How to Keep Your Phone Number When Moving Abroad

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

A decision many expats must make is how to stay connected with family and friends back home after they move overseas. For individuals moving within the EU, the dilemma of keeping a phone number when moving to a new country is not as great and sometimes not present at all. If you live anywhere in Europe and are planning on moving elsewhere in Europe, Africa or Asia (with the exceptions of Japan and Korea), your phone will work. If you are moving to the Americas, make sure your phone has the 1900 and 850 MHz bands. For those of us trying to keep our USA phone number when moving abroad though, it’s a time of frustration and lots of research.

 How to stay connected overseas Read more…

The Expats’ toolkit: Translation Apps

Kate  @goodmigrations

As a coffee lover, I always look forward to sipping a cup of java in the city I’m about to explore. My usual routine is to ask a local where their favorite cup of coffee is. Since I’m not multilingual, there were multiple times that I needed some help in order to ask the million-dollar question, “Where do I find the best cup of coffee around here?” Thankfully for my sleepy, non-morning-liking, caffeine-fueling self, I had my translation apps.

Gone are the days where expats rely on flipping through a 100+ page book of English translations, taking up precious room in their already tight backpacks. With a quick swipe, tap and scroll of a finger, Translation Apps have made it possible to communicate with just about anyone, anywhere.

Below are some of my favorite translation apps I recommend you keep handy in case, you know, coffee is your thing too.

Google Translate
Download on: iOS, Android, Windows
Google Translate- Goodmigrations

In my books, Google Translate is “the favorite” of all translation apps. Why? Because it’s: free, can be used on many devices (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), translates more than 80 languages, works offline and can translate by using speech, typing text or taking a photo of a word or sign with the camera option. The simple layout and quick translation also brings this one to the top of my list. Read more…

Expats in film: International living Hollywood-style

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

Moving overseas is serious business. It involves your family, all your life’s possessions and a sizable chunk of change. Choosing to live the life of an expat is a big step to take. Here are a few of our favorite famous expats in film and what we feel their choice of country says about them.


The Bourne Supremacy

Expat Name: Jason Bourne

Old Country: United States

New Country: India

Synopsis: It’s hard to keep up with Jason Bourne, the amnesia-afflicted spy who just wants to be left alone but always has someone trying to kill him. Invariably this means Jason will hotwire some old, crappy hatchback and wrecklessly drive through a dense city while dodging assassins.

What his choice of country says about him: While a he’s got an intense personality, what with people always shooting at him, Mr. Bourne appreciates the laidback lifestyle of the beach, the easy fashion of the sari, and good curry.


The Last King of Scotland

Expat Name: Dr. Nicholas Garrigan

Old Country: Scotland

New Country: Uganda

Synopsis: This 2006 film tells the exploits of Dr. Garrigan, who goes to Uganda and by chance becomes the personal physician to Idi Amin. After sleeping with one of Amin’s wives and challenging some of his policies — and oh yes, trying to poison Amin — they have a slight falling out.
What his choice of country says about him: Under Amin’s rule, Uganda was a popular destination for expats…said no one ever. Obviously, the doc likes exciting places, and by “exciting” I mean “extremely dangerous”. Like hanging by meat-hooks-stuck-through-your-chest-skin dangerous.



Expat Name: Rick Blaine

Old Country: United States, Spain

New Country: Morocco

Synopsis: Ranked as the second best film of all time by the American Film Institute, Rick’s Bar in Casablanca played host to Nazis, freedom fighters, shady characters, and — ah yes — the love of his life. Can he help her and her husband escape to the neutral country of Portugal?

What his choice of country says about him: Personally, I’d move to Morocco just for the tagine, not to mention the beautiful geography and hospitality of its people. But it seems Rick just has a knack for cosmopolitan international cities. And cosmopolitans. Which is why he started a bar.


Constant Gardener

Expat Name: Justin Quayle

Old Country: United Kingdom

New Country: Kenya

Synopsis: A low level British diplomat takes his activist wife back to Kenya. She investigates a corrupt pharmaceutical company. He tends the garden. It doesn’t end well for anybody.

What his choice of country says about him: Given Britain’s long history in Kenya (well, since 1895), a move to Kenya is like going to your 2nd cousin’s house: a little bit foreign, but a little bit familiar as well.


Under the Tuscan Sun

Expat Name: Frances Maye

Old Country: United States

New Country: Italy

Synopsis: After her husband gets a younger woman preggers, leading to a rough divorce, Frances jets off to Italy and ends up buying a villa in a charming Italian village. She gradually finds her footing in a new environment and starts life anew.

What her choice of country says about her: Frances is into the good life: good food, good culture, and good wine. But not Italian men, apparently, since it’s the American writer at the end who catches her eye (sorry to ruin the end for anyone who hasn’t seen it).


The penguins from Madagascar

Expat Names: Skipper, Rico, Kowalksi, and Private
Old Country: United States

New Country: Um…Madagascar?

Synopsis: Animals escape from the Central Park Zoo and wind up in Madagascar. They meet the native animals. Hilarity ensues.

What their choice of country says about them: Well, the penguins are a little bit crazy, and they arrived on the island by pure accident, so let’s not read too much into this.


Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Expat Names: Evelyn, Graham, Jean, Douglas, Muriel
Old Country: United Kingdom

New Country: India

Synopsis: For various reasons, British pensioners end up at a retirement home in India that is not quite as expected.

What their choice of country says about them: Location, location, location…is what most people say. But these expats were primarily driven by budget, budget, budget.  And right now one British pound will get you 100 rupees. Which will buy quite a few samosas. Sounds like reason enough to me.

Here are some other films featuring expats.

-The Last Samurai

-Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

-Midnight in Paris

-Last Tango in Paris

-The King & I

-Lost in Translation

-The Hundred Foot Journey

What other movies with expat characters can you think of? Let us know in the comments.

Are you a new expat? Check out our tips on staying in touch with friends and family back home.

Expat Life Technology

Expat Toolkit: 6 tools for staying connected long distance

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

6 tools for staying connected overseas

(Check out our latest article on How to Stay Connected and Keep Your Phone Number After Moving Abroad.)

Staying connected with your family and friends can be difficult when you move abroad. As an expat living in Sydney with family on the east coast of the United States, there were only a few hours during the day when talking was even feasible. We often had to schedule Skype chats using email. But there are lots of other great tools you can use to stay connected so I thought I’d share some of the ones I’ve found:


Rebtel is similar to Skype in a lot of ways — free computer-to-computer calls and cheap calls to phones. The big draw for expats is that Rebtel’s rates for international calls to phones are a bit cheaper than Skype.


Viber is a multi-platform app available for pretty much any smartphone. It offers a simple communication through free text messages, photo messages, and calling between Viber users over data connections. It also has a feature for communicating with non-Viber users for a price. The ability to have unlimited calls and messaging to anyone, anywhere in the world as long as you have a data connection is their standout feature.


Given Facebook’s blockbuster $19 billion price tag for Whatsapp, chances are you’ve heard of it. This app for your smartphone allows free texting and picture and video sharing to anyone in the world who also has Whatsapp. It also lets you message groups in case you want to text everyone at once. All you need is a data connection.


It only makes sense that one of the biggest mobile communication apps in the world would be born in the biggest mobile market in the world — China. WeChat is available for most smartphones, as well as through a browser. The app has chat and video calls that function like the others, though its voice chat is particularly different. Instead of having a constantly streaming conversation, you send short voice messages — definitely helpful if you have a limited data plan.


Bonfyre is like a private version of Facebook. You can set up groups (i.e. Family, Friends) and share posts, photos, and send messages — all for free.

What other tools have you found useful to stay in touch with people back home? Let us know in the comments.

Expat Toolkit: 3 websites to learn a new language

Adam Vagley @goodmigrations

Tools to help you learn a new language
I was lucky: I moved to a country where everyone speaks the same language I do. Granted, some of the slang in Australia is decidedly foreign to me. It was a huge relief walking off the plane for the first time and being able to communicate with people around me, to find out where services were, or where I could find a good restaurant.
Not everyone is so lucky though. Whenever I come across articles on expats adjusting to their new home country, time and again the ability to speak the native language seems to make or break the expat experience. While sitting down face-to-face with a native speaker may be the best way to learn, there are plenty of websites out there to help you learn a new language. In this post, I’ll review three website that will help you learn a new language.

Duolingo is a completely free language-learning service. Right now English-speakers can only learn Spanish, German, French, and Portguese. And Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese speakers can only learn English. I took it for a test drive, practicing Spanish (which I studied for five years but haven’t used in about ten so you can guess my skill level). It starts with the basics and builds from there — showing the word (and including an image if the word is a noun), asking you to pronounce the word, and asking you to write the word. From there you move on to basic sentences. It’s got some very cool voice recognition software to test your pronunciation. If you think you know your stuff you can skip ahead by passing a test at each level.

I found it to be intuitive to use and slightly addictive. It makes you want to keep going, which is definitely critical when learning a language. At each level you get a score. Eventually, you can try your hand at translating real text. You can ask questions to the community, look up vocabulary you’ve been taught in case you need to refresh your memory, and follow other site members — be they Facebook friends or just other people studying the same language. It broke everything down into bite-sized chunks that I found very accessible. It also sends you a daily reminder email, which is a great way to keep you on track.

Livemocha has a wide range of languages: in addition to the usual suspects like English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, they offer everything from Hindi to Hebrew to Arabic to Urdu. Some languages only have a basic level course meant to teach you vocabulary and simple grammar. Others have advanced level courses meant to give you conversational fluency.

When you get started you can indicate whether you want to become proficient in the language or are just dabbling, whether you need to learn urgently or are have a more long term horizon, and whether you prefer learning through conversation or study alone. Livemocha offers lessons in different formats: video dialog, grammar lessons, vocabulary lessons, reading, and role play. You can also arrange for a personal tutor through the site.

You start off with 200 “tokens” which are spent on various lessons. You can also earn more tokens by helping others learn your native language. Otherwise you can purchase a month-by-month membership for $9.95 a month or an annual membership for $99.95 a year.

Brainscape is not just about learning languages — they have courses on test preparation, music theory, sports trivia, and technology, among other things. Among the available languages, they offer Chinese, English, French, French Creole, German, Latin, and Spanish. Spanish, as an example, has four products: a sentence builder, Spanish vocabulary, Spanish verbs, and Business Spanish for those who already know the basics. With the exception of the Business Spanish module, which is free, the others cost either $5.99 or $7.99.

Brainscape uses a flashcard model based on research of how the brain actually learns. I tried out the Spanish language course. The flip card style of learning took a little getting used to, but I liked it once I got more comfortable with it. You rate on a scale of 1-5 how well you knew a certain flash card, and this determines how often Brainscape shows it to you. Brainscape lets you trial each lesson for free so you can check it out and decide for yourself.

One of these programs may suit you better than the others depending on your learning style. Perhaps you could combine the tools for optimal learning. I remember being able to read and write Spanish fairly well when I was in school, but having trouble keeping up when it was spoken. So maybe Duolingo would be a good way to refresh my skills before moving on to one-on-one tutored lessons with LiveMocha, for example, and polishing up my business Spanish with Brainscape. The cost of each is low enough that you could certainly utilize all three.
Happy learning! Adios 🙂

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