Most of us are savy to the world of apps now days. But do you consciously think about how you could use apps and your mobile phone to help you manage your move abroad and make life a bit easier once you’re there?
I want to share just a few apps with you that really helped me out for various different reasons. It’s worth asking yourself what sort of things you might come up against during your move abroad and then think about whether there could be an app that could help you. Reading through some of the other posts on Smart Relocation Guide might help you define some of the areas you need to focus on so take a good look around.
There are a load of apps that are a bit more personal to me (radio apps like di.fm and various others) which I’ve left out as I think the ones below are more likely to be relevant to more people. Leave a note in the comments if there’s anything specific you’re after and I can definitely try and help.
Essential mobile apps you should download to help with moving abroad
I found the app for Expat Forum a little late in the game if I’m completely honest. I used the website a fair amount to ask questions and get information before moving abroad but had I realised there was an app I probably would have been on it 24/7 (perhaps it’s good that I didn’t discover it early on).
Expat Forum is a great site for people who have moved abroad or are planning to move abroad to share ideas, information, experiences and anything else. I found out about the general cost of bills, things to consider before moving and various other things so it was extremely useful. It’s a great place to ask questions and to grow your knowledge of a place through people who are already there.
The app just makes all this information and sharing much more accessible and enables you to keep conversations going. Who knows, if you can find people on there who are living near where you’re going then you could potentially start to build up a network in your new country.
The Duolingo app is absolutely brilliant for picking up a language, from the basics through to more complex stuff. And it’s absolutely free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
As you can carry the Duolingo app around with you it means you can keep on learning a language on the go. For example, I had a 1 hour 30 minute train and metro commute in Barcelona, which was prime time for learning. You just stick in the headphones and away you go.
The Skype app was a great addition to the desktop version I had on my laptop. It meant I could easily jump on a face to face call with someone without having to get the laptop fired up every time (and with my laptop, that’s a saving of about 20 minutes).
The quality of the video will depend on your phone and camera but it’s great for the convenience. And you can still make non face to face calls (just voice calls) to other Skype users for free. This is of course assuming you’re using WiFi. If you’re using 3G/data (not connected to WiFi) then it’ll come out of your allowance.
The Skype app came in really handy when I was at work in Barcelona and my wife and daughter were at our house in Sitges. I could connect to the work WiFi and Skype my wife for free, rather than using my mobile minutes or the company phone. So, there are cost savings to be had here. There’s a bit more detail on ways to communicate when you’re abroad in my post ‘Cost effective ways of keeping in touch when you move abroad‘
WhatsApp was probably my most used app whilst living abroad. If you haven’t heard of it/got it then here’s a quick summary.
Its a messaging app that’s very similar to sending SMSs. The difference is that the app works through the internet (using either data or WiFi depending on where you are), unlike SMSs which are sent along a similar connection to the way you make calls (and cost a fixed amount each time).
The beauty of WhatsApp is that it costs you the same amount to send a message no matter where in the world you send it. For example, let’s say the message you’re sending is a picture, and its 100kb (kilobytes) in size. The cost of the message/picture is 100kb of data, which isn’t much). This remains the same whether you send it to your next door neighbour or someone on the other side of the globe. And, if you’re using WiFi it doesn’t cost you anything.
With an SMS it might cost you 9 cents to send a message to someone in the same country, and 29 cents to send the same message to another country.
If you don’t have WhatsApp installed on your phone, get it now.
I’ve mentioned Google Drive in an earlier post – ‘Moving checklist – keeping your move abroad stress free‘. For me Google Drive as a whole was an amazing tool. Being able to store all your important documentation online for free (up to a certain volume, 5gb I think) and have access to it from pretty much any device is invaluable.
And the app just increases the ease of use for Google Drive. I have it on my phone and Tablet so I can easily transfer documents and get access to things no matter what I’m using. Examples of what we used it for are:
- Copies of all our passports
- Copies of all our driving licenses
- Boarding passes
- All our financial documents, including my very elaborate money management spreadsheet
- Rental and job contracts
- Cancellation confirmations and final bills from the UK
Its just a great back up for important stuff and also means you and others can have access to it pretty much any time.
This is slightly less practical and a lot more emotional. Pinterest was often where I looked for inspiration. When I was feeling worried about the move abroad or I was a bit down once we were in Barcelona I just dived into Pinterest.
Its like an online cork board where people can stick interesting pictures, sketches, articles and other things relevant to a particular subject. For example, I might set up a board for funny quotes, and I would share any funny quotes I came across on this board. People can then follow my ‘funny quotes’ board and get all the joy of them along with me.
I followed boards where people were posting inspirational quotes, ideas and imagery. So when I was feeling down I read quote upon quote about being positive, accepting change, doing things differently and just being upbeat. Its amazing what a bit of light reading can do for your mind when you’re looking at the right stuff.
I didn’t want to be out of the loop with both world affairs and what was happening in my home country but I felt that I could lose touch because of the language barrier. I got a lot of my news through radio and papers in the UK so I wanted to make sure I had a constant stream that I could tap into.
The BBC news app is perfect as it let’s you dictate what you want to see. And its generally unbiased reporting so you don’t get sensationalised news and information.
Probably more relevant to Europe but having the EasyJet app was great. A lot of our flights were on EasyJet (even if they were booked through Skyscanner) so the app made managing all of this much easier.
I could effectively carry all my flight details with me at all times and could easily check in without having to remember a printed out boarding pass. It’s amazing how little things like this can make your travelling experience less stressful.
You can obviously download an app for an airline that’s more relevant to you but I just wanted to highlight the benefits of managing your flights via an app.
Springpad – Check update below
I’m unfortunately not the most organised of characters (as my wife will tell you), so I’ve had to find tools to help me along the way. Springpad is actually a site that let’s you organise your life/business/schedule pretty much however you want to.
I managed all of the things we needed to do using Springpad and chucked pretty much everything else in there too. You can save books you want to read, films you want to see and websites that come in handy. All that on top of standard ‘to-do’ list features and ‘notes’. It’s been a life saver for me.
The app just means I can carry all this stuff around with me. I could set reminders of when things needed to get done and I could always check to see what was happening. You can also add other users to your work books so you can share to-do lists and manage things together.
If you want to get organised, particularly before your move, then Springpad is worth a look.
Update 07/07/2014 – Unfortunately Springpad has now closed it’s services. An alternative free task management product which I highly recommend is www.asana.com. Asana let’s you set tasks, assign sub-tasks, add deadlines, save files and see a calendar of all the things. A great tool to help you plan and manage your move abroad, as well as keep things organised when you’re there.
Hopefully you’ve seen some apps in here that you think will be useful for moving abroad and living abroad. I’m sure there will be a whole load of country specific applications that could be really useful so please feel free to share and link to these apps in the comments to help other people.
Drop me an email if you have any question or suggestions.
All the best