Whether you are living or working overseas for a short time or not, you may have noticed that you are using the Internet in a different way than before your expatriation. Being away from your family, your friends or sometimes your colleagues means that you need to make the most of the online tools available.
In the last 15 years that I have been away from my country, the Internet has changed my life. At the time of my first expatriation in 1997, I didn’t have an email address, although the use of emails was already widely spread, I wasn’t prepared. Nowadays, there are hundreds of Internet tools that are available for all to use and some of them are “vital” for us expats.
Out of the hundreds of online tools that I use every day, I have just listed here 5 Internet tools that are particularly useful for expatriates and the expat community.
1 – Skype
I cannot imagine my life without Skype. Although there are other video conferencing tools out there, it is one of the most convenient ones. I can make free video calls and calls to other Skype users, I make phone calls (local and long distance calls) to landlines and mobile phones for a fraction of the price it would cost me with my Argentine mobile phone. Skype has a wide range of monthly plans depending on your needs and you can choose a range of services such a personal voicemail, a national phone number or an option to divert your Skype calls to your mobile phone.
2- Google docs
I use Google docs nearly everyday to share or keep documents, whether it is for work purposes or for sharing information with my family ( for example, my sister got married recently and before the wedding we were working together on her invitation design, the guest list, sitting plan, etc…). The great thing about Google docs is that you are always working on the latest version of the document (word document, spreadsheet, presentation, etc). You can actually see the changes on the document as they happen whilst another authorised user is amending it. And no need to remember sending the updated document to the others, just click save et voila!
For obvious reasons LinkedIn is on my list of favourite tools. This is a great way to connect with professionals in my new environment by joining local groups or professional groups, to see if anyone within my network can help me make new connections in the country or city I going to live and to apply for jobs that are advertised on LinkedIn.
I cannot say that I was an early adopter of Paypal but now I really see the benefits of having an account. It is still not widely available as a mean of payment but it is very useful for buying online and it saves you from entering your credit card details online.
Finally Facebook! Well, up to now there hasn’t been any better way of communicating with Friends and Family while being so far away from them (I am closely monitoring Google+, you never know! – I will write a post on Google+ very shortly.). Obviously, you don’t need to be an expat to see the benefits of Facebook but for me, it allows me to abolish distances and stay in touch with everyone. There is something very impersonal about Facebook such as sharing the same informatio to everyone but with the creation of specific friends list (and giving them different settings) I am able to personalised a little bit my status updates. I also use the Facebook page feature for my website. Check it out.
What about you? What are your Top 5 online tools?
Leave me your comments below.
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Definitely Skype (especially Skype on the Go), Facebook, some sort of messenger (used to be Yahoo, now FB), Twitter (it’s a news feed, directory, chat room). InterNations is a good one too.
Very good list.
I would add:
Meetup: to find and meet people who share your interests
http://www.internations.org/ : connect with people before you leave to gather information and make friends with local scouts.
That’s right, Meetup is good but only if you live in bigger cities. For instance here is Argentina, most of the groups are in Buenos Aires but that’s over 300km from where I live.
The InterNations website has indeed a really good forum and this is definitely a site to check before, during and even after your expatriation as there is a lot of interactions there.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
It’s the same way here in the US. I live in Chillicothe, but most meetups are in the bigger cities. I am 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours drive from the closest (Columbus). While that is not far it is farther than I want to drive.
These internet tools are all redundant without an internet connection! Would you classify wifi as an internet tool? Actually google maps is very handy when you are abroad. Especially somewhere where locals dont speak your native tongue. Downloading a google map (or any other map service) is especially handy to show taxi drivers etc where you want to go! I also find an currency converter tool like xe.com to be quite useful so you can avoid being ripped off or to find a bargain. And a translation tool like google translate or babelfish is essential when in foreign countries. So my top 5 would be gmail, google maps, skype, facebook, google translate.
I like your list. I understand your choices, especially since you live in China.
Where I live, in Rosario,Argentina, I feel lucky to be able to go around town on foot and since cities here are made up of blocks, you don’t really get lost like in European cities. And yes translators are also essential!
Maybe I should start making my top 10 essential tools list! 😉
I just worry that Skype will remain free. Let’s just hope that its new owners don’t attempt to “monetize” its basic functions.
Hi Lee, I understand your worry but I don’t think they’ll come to it.
As I said I do use Skype a lot and I always have some credit on my account as it is so handy to make phone calls even if when people are not connected.