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Six types of app every expat should have

Moving to a new country can be exciting. There are new places to explore, a new culture to experience and a new language to learn. While expat life can be rich and fulfilling, there are also many new challenges to overcome.

When you live in another country, you will have to deal with being far away from friends and family all the while trying to learn a new way of life. It’s no wonder that many expats can end up being stressed and homesick, and struggle to make the most out of their life abroad.

Luckily, the internet has made expat life a lot easier in many ways. As well as online forums and support groups, there are all kinds of app that can help every expat make the most out of their new life. Here are a few of the best categories to explore.

VoIP services (Video chat)

figlio universitàVoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) apps are essential for cheap and easy communication with friends and family back home or in other parts of the world. While phone calls across country borders used to be prohibitively expensive, VoIP apps now allow you to talk to anyone you want, at any time, either for free or for a small fee.

There is no shortage of apps that allow for VoIP voice and video calling. While Skype used to be a market leader, Apple’s FaceTime, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp are just some of the many popular free options currently available.

If you’re relocating to China, it’s worth downloading Skype before you set off as you won’t be able to find it in the App Store or Play Store after you arrive. Alternatively, WeChat and Pinngle are popular options in this region.

Instant translations

google translate app

Google translate app

Easy access to translation is essential when living abroad. While many are familiar with online translators, modern translator apps allow for far more functionality that is highly useful on the go. Google Translate, available on both Android and iOS phones, allows you to scan text directly with the camera of your phone and have it translated instantly without having to type anything.

Conversations, on the other hand, can be enabled with Translate’s new ‘Conversation’ mode, which allows bilingual conversations by translating what you say into the target language and then translating back the reply of the person you’re having a conversation with. Undoubtedly, this is invaluable to the new expat who isn’t yet familiar with local lingo.

Language learning tools

While translator apps are an essential tool for expats, most people living in another country for a longer period will want to learn at least some basics of the local language. Luckily, there are many apps available to make language learning a breeze – or at least a little less daunting.

Duolingo and Memrise are two of the most popular language-learning apps. Duolingo has over 30 languages available, and offers courses made up of short quizzes that build your memory by way of repetition. Memrise currently has courses in 16 languages and mostly works in a flashcard-format, though there is also a lot of gamification to keep you hooked.

Whichever app you use, the greatest thing about language-learning apps is that you can spend even just a couple of minutes on the bus or in the elevator on them everyday and they will help you build long-term memory.

Virtual private networks

While VPN apps (Virtual Private Networks) are best known for their security features, they are also an essential tool for expats. VPNs route your web traffic through the VPN provider’s servers by way of encrypted tunnels, keeping your online activity private and disguising your location. This is useful to expats for a number of reasons.

Public Wi-Fi networks are hugely useful for travellers in need of internet connectivity. However, they are also an attractive target for cybercriminals. Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, which provide a lifeline when you’re at the airport or trying to save on mobile data, can allow cybercriminals to intercept all your internet traffic. That means they can potentially gain access to your passwords or even online banking information. For expats who are often on the move, additional security on these networks is a must.

The encryption that a VPN offers will stop a criminal from being able to steal your data even on an unsecure network, which is just one of the reasons many expats and mobile workers use them.

Many expats will also want to be able to access online content and streaming from their home countries, which is likely to be geo-blocked from abroad. VPNs allow you to get around regional restrictions on the internet, allowing you to have full access to the entertainment you’re used to. As an added bonus, they can also get you region-locked discounts on flights, so visiting home or taking a trip costs less.

Personal finance

It can be hard to budget when living abroad. There may be unexpected costs relating to housing and getting around, and you may be unfamiliar with the currency. Exchange rates can make dealing with money especially complicated.

There are many finance apps available that make life abroad easier, and it’s worth picking a few trustworthy additions. You may want to download an exchange rate app that will always keep you up-to-date on changes in currency, or a budgeting app that allows you to set budgets for your monthly spending while you’re getting used to a different cost of living. Equally, you might want to set up a new app-only bank account that can help you to avoid international transaction charges, if you’re waiting a while for a formal international bank account to be set up.

Health and wellbeing

Last but by no means least, it’s important to keep taking care of yourself among all the activity of moving and living abroad. Adjusting to another country’s lifestyle can be stressful – and access to health-care can prove more complicated than at home. Language barriers can also make visits to the doctor harder to navigate.

There are fortunately many apps that make taking care of your health abroad a lot easier. Guided meditation apps like Headspace can help you deal with stress and homesickness, whereas apps like Doctoralia are invaluable for finding great physicians and organising prescriptions. There are also numerous apps for calorie counting, which can make adjusting to a new diet easier.

Wherever you’re moving to, expat life offers new experiences and the chance to open a whole new chapter in your life. With the help of simple apps and software, you might be surprised at how easy it is to reduce your stress levels and make the most of everyday living.

Tabby Farrar
June 2019
Tabby Farrar is the author of global travel site Just Can’t Settle, and has lived and worked in Thailand during her journeys around the world.
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