Technology & Expat Life

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Oct 28, 2019

I think one thing all parents agree on, technology is a double edge sword… by that I mean, you can do some super amazing stuff with technology these days, but we also have to be mindful about how we use technology.


Over the past few months while we have been in transition, technology has certainly been my friend! From using apps to capture key information and create lists, to recording our journey and sharing it with family and friends. You name it, I have been ‘playing’ with it!


Hubby and I had a hilarious conversation the other day, reminiscing about how much more challenging our first move to Asia was without smartphones! But, there were advantages to that too....


An older couple we met at a family function asked if we would mind ‘delivering some mail’ to their daughter who was living in Hong Kong (our first Asia destination). So, once landed I phoned the daugher’s workplace to make the delivery, except she didn’t work there anymore… uh oh! Once I explained the situation, the receptionist agreed to take my number and pass it on. Eventually we arranged a meet up in mid levels to ‘do the drop’ so to speak. Except that this girl was also celebrating, so I met her and some of her friends for a drink after they all finished work (I was job hunting at the time). One of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life, turning up to have a drink with a group of strangers in a place I’ve only just moved to!! But we clicked immediately and became a very tight group of friends! In today’s world, I don’t think the parents would have even had any mail to deliver, I would have missed this opportunity and potentially never met this amazing group of women!


So technology is brilliant when you’re living abroad, but as I mentioned we do need to be mindful about how we use it. For example, don’t let an opportunity for a face to face meeting slip by just because chatting in social media is easier. Don’t just send a message, actually dial the number and have a chat with your friend (when I do this, my friend and I always laugh at how lazy we get)!


At the FIGT conference in Bangkok earlier this year, I was privileged to hear a brilliant panel discussion on social media, screens and the expat life. There were various aspects presented, but one learning I have held onto was the minimal hours it actually takes using a screen (phone, iPad, laptop) to physically change the brain. In addition, and not that our family are into gaming, but the brain responds to gaming in the same way it would if you were to have a hit of cocaine! Holy crap! There is a physical reason why it is so addictive. Not that we want or need to be scared of using technology, but we certainly do need to be mindful.


How many times have you been in a restaurant and seen the couple on the table next to you both active on their phones, not actually look at or talking to each other. I’ve been ribbing hubby a bit lately, that just because we start discussing a topic, he doesn’t need to look it up on his phone to get the actual facts. Which then leads to checking messages blah blah blah, and me sitting looking at him on his phone! I think he’s starting to get the message???


However, the advances really do make it so much easier to stay connected with friends and family. You can literally have a virtual play date. I know once we move into our house (yep, still waiting for the shipment to clear customs!!) the girls will want to Facetime their friends and show them their new room. It is really important for the emotional transition that they can do things like this, it eases their grief and loss about leaving friends and family behind. 


But, with so many techie options available, how do you choose which one best meets your needs? I am a sucker for apps! There it is, my confession… I love downloading and trying out new apps. After living in China, and so many just didn’t work, it’s like a new world out there for me! Sometimes I decide they don’t meet my needs and I delete them again pretty quickly, but sometimes I hit the jackpot! So don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to discard them again either. Find what works for you!


Same with websites. Some websites are brilliant, from information about your new home to finding out about what’s happening in your neighborhood. I have folders in Safari and Chrome with all the information I refer to on a regular basis. I use two different platforms depending on what the topic is. Probably a little crazy? But it works for me. Essentially everything personal is in Safari (this means all of the family devices have access to the same links) and everything to do with my business is in Chrome (it means I can access all my work files no matter where I am, the true essence of a portable business :-)!


With our move from Taipei to Auckland, I have found new ways to use technology, such as mindful/meditation apps before bedtime for the girls. This has been a game changer for our family, and I can’t believe I wasn’t using it before! They have so many different emotions and energy levels each day, providing this opportunity for them right before sleep really does calm their little minds and help provide a more restful night.


So, from the moment of hilarity that hubby and I shared about how technology has changed our ability to move and settle quickly, we both decided that there are positive and negative aspects. But for the most part, the positives outweigh the negatives, as long as we remain mindful about how we use it.


What’s your experience with using technology as an expat? What tools are your absolute go to? 

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