As a relocation professional who has herself lived in many different countries, Bettina Zboray of Santa Fe Relocation knows all about expat life from a personal and professional standpoint. We asked her to give her expert view on the apps and web services that expats will find most useful during their time abroad.
Having worked with expats for over 20 years, I’ve come across quite a few mobile applications used by expatriates.
As a destination service provider with SantaFe Relocation, part of my job is to advise our clients on which apps will be the most useful to them; these are the ones that that I recommend – and ones my team and I use ourselves!
Travel booking applications
These apps have transformed the way people book flights, trains, car hire etc. They are great tools for expats who are often on the move, whether that is for business trips, home visits or holidays.
My favourites include Booking.com and Expedia, although many of the different airlines and car rental companies have their own. One great advantage is that VAT invoices are automatically generated, making it so much easier to keep all your paperwork together for expenses.
And, of course, you get your boarding pass barcode on your phone...
While it is not in every city in the world, Uber is my go-to taxi app, and this is the case for most expats. Uber is a great option on business trips and even for expats in locations where they are either not allowed to drive or simply don’t want to.
(Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is hard enough, but try it in an unfamiliar city centre and you see why Uber is a must-have for expats.) As with travel-booking apps, it generates invoices and receipts and has business billing functionality too, which is great for corporate expats.
Location & traffic apps
I travel to a lot of places, and find apps like Waze and Google Maps essential. All overseas visitors need maps to find their way around, but the extra tools such as community functions and traffic alerts make these apps especially useful for drivers.
Where can you park? How do I avoid the traffic? How do I get onto the highway? These apps will give you the answers – and in your chosen language too.
Talking of languages, many expats aim to pick up at least some of the local language in order to enhance the experience of living abroad. Whether they succeed or not is usually down to their own perseverance, and not down to the apps they use, most of which are excellent.
I’ve known many expats who have used DuoLingo or Mondly to grab a little language training whenever they get a little time to themselves. Whether they’re exercising, driving or waiting in a departure lounge, they just pop in the earbuds and start learning.
Cultural networking apps
The best thing about these is maybe not the app itself, but the access to all the content that’s behind it.
I’ve met a lot of expats who use apps (or sites) like Expatriates.com, International SOS and more generic ones like YouTube as a kind of safety ‘landing’ in a new location. They get a lot of really good, informative content from cultural guides to city walks; often posted or curated by locals, it is exactly what expats need to find their feet in a new location.
If the language learning apps don’t help you master the local language, you can always fall back on Google Translate. It’s a great resource and one that virtually every expat will use at some point.
A great feature is the camera-reading function which will help with anything from local-language menus to road signs. Maybe best not to use it while you’re driving though.
Relocation service delivery apps
As a relocation professional, I see my clients getting a huge benefit from the various communications apps like WhatsApp, Teams, Slack, and Skype for Business. There is a lot of information being exchanged and expats like a channel that is efficient and easy-to-use.
These are cheap and fast messaging solutions without formalities, useful for pre-move surveys, virtual home searches, live viewings, etc. They help our team here at Santa Fe to be more interactive and ‘visible’ – in the true sense of the word – to clients when they need us.