For many of us, myself included, living abroad is one of the best opportunities we have to branch out, to broaden our horizons, to become independent and to be able to stand on our own two feet. However, there are times when living abroad can also be lonely, especially in a city like New York. Friends and family at home can seem very far away, especially when they are living in different time zones.
Any sort of time zone can be difficult to overcome when staying in touch with friends and family while you are living in different countries. I found the five hour time difference between New York and my home of Northern Ireland to be particularly challenging as I would usually be finishing work when my family and friends were going to bed, leaving me to spend my evenings unable to talk to anyone from home. However, as my year progressed I found a few different ways to stay in contact with friends and family that allowed me to maintain a strong connection with home. Here are some of the ways I kept in touch with friends and family living in different time zones throughout the year.
Call Home at Lunch-Time
The five hour difference between New York and Northern Ireland meant that I could not call my family or friends in the evenings when I finished work. However, if I rang home at my lunch time (12pm EST) this synced up nicely with evening time (5pm GMT) in the U.K. and Ireland, making this the ideal time to call home. If you are struggling to find time to ring your parents after work and you are dealing with a similar five hour time difference, consider using one of your lunch hours during the week to speak with them then.
Arrange to Skype at Weekends
Face-to-face contact is incredibly important, especially if you aren’t able to see each other in-person for an extended period of time. It isn’t always convenient to Skype, but if you take some time out of your day during the weekend and you schedule to speak with friends and family a few days in advance, sometimes it can make the week go by a little faster knowing you’re going to be seeing your mum face-to-face at the weekend.
Snapchat is Your Friend
Snapchat is a great way to stay in touch with friends because the app enables people to share things in the moment. By being able to share little snippets of your life and your experiences abroad as they are happening (like the little video above that I took of my trip to Austin, TX), it brings friends directly into your world and can help them feel more connected with you, and help you to feel more connected with them.
WhatsApp & Group Chats
I’m a big fan of WhatsApp because the free messaging service allows you to avoid nasty phone bills at the end of the month. But one of the things I especially like about WhatsApp is the group chat feature. Even if you and your friends are scattered all around the world across many different time zones, you can all be part of the same conversation in the same WhatsApp group chat, and having that shared conversation directly accessible to you at all times through your phone can make your friends feel that little bit closer.
During my year in New York, there were a lot of birthdays and special occasions that I couldn’t be present for at home. However, as time progressed I began to send gifts to people directly using their home address and the ‘Gift Option’ on Amazon allowed me to add a personalised message. I especially liked doing this because no-one ever expected it — and there was something exciting about waiting to hear how my friends and family would react when they had received their surprise packages in the mail!
Staying in touch with friends and family when abroad is definitely challenging but with the modern day technology and a little bit of effort definitely doable. What are your tips for staying in touch with loved ones abroad? We’d love to hear from you!