The Covid-19 situation continues to unfold at different rates across the globe, and many expats abroad are looking for new ways to stay in touch with family long-distance or their friends overseas. After almost two years of lockdowns and social distancing, many of us have reached our tolerance limit for online drinks following a day of online meetings, with nothing to look forward to but an online workout. While some countries are loosening restrictions, others are re-entering stricter lockdowns.
Australia has tackled this pandemic with rigorous border closures, both international and at state-level, and a mandatory home isolation program for returning Australian citizens. In August 2021, the Australian government closed a loophole allowing expats to visit home and leave the country again without applying for an exemption from the ban.
As expats rethink their long-awaited plans to visit family abroad, we wanted to suggest some alternative ideas to keep in touch overseas. And bear in mind, if you're sending money abroad to friends and family, that you can get same-day transfers on most major currencies up to eight times cheaper than the banks with CurrencyFair.
More than one family bond has been tested by a particularly vicious game of Monopoly, and for the competitive among us, that spirit can live on online. The Monopoly app can be downloaded on the App Store or Google Play Store, and the online multiplayer version gives you the chance to argue with your family over who gets to be the little dog in real-time.
Playingcards.io has a selection of games available in a multiplayer online format, from card games like "Go Fish"and "Rummy"to board games like backgammon and chess.
For anyone missing the weekly quiz night in their local bar, Kahoot! is a free platform for creating online quizzes. You can put together a quiz based on a friend's life for their 30th birthday, or dig up the romantic milestones in your parents' marriage to create a quiz to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Or, if you're not keen on making one yourself, just get friends to dial in for one of its pre-made quizzes.
Catch up with friends and family over a long-distance book club
Even with the best intentions in the world, it's easy for time to slip by without setting an actual date to catch up with friends and family. A book club creates structure and an excuse to get together regularly to discuss a shared interest.
You can add recurring "features"to make it more interesting - start things off by reading the one-star reviews for that book on Goodreads, or keep track of your own ratings for the books to pick an official end-of-year winner. Decide on a cadence that's realistic and doable depending on your schedules, and create a process for how to pick the next book you'll read. There are several apps you could use to help streamline the process, to help you with everything from scheduling your hangout to discovering your next book.
Make their day with thoughtful surprises from abroad
If you can't be there in person for a milestone while you're abroad - your niece's first birthday, your best friend's graduation - the homesickness can be compounded with the fear of missing out. Depending on their location, you could arrange to have something delivered to let them know you're thinking about them. With today's technology, everything from flowers to foodie gift hampers can be shipped to that special someone to make their day (and yours!).
Chip in on group gifts
If a hamper is out of your budget solo, why not arrange for a group of friends or family members to contribute to a group gift? Messenger apps like WhatsApp and Telegram can help you keep in touch with family abroad, and can be used to make temporary group chats to finalise the details for the budget, gift ideas and the recipient's delivery address. And if you need to exchange currency to contribute, learn more here about how you can send money overseas at better exchange rates, with no hidden fees, with CurrencyFair. For a more detailed look at sending money abroad, check out our guide:
Sending money abroad: a guide to international money transfers.
Handy apps to keep in touch with friends overseas
If you have a mobile device or tablet with an internet connection, it's easier than ever to keep in touch with friends and family abroad. Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, there are endless options to chat and connect from afar. The following list is just a few of our favourites:
Video conferencing platforms
From dial-in meetings to catch-up drinks, video conferencing tools are a huge help for keeping in touch. Zoom is a communications platform that supports video conferencing, and its free version gives you unlimited one-to-one meetings with a 30-hour time limit per meeting or up to 40 minutes for group meetings.
Houseparty is a social networking app that allows up to eight people to video chat at once in a "room."You can have infinite rooms, and switch between them. Users receive a notification when friends open the app and can join chats with friends (and friends of friends), and play games within the app like Heads Up!, Trivia and Quick Draw.
Social media options
An honorary mention only here, folks, as you're certainly aware of these. But if you're browsing this list looking how to connect whilst feeling a little homesick, it's worth remembering that a simple message on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat can be all it takes to get back in touch.
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CurrencyFair is not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the companies mentioned.