Keeping in Touch with Family and Friends at Home
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One of the serious concerns of families planning to move overseas is the extended period in which they will not be in close contact with family and friends. Uprooting a family from the close support group it has built through extended family, school, work and community involvements can be difficult. Concerns about aging parents, sick family members or friends with problems are hard to address when you're living on the other side of the world.
It is important that you plan ahead to keep in touch with family and friends at home during your sojourn overseas. Following are a few thoughts on the various ways to keep in touch.
The fact that you're reading this article on the Internet already says that your life has progressed far beyond snail mail. Good for you! But snail mail still has its attractions. That special card sent to remember a family member's birthday, or a friend's anniversary will do much to tell your family and friends at home that they're not forgotten and that you care.
Your toddlers scribblings to Grandma depicting her new home will be treasured by that doting grandma until they meet again. Cassette tapes of family gatherings, or special religious services at your home church will help you feel that you're right there with everyone else. Have someone put a tape recorder on during the family Thanksgiving dinner and you'll hear everyone's news (even though it may be a few weeks old by the time you get it). A small birthday present from a special aunt will mean even more to a child who knows it's been mailed in a package clear across the world.
Even though we've gotten all high-tech with the advent of the Internet, snail mail still serves a purpose!
In recent years, wide reaching development has taken place in telecommunications in Indonesia. Whereas decades ago it was difficult to find landline telephones in many homes, even in Jakarta, phone connections are readily available in urban areas today. It's even easier to reach people by mobile phone. Yes, your family can call you on the phone in your new home in Indonesia, and you can call them as well. Phone calls, while very satisfying, are certainly the most expensive way to keep in touch.
If your home in Indonesia has International Direct Dial/Sambungan Luar Negeri (IDD/SLI) service, you can dial direct and get discounted rates on overseas phone calls. Reduced rates are available from 21:00 to 06:00 and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Be sure to request that your landlord install IDD/SLI services before you move in.
Depending on the long-distance service your family members subscribe to back home, they may be able to request a 'designated country' for which they get special discounts. Tell them to make that country, Indonesia! For example, MCI and Sprint charge $3 per month from the US for connecting this special service, as well as 60-67 cents per minute for the phone call during the discounted period.
There are also callback services (based primarily in the US and Europe) which save you money by originating your phone call overseas (not in Indonesia) where international connect rates are significantly cheaper. From Indonesia you call a phone number in the US, then hang up. The callback service's computer is then triggered to call your Indonesian phone number back within a minute or two. You will get a dial tone and can dial direct anywhere in the world for a much cheaper rate. They also offer Email to fax and other services.
Another suitable option is to use calling services like Rebtel that give you the benefit of cheap international calling rates. You are free to use any landline or mobile phone to call your loved ones across the world. You even enjoy the benefit of various offers, discounts and free calls between countries. This service is easy-to-use and requires no installation procedure. Hence you don’t feel a pinch of distance and you can keep talking for the entire day!
Internet Telephony - the cheapest way to call home
The popularity of callback services has waned as new technologies have become available in Jakarta which allow you to save a lot on your international phone calls and faxes. Known as voice over internet protocol (VOIP), Internet telephony or Internet Phone services, they are easy to use and generally don't require the purchase of any new equipment. All you need is your phone or a computer to reach most countries any time from anywhere.
Be cautious about who you sign up with for this service, however, as there are only a few credible operators for these services, and the others could be closed down at a moment's notice (and have been). Two credible and internationally-recognized operators are listed below.
Almost ubiquitous in the world of internet telephony, Skype is a software program that allows users to call other Skype clients for free or mobile/land lines for a low fee per minute. Video calls can also be made if both users have a webcam or other video input, though spotty Indonesia internet may prohibit this function. For mobile smartphone users, Skype apps are also available for iOS, Android and Blackberry phones. Skype
A VOIP phone service, Vonage requires the use of a proprietary adapter which must be obtained outside of Indonesia and a monthly fee that is prepaid annually. However, your fee includes unlimited calls to landlines in 60+ countries as well as cell phones (in fewer countries), and your existing phone number can be transferred to your Vonage service. Voicemail and visual voicemail are included, and Vonage's app provides a method for smartphone users to save on their long-distance calls as well. Vonage
Since you're reading this article on the Internet, you are certainly familiar with the benefits of being connected! In major urban centers in Indonesia there are several Internet Service Providers to choose from. The first ISP to operate in Indonesia, which currently runs one of the largest networks in Indonesia, is the Expat Web Site sponsor, Indonet. They provide a full range of services in 34 cities throughout Indonesia through their subnet.
In Indonesia, ISPs charge a small fee for the initial registration, then a monthly fee which is based on usage. Your internet usage will also affect your phone bill as it is calculated on usage (pulsa). The more time you spend online in Indonesia, the higher both your ISP and phone bills will be. There are no 'unlimited' services for a single fee such as in the US. The most expensive period to call is from 9:00am to 3:00pm ... using your internet connection after 3:00 pm will save you money on your phone bill.
Email sent to Indonesia can be received almost instantaneously around the globe. Without a doubt Email is the most economical way to keep in close, frequent touch with family and friends at home. The ease of writing short notes whenever someone comes to mind is greatly facilitated by the internet.
If your parents, siblings or best friends aren't already online, considering convincing them, or assisting them, to get connected prior to your departure. Constant, frequent and instantaneous contact will do much to keep your family close to you, despite your residing on the other side of the world.
In addition to Email, on-line chat rooms are the next best thing to sitting down for a phone chat. You can pre-arrange a time to meet, sign on to the service and await your family member or friend's appearance on-line. All this for the cost of a local phone call, and on the Indonesian end, for the usage of the Internet service. Three widely used services are Google Talk or Google Chat, AOL's Instant Messenger (you don't need to subscribe to AOL to sign on) and ICQ (I Seek You) - also at no cost.
To relay a personal story ... When I moved to Indonesia in 1988, I didn't have a phone for 2 years. When I finally got one, it took me ages to get a dial tone whenever I picked up the receiver. My parents told me (years later) that when I moved to Indonesia it was like I had moved to the moon since the only way they could get in touch was through letters, which took weeks to reach me and weeks for the return response, and the prearranged times when I went to a friend's telephone for our monthly phone call. When we got a phone, my parents said that it was like we'd moved to the other side of the world. When we both got online, my parents said it was like I was living around the corner ... it was that easy to keep in touch.
How the Internet has changed our lives as expats ... read A 'Home away from Home': Expatriates and the Internet.
An interesting article on Keeping in Touch: Taking emails a step further!
The annual exodus to your home country, for those expatriates fortunate enough to have a company that pays for the annual trek, will be a event that the family looks forward to for months. Ask your sponsoring company what annual travel home they will cover. The pitfalls and pleasures of home leave are covered very well in a chapter in the AWA's Introducing Indonesia, A Guide to Expatriate Living. We suggest you read it.
Family Travel to Indonesia
Many expatriates find that their family members and friends take the opportunity to visit them some time during their stay in Indonesia. It's so much easier for your family to understand your life in Indonesia and feel closer to you if they can mentally picture you in your home, in school and with your friends as well as having seen the traffic jams themselves. There is nothing like seeing a country through the eyes of someone who lives there, and has a spare room to sleep in, too! Take advantage of these visits to see other islands in Indonesia. From island to island you will find fascinating culture, delicious food, friendly people and memories to savor for a lifetime.
Bring a good selection of family pictures with you to Indonesia. After some time in Indonesia, your small children may need a visual reminder of just who Aunt Susie is! Send photos home often so that you family and friends can see your new home, with your household staff and at your favorite beach spot as well as how the children are growing. Pictures can help keep us close to those we love.
Online services can also help you keep family and friends abroad in the know about your latest family news.
News from Home
If you are out of touch with local news events, it may be hard to know what issues and situations are affecting family members at home. Keep informed through online newspapers and magazines or subscribe to magazines from home.
If you have other ideas for keeping in touch with the folks back home, please contact us.
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