As expats, we are accustomed to finding ways to stay in touch with our friends and family abroad. Here, we share 10 creative and unique ways to stay connected with your loved ones – virtually (online) as well as emotionally (offline).

Whoever said that distance makes the heart grow fonder certainly wasn’t envisioning our current world. As expats, we are used to investigating new ways to be connected with our friends and family back home or overseas – but it all does feel different now. We can’t just hop on a train or plane if needed and we have a strong desire to support our loved ones wherever in the world they might be. The connection we seek often is not simply to be able to see our loved ones on a screen, we often have more of an emotional need as well.

Tips to virtually connect

Fortunately, there are many creative ways in which we can stay connected. Here is a selection of ideas for connecting virtually that engages everyone to do more than simply sit in front of a screen.

Cook together: Make your favourite meal together. For my brother’s birthday, while we couldn’t celebrate in-person, we all made the same meal for the ‘birthday dinner’ and we were connected during the whole process – both the cooking and eating. The meal was a classic one from our childhood which helped us all feel more at home.

Get the party started: Download the Houseparty app and let the fun begin. You can have eight people in the video chat, which also includes games and trivia challenges that can be played during the video call. A great way to break up the monotony of the casual video chat.

Quiz each other: Gather fun facts about family and friends and then set up a quiz online using Kahoot! This is traditionally a tool for teachers but open to all, and teams of family or friends can test their knowledge of each other from the comfort of their home.

Watch TV together: Netflix Party is a new feature in which Netflix users can host a ‘party’ by inviting people to watch a TV show with them at the same time. The ‘party’ can talk via chat box throughout the show.

Set challenges: For families who enjoy a friendly competition, it can be a fun way to structure your video calls. One of my friends has enjoyed time with her extended family with weekly competitions including a cupcake decorating competition, talent show and art competition.

Tips to emotionally connect

Whether it is because you are still in your pyjamas or just tired of seeing yourself on a video chat, you might not always be in the mood to connect online but still want to stay emotionally connected. Sometimes we need our space but still want to show our loved ones how much we care. Below are a few thoughtful ideas to stay emotionally connected.

Make a play list: Music can make anyone feel very nostalgic. On Spotify, consider creating a play list for someone special with the top songs that remind you of them. They would then be able, at their own time, to listen and reminisce of your relationship.

Send a letter: Let your loved ones know that you are thinking of them in a very personal way by mailing a handwritten letter. Even better, write to someone that you are thankful for and share why. It would make their day and it is scientifically proven to make you happier.

Deliver a care package: Surprise your loved ones with something special. Perhaps a delivery from their favorite restaurant (bonus points for supporting your hometown’s local businesses) or a ‘spa package’ for them to have fun pampering themselves.

Learn something new: It can be very motivating and bonding to learn something new together. My family and I downloaded the app ‘Simply Piano’ and collectively are learning to play the piano during our time at home.

Inspire each other: Create an inspirational text group in which you can share a daily dose of inspiration with your friends and family. Rotate the sender of the text so you each get a chance to be motivated and in good spirits.

2 replies
  1. Sue Folk
    Sue Folk says:

    It’s always nice to hear from you! All excellent suggestions! I miss seeing you and yours in the neighborhood. I’ll have to look into the Simply Piano app! I studied piano for many years as a child, but haven’t touched my piano except to dust it! All my best to you and yours!

  2. Beth Finnegan
    Beth Finnegan says:

    Hi Jen! Just wanted to say Hi and that I loved your article! How wonderful you are learning piano together! I took piano lessons for years as a child until I was in 11th grade in HS and we moved. I just might have to get a key board since I retired and play again! Might have to find that software you all are using to catch up a bit! Sounds like all is well! Got me too! Love, Beth ❤️❤️😘

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