Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Communication Methods from Across the Pond

Whether you live on the east side of the pond or on the west side of the pond (or even just outside of your home country), there are so many ways you can communicate with your family and friends back "home". Let me correct that, there are so many FREE ways to communicate (as long as your country doesn't have blocks on websites).

Luke and I have only once forked over money to communicate with someone back home. It was when we first arrived to Scotland, and we were unaware of all of the options. We spent 2GBP or something like that (yep, forked it right over!) on a phone call. Over the past year, we have discovered a wide variety of ways that we can talk to people no matter what device they have, and it costs us, and most of the time everyone else as well, zero dollars. We like zero dollars!

I know a few people that are either recently new to the expat life or they are about to embark on their adventure. One of the first things a future expat and their family and friends ask is "How will we stay in touch?" I thought I would share all of the methods Luke and I use to communicate with our family and friends back in the States. Warning: These are written as if I am teaching you how to communicate with me because it is easier to explain it that way :-)

Messaging Applications:

1.) iMessage (iDevices only) - If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch, you can "text" message me. Under message settings, be sure to have the iMessage capibilities turned on. When you go to message my UK mobile number (my email address works as well), our two iDevices connect and the send button turns BLUE meaning you will send an iMessage, and it is free other than data charges. If the send button is GREEN, you will get charged for an international text message. This is one of the best ways to message with me.
The blue bubbles above show iMessage. The green bubbles above show text messages.   

2.) Facebook Messaging and Facebook - If you have a Facebook account, you can get in touch with me just as easily as iMessage. I have the FB Messenger app downloaded to my phone and it works exactly like a text messaging application. This is how I communicate with my sister everyday since she does not have an iPhone. The app also allows us to send pictures to one another. If you don't have the messaging app on your phone, no problem. You can just use the messaging center within Facebook and it works... it just isn't exactly like text messaging on your end. And obviously, you can write on my Facebook wall, but it will be a public post, so everyone and their grandmother will see it.
Facebook Messenger App icon
3.) Email - This is a good way to contact me but not as good as iMessage or FB Messaging. I don't get the notification on my phone unless I go into the app on my own. I check my email multiple times a day, but it isn't as instant as iMessage and FB Messaging.

Calling Methods:

1.) FaceTime (iDevices only) - Whether you want to see me my face or just talk to me, FaceTime is the best way to hear my voice. I have my FaceTime set so that I can use it on data as well as WiFi. The only problem is that I feel silly FaceTiming when I am in public, so generally I don't answer. But if it is really important, then just send me an iMessage letting me know that you need me right away and I will call you back. The awesome thing about FaceTime is it available 24 hours a day just like a regular phone is (unless service is terrible of course).
FaceTime App icon
2.) MagicJack (anybody and everyone can use this, even folks without cell phones) - MagicJack is a company that offers landline phone service. Many people overseas have a MagicJack phone in their home that has a Unites States phone number attached to it - it is the same concept as a Vonage phone. The problem with that is it costs money to have these phones, which is why Luke and I did not purchase one before leaving the States. But awesomely enough, MagicJack offers a free app and free calling. I can call anyone in the US for free from my iPhone, and anyone in the US can call me for free from any phone. How do you call me? I give you an 800 number and my special number. You call the 800 number from any phone, when prompted, you enter my special number, and then I receive your call. Spectacular! And FREE! I am able to talk using on WiFi and data service, so I am available 24 hours a day just like FaceTime.
MagicJack App icon
3.) Skype - Unfortunately, Skype is the least effective way to get in touch with me. The only reason I still have this app on my phone is because I know not everyone has an iDevice and this is our way to video chat with those folks. The problem with Skype is that is has to be open in order to be used, and the connection is not good. I am very strict with open apps on my phone because they run my battery down, so I don't keep apps open unless I am actually using it. Not only does Skype have a video chat option, but it also has a messaging system and a phone option which are two added positives.
Skype App icon
In summary:
iDevice users: iMessage and FaceTime are the best methods for communication
Non-iDevice Users: Facebook Messaging and MagicJack are the best methods for communication

There are many other apps available for similar communication methods, but I feel these are the best options and I believe everyone has some way to get in touch with me. I don't think anyone is left out of the communication circle... but it does take some instruction and remembering for some folks. It takes both parties time to get used to these new methods, but they are all pretty darn close to the exact same as a regular phone call.

Note: These methods can also be used while traveling out of the country... as long as you have WiFi!

Expats & Travelers: How do you communicate for free with your family and friends back home?


  1. How did I not know about the facebook message app? Totally need to do that with my sis who doesn't have an I-phone. Good tips. iMessage has changed my life.

  2. Good to know!! We use the What's app and Viber (Viber is not the best, but it's free!!). I will have to try out the MagicJack app. Thanks!


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