to Share, Like, Tweet and otherwise make me look popular, I promise to share all the gory details of what may well be a three day marathon of rabbit-in-the-headlight moments and any leftover pastries. And for those of you familiar with Washington D.C.; know any good cocktail bars?

 

Cultural Orientation – What Puppies Teach Us About Basic Manners and Universal Understanding..

We have a new puppy, and watching her integrate into her new environment has got me thinking about the importance of manners and communication in successful relocation. It has also shown that it doesn’t matter how cute you look, how nice your temperament or how big you’re going to be one day, if you ignore the basic rules, you are still really, really annoying..

It’s also made me realise how universal the rules are; greet in a way that’s acceptable to your new acquaintances, defer to the more experienced or senior, listen to what their body language is telling you, say sorry quickly, don’t take offense and share the water bowl nicely. Good behavior gets rewarded, and being unpleasant means less friends to play with. And don’t bite.

For those without the dubious benefits of a houseful of dogs, here’s the human version.

1. Correct forms of address. They may be difficult to pronounce, you may struggle with the correct titles or differentiating between personal and family name, so be prepared before you go. A simple phrase book will give you basic guidelines for the accepted forms of address and how to pronounce them, so practice them at home before you try them out on your unsuspecting new acquaintances. Use phonetic spellings on Post-it notes or flash cards to keep as a reminder of people you meet, and don’t be afraid to ask for a reminder from a friend or colleague. If you have access to cultural orientation training, this is a great time to practice and be corrected.

2. Mirror body language. Studies show that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and where human behavior is concerned, we tend to replicate the body language of people that we like which in turn makes us perceived as friendly and pleasant. It also shows sensitivity towards other cultural and religious behaviors, so practice observing and emulating. Draw a line at copying the accent though…

3. Acknowledge your mistakes and take ownership of them. When you enter a new environment, whether a work, social or living one,  you are under stress, however small. Its a primitive fight/flight awareness, and it changes the way we react to situations. With relocation however, this stress is more constant and at a higher level than normal, ue to the wide range of unfamiliar situations that we find ourselves in. Few of us give the best impression of ourselves when we have just spent three hours trying to get electricity / internet connected using phrase book Mandarin / Swahili / Urdu, so mistakes are inevitable and understandable. When you realize that you have made a mistake, take ownership of it immediately and apologise. And then move on; endlessly revisiting it is just awkward.

4. Least said, soonest mended. I once had delightful students from China staying with us, but at every mealtime, when asked if they liked the dish that I had painstakingly prepared, the reply was “It’s ok”. In Britain, when someone uses it in that way, it means  mediocre. I bit my tongue for about six months, until one day the question of use of ‘ok’ came up in dinner table conversation. It transpired that they thought it meant wonderful, and their faces when they realized how unsuspectingly rude they had been was a picture of mortification.

You too will be a victim of the of the communication breakdown trap, but don’t assume offence is deliberate and if it happens, ignore it and move on. People rarely are intentionally rude, but global differences in use of body language, personal space, tone, hand gestures and volume are endless, so there is plenty of  room for error. So be slow to take offense, and err on the side of caution in responding to perceived insults. And hope for the same levels of tolerance in all those you inadvertently call a horse’s behind..

5. Host well.  If you invite people to an event, the time taken to make the feel welcome is essential, and speaks volumes about your level of respect for  them. This includes planning a refreshments that are appropriate for them, taking into account dietary preferences, religious observances and anything else required to avoid making them feel awkward. It doesn’t have to be lavish, but it does have to be thoughtful.  The phrase that sums up what you are aiming for? Honored guest.

6. Be gracious as a guest. Be gracious for what you receive, from whomever you receive it. People are often judged by the way they treat those around them, but all too often those actually providing the service are ignored. “Please”, “Thank you” and good eye contact should be the very minimum we offer.

And as a final note, if you make a mess on the carpet, please at least attempt to clean it up..

The Top 10 Concerns of Expats #1 – The Defining Moves Version

 

The HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey describing the top 10 barriers to relocating was recently discussed over at ShelterOffshore.com, who very kindly put together professional, well thought out advice for the 4100 respondents to the survey. Here’s the first part of my quick and dirty version, for the lost souls who stumble upon this site..

Another happy day out in Wales.. Seriously.

1) Re-establishing a Social Life

41% of all those surveyed advised that this was a key concern for them prior to and initially following their relocation abroad…highlighting just how important it is for us all to have friends and social contact.

Get out there. Bottom line, the only things you will make friends with in your own home are the TV and the refrigerator. The best piece of advice that I received on my somewhat less than comprehensive pre-assignment briefing was that “It’s a numbers game”. You have to filter through the masses to find the ones you want to spend time with. Put another way, if you want to find the diamonds, you have to go down the mine and get dirty. So, trite cliches aside, join the PTA /PTO, call the international school and embassy to see if they have lists of expat groups, take a class, join a sports club or gym (last resort for me due to ingrained laziness) and if all else fails, go and hang around the international food market and start up conversation with anyone who buys the Branston Pickle / Vegemite / Reeses Peanut Butter Cups / whatever your preferred food item might be. Many a lasting friendship begins over a a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut, as Suzanne (Kenya), Liz & Kate (Los Angeles)and Emma & Staci (San Francisco) will attest.

2) Feeling Lonely / Missing Family & Friends

This of course ties in with the above point, and 34% of expats surveyed by HSBC highlighted this as a genuine worry.  Recent statistical evidence from the Centre of Future Studies also reveals that the expats who adjust most successfully and quickly are those who relocate with families..

One word. Skype. Your job before you leave town (or on your first trip home) is to insist firmly that all family members and close friends download Skype. (Boy, do I wish I was on commission right now..). This magical form of communication means that with the simple addition of a webcam, you can not only talk to loved ones, you can see what their hair is doing today. And nothing says togetherness more than commiserating over your “I’m new in town and can’t find a hairdresser” motif. Should you have a social group that is stuck in the pre-technology age, Skype does offer a monthly subscription that allows unlimited calls to landlines in 34 countries for ‘free’ (obviously you’ve paid a subscription, so it’s not really free, for the accountants amongst you) and cheap calls to cellphones. The bad news is that you will require internet access, so if that’s not possible, use Rebtel, which only requires a cellphone, and handles the internet bit for you.

3) Career Concerns

Oh blimey. Where to start. Probably with Jennifer Bradley’s Free Career Mentorship Classes.. Just to make it even easier, they’re online.

 4) Language Barriers

30% of those surveyed stated that they were worried about language being a barrier to their successful integration abroad – with many Brits relocating to Europe particularly concerned.

Learn the language as you will use it, and get used to feeling ridiculous. There are some excellent resources out there, the more formal being Berlitz and Rosetta Stone, but there are also endless apps, podcasts and online resources, so you have absolutely no excuses. One of my favorites is Fluent in 3 Months, which requires you to spend a lot of time feeling foolish and inept, but long as you have a sense of humor and a willingness to make mistakes, you will develop reasonable fluency in a very short amount of time.

Part 2  of the Top 10 Concerns of Expats (Defining Moves version) continues on Thursday. Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe on the right!

5 Simple Steps to Staying in (Social) Shape

Everyone loves to receive a card in the mail, and never more so than when you are 4000 miles away from home. And while most of us send out holiday cards once a year, birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations are often left to a last minute message on Facebook. So here’s a step by step guide to successfully mastering the original social media; going back to basics, putting it in writing, and getting it there on time.

1. Update your contact list. Right now, you will probably be displaying holiday cards from most of the people who are important to you. Before you file the cards away or send them for recycling, use them to update your contact list and add any new children, friends or addresses. If you don’t keep addresses on computer, now is a great time to start – either on a desktop program such Outlook or Address book, or online on Yahoo, Gmail or a card company like Moonpig.com. I like Plaxo.com for basic online storage and automatic syncing to smartphones – it takes a little getting used to, but it makes merging duplicate contact details simple, and will let you print off a complete list or individual labels.

2. Make group lists. While you are sitting down with all your contacts in one place, make lists of those who you want to send greeting cards to. Group them under headings like ‘birthday’, ‘anniversary’, ‘religious holiday’ (remember to group under the specific holiday) ‘thank you’ or ‘keep in touch’.

3. Set reminders. If you are using Outlook (PC) or Address book (Mac) or Plaxo.com, there is not an attached reminder function, so you will need to enter them into a calendar. It doesn’t matter whether you use a printed calendar, a desktop one or an online reminder system, you just need one that you pay attention to and gives you enough time to buy, write and mail a card. Two weeks is usually a good rule of thumb – it doesn’t matter if the card arrives a few days early, and it allows for the idiosyncrasies of weekends, holidays and international mail. Good online options for travelers include Cozi.com which will send a reminder via text or email, or Moonpig.com, which emails you a reminder and will also allow you to send customized cards direct from its site, wherever you happen to be in the world. Cozi has a million and one other fabulous functions, but no address book, whereas Moonpig.com does store addresses that you have used, making it a cinch for future years.

4. Buy back-up cards. You’ll be heading to the stores to restock on groceries at some point over the next few days, so grab a few one-size-fits-all cards while you are there. Make sure you buy standard size rectangular ones, with no extra weight or decoration, so that you can be sure of postage costs. In the US, square cards are charged at an additional rate, and the padding needed for many popular decoupage cards takes them over the weight limit for a standard postage stamp. They also often get caught in sorting machines, and are more of a target for tampering / customs inspection in places where hand sorting is still used. If you are determined to include cash, use a standard office type envelope rather than the colored birthday card one for the same reason.

5. Send out a fill-in-the-blanks email. If you are missing information, send out a New Year greetings email with a request for the relevant bits, and update your lists before their reply gets lost in email swamp. If email doesn’t work, try Facebook, Twitter or other social media, but make sure you use the private message function rather than plastering their private details across the internet..

6. Sit back and enjoy!

Taking your iPhone Abroad – How to avoid expensive data roaming charges?

I recently went back to the UK for a seasonal family visit, and have just received my Christmas gift from AT&T, my cellphone carrier here in the US. It’s a bill for $286. I would never previously have described myself as innocent, but obviously in matters of data roaming charges, I am, because this bill rather took me by surprise.

You see, I have a UK cellphone, so calls and texts were made on that, and I stayed at my sister’s house which has wifi, so email checking, skyping and internet use were carried out at home. There were only two days when I was at our old home in Wales, and on those days I checked my email (twice), checked on the website (twice) and searched for a location (once). And for that privilege, I paid through the nose.

So, since I have returned I have been searching for alternatives, and I may have come up with a solution in the name of iPhone dual sim adapters. As those of you who follow my ramblings know, I adore my iPhone, and generally run my entire life though it. Judging by the comments on the latest Techcrunch article on dual sim phones, I am not alone.

Currently, when in the UK I use an unlocked phone with a local sim to make calls and send texts, but when I need to send emails, I either have to be somewhere with Wifi access or pay what I now know to be exorbitant international data roaming charges. The downside is that because we are doing a lot of traveling, access to Wifi is unpredictable, and I would really like to be able to use Google maps to navigate with.

There are a number of dual sim adapters out there, ranging from $20 -$120 with corresponding quality levels, all of which do basically the same thing – connect the existing sim in the sim card tray to an additional sim (see picture on right). But where the previous multiple sim adapters only allow you to switch between sims with only one active sim at a time, the latest – Vooma – allows you to actually keep both numbers on at the same time. And there appears to be no cutting of sims or poking of slots required – a definite plus when you have my history with electronic gadgetry disasters..

For me, this is heaven. With this latest release, I should be able to simply buy a local pay as you go sim with data and use just one phone to do everything. It’s world domination on a cellular scale. And it’s not just expats and global nomads that stand to benefit – for those of you who live in areas with spotty cellphone reception or who want to use an additional cheap rate phone and data package like GiffGaff, this allows you to do just that.

There is bad news, however. Firstly, the Vooma has yet to be released, although I have signed up to be first in line when they do go on sale. Secondly, they require that your iPhone is jailbroken, and while this is now legal, taking that step is a leap of faith.

I’ll let you know how it goes..

 

 

Teen Social Networking Infographic

It’s no longer just putting pen to paper – like many expat and TCK kids, mine rely on social networking sites to keep in contact with friends around the world. But while we keep track of them in the real world, Zonealarm’s infographic outlines just why we should be doing the same in the online one.
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Other Resources:

12 Best Apps for Expats

I love my iPhone. The world is literally at my finger tips – I can now get security reports, book flights, learn languages, keep in contact with loved ones, and even record moments for posterity, all using a device that fits in my pocket. The range of travel applications is already bewildering, and grows by the day, so here’s my selection of 12 best apps for traveling the world slowly. Apps like Tripit, Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon are all well rated, but I have deliberately not included these and others developed for the business or frequent traveller. Instead, for those of us who are adapting to life abroad, the ones listed here work longer term for helping to smooth your transition and make daily life a little easier.  If you have any personal favorites, please feel free to add them to the comments section below.

SmartTraveler. (Free) The US Department of State app which gives comprehensive information, security alerts and updates, maps, US Embassy locations and more. One of the best resources for checking out countries before you travel, or finding help one you are there. An expat must have.

Packing Pro ($2.99) Become a packing perfectionist with this easy tool. Create lists of vital items for every family member and check them off as you go. Brilliant if you have multiple packing needs (i.e. multi-trip vacations, or forgetful family members). And it even tracks the weight for you, so you can decide whether or not those boots are really worth taking. The control freak in me is very, very happy.. Saving Grace Travel Packing Aid is a free version that works nearly as well.

Google Maps. (Free) Comes as standard on iPhones, is global, and will not only search by address, but also by business name. It gives you directions for public transport, driving or of foot, and a little pulsing blue dot shows you exactly where you are, so you’re guaranteed to get where you need to go. The bad news? It requires data, so you will be paying through the nose for the privilege if you are using it abroad.

World Customs & Cultures (Free) Includes custom, cultural information and facts on over 165 locations, has GPS  locations for those who can’t be bothered to browse for their location country by name or flag.. Has a random custom section, which kept me entertained for hours..

Wifi Finder. (Free)  It doesn’t getmuch better than this – the app is free, it has a 4+ star rating, it has 650,000 locations of free or paid WiFi worldwide. (There is a version that finds just free WiFi, but I prefer to keep my options open.) It uses data access to pinpoint your location, so you will be paying data charges, but only for the time it takes to find a free wifi host.

Skype. (Free) I am a huge fan of Skype, and it’s app for iPhone, iPad and iTouch is brilliant, especially now that it lets you access and call your iPhone contacts through the Skype platform. Like many of the others, it requires data access, but if you can get to free wifi, you can make free or inexpensive international calls. Be warned, if you use the video when away from a wifi connection, your data useage will skyrocket. Download it and create your Skype contact list and test the functionality before you go because there are glitches, but the effort is worth it.

World Nomads.(Free)  The 25 language translator apps cover keywords such as please and thank you, numbers up to 10, and a few phrases useful for other travel conundrums (my favorite: “Those drugs aren’t mine!”) in easy-to-scan categories like Introductions and Travel Health. It’s basic, but is designed by experienced travelers, so if great for a quick reference guide.

Lingolook ($4.99 each) – Currently available in 8 languages with additional ones under  development,   Lingolook Travel apps are designed to help English-speaking travelers get by abroad with ease. These clever language guides feature basic keywords helpfully organized on 150 digital flashcards, with over 500 audio translations recorded by native speakers to help users perfect pronunciation. Google Translate translates words between more than 50 languages, and is free, but not specifically designed for travelers, so there is more room for error.

G-park. ($0.99) It’s designed to get you back to your car, but works for finding the quickest route back to anywhere. Fantastic for when  there is a group of you, and you want to meet back at the start point at a later time – just ‘park’ the whole group’s location, and ‘find’ your way back later.

Share-a-bill.(Free for lite version, $3.99 for full) Designed for groups of individuals or families traveling together but wanting to divide the costs fairly. It allows you to define costs and participants for each event, and keep everyone updated by email. Burly debt collectors are not included.. Also fabulous for just keeping track of your general spending.

Moonpig (Free) Send personalized cards or postcards direct from your iPhone. One of my favorite apps for keeping in touch, it allows you to take a photo from your iPhone camera, and instantly create, address and send a postcard to recipients worldwide for a fee. Requires data connection, so take the pictures on the go, and create the cards when you hit a wifi hotspot..

Amazon Kindle (Free) The Kindle’s nice, but why carry two devices when you can download e-books directly to your phone? Have an iPhone AND a Kindle? Once you’ve bought the book, you can read it wherever you want. If only I’d discovered this before..

You may not automatically have international voice and data service as part of your cellphone contract, so check with your service provider before you leave. A final point to note – international data roaming is often very expensive, so remember to turn off your data roaming as you leave your home country and only turn it on when needed, as many of the apps have a ‘location services’ feature which will be using data to pinpoint your phone location even when the app is not being used. To turn off data roaming, go to Settings ➙Network, and then slide the Data Roaming switch to ‘off’.