I used to live in a Philadelphia suburb. I now live in New Taipei City. I could not have changed time zones more extremely than what I did. Depending on the time of year the time difference is 12 or 13 hours. A 12 hour difference in a 24-hour day completely flips your normal hours of operation 180 degrees from how your friends and family are living their lives.
When you work they sleep and when you sleep they work. It’s not always easy to pull an E.T. and phone home when the opposite ends of the line are not living parallel existences.
The 5 Best Ways to Keep Connected
We all know what Skype is. It’s great for saving money by making computer-to-computer calls, so it beats out the traditional telephone for overseas communication. The problem is that it’s still basically the same as making a real-time phone call, and if you and the people you want to talk with are living your lives on different schedules, it makes it hard to pin down a good time to chat. You also both need decent Internet, so if one or both sides of the conversion have connection problems you’ll quickly learn to hate making calls from your computer.
This doesn’t take much of an explanation. Time zones are not a factor since this is a turn-based communication system. Gmail’s layering of replies is nice too as it makes email replies seem more like an ongoing conversation. The bad thing about this is it’s very impersonal and we are flooded with so much email that it’s really easy to just slow down and eventually stop mailing your friends and family.
The ability to share pictures and videos to large groups of people at once is great, especially if you have a large family. It’s also nice that you can have individual chats with people. Facebook tends to be the easiest for doing this, but their algorithm can sometimes, though rarely, exclude showing certain friends all of your shares. A big downside of this is of course some people either refuse to use social media or they only check it occasionally.
Mobile Messaging Apps
This would most certainly be my number 1 choice if I wasn’t a big softy. Apps like WhatsApp and LINE are extremely popular and almost everyone with a smartphone has one of or a variation of these. They take the cheap Internet based communication offered by Skype and mix in email and social media tools. You can chat real-time via text, or just leave a message for your friend to read at their convenience. You can send pictures and short videos. You can even create small chat rooms so you can include multiple friends or family members in on one conversation.
Hand Written Letters
OK, before you shout at me and tell me to get a grip on reality and start living in this decade, I know this is a horribly inconvenient method of keeping in touch. It’s absolutely not suitable as your primary form of communication, and it can be confusing as hell to figure out in a foreign country. That is exactly why it’s so awesome.
Hand written letters are so personal, more now than ever. Sending a hand written letter home to your mom or dad will mean so much more than shooting them a 2-line email. Receiving a letter from your best friend can really ease the waves of culture shock during your first couple of years here. The rarity and personal nature of these is why I gave them the top spot.
In reality you will probably end up mixing in all 5 of these methods. Mom and Dad may get a letter at Christmas, your brother may get a Skype call, and some old college drinking buddies get some FB shout outs. How you keep in touch isn’t as important as keeping in touch.
I am speaking from experience when I say the longer that you are away from home, the easier it is to let old friends drift away. Remember that from their perspective you left them. Therefore, it’s your job to try and keep those relationships alive. That being said, don’t dwell in your past.
If you have made it here, keep in touch with your old friends and family, but go out, explore, and make loads of new friends along the way.