Internet is an expat's best friend

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Expats without Internet! Can you imagine?! I don't know how the hell they did it.


My great-grandparents were Italian expats.  They moved to the US nearly one hundred years before the Internet. 


Expats without Internet!  Can you imagine?!  I don’t know how the hell they did it.

I, on the other hand, have come to rely on the Internet to solve nearly all of my expat-related woes. And I’m not just talking about e-mail.  It goes *way* beyond that.  Let me give you a few examples:

-  REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE.  The biggest misery for any expat is, most likely, missing his friends and family back home.  That’s assuming, of course, that those same friends and family weren’t the reason that he fled the country in the first place.  So how is one to keep in touch with his loved ones?  Email, Instant Messaging and voice-over-IP calls (using services like Skype) are good options.  But I  recently discovered something even better.  Something woooonderful!  I chat!  And it’s free!  All you need is a high-speed Internet connection and a webcam.  And a computer, of course. 


I’ve been video chatting with the US for months, and quite’s almost like I never left home.  I can join in a round of “Happy Birthday” during my nephews’ parties. I can trade barbeque tips with my brother.  I can get lectured by my grandmother for being too thin.   And it’s all “virtually” face-to-face.  The burgeoning video chat world is, in my opinion, the greatest boon to expats since quinine pills. 


-  PLEASE!  NO MORE BISBAL!  Try as I might (and admittedly, I haven’t tried very hard), I’ve failed to acquire a taste for the syrupy Latino pop music that blankets the Iberian radio airwaves.  For the longest time, I’ve wanted nothing more than to sit at my work desk and groove to some of my favorite radio stations from back home—or at the very least, a station uncorrupted by the likes of Bisbal, Chenoa or Bustamante.  Then I began poking around the Internet and discovered the glorious world of Internet streaming radio!  These are radio stations  from around the world that broadcast directly through the Internet and out your computer speakers.  There are thousands of them!   You can listen to blues from Chicago...or news from NPR and the BBC...or bossa nova from Paris.  There’s even a station broadcasting from Antarctica—although I don’t imagine there are many Antarctican expats living in Spain. 

- I’D KILL FOR A BUTTERMILK PANCAKE.  I love the food in Spain.  But I often find myself pining for foods back home.  Carolina pulled pork!  Or buffalo wings!  Or a good ol’ American buttermilk pancake.  Pining often turned into whining.  But there’s no reason to whine.  Why?  Because if you’ve  eaten it, then you can find the recipe on the Internet.  Websites like have thousands of recipes just begging to be downloaded, printed and whipped-up on the Teka vitroceramica stovetop that you bought from El Corte Inglés. can I make buttermilk pancakes if I can find buttermilk in Spain?  Once again...the Internet comes to the rescue.  

Websites can tell you how to make a reasonable facsimile of many ingredients that might be hard to find in your adopted country.  Sorry, but they offer no suggestions for simulating vegemite.

- WHAT?  ANOTHER BIRTHDAY?!  During my first year in Spain, I spent more money shipping birthday, wedding and Christmas gifts to the US than I did buying the gifts in the first place.  Then I wised-up, and
started shopping “locally” via on-line stores like Amazon.[fill in the blank], and countless others.  This has saved me a lot of time and money—although I doubt that it will be much help to that guy from Antarctica.

-  ALL I WANT IS A SOFT SHOULDER TO CRY ON.  There are times when a distraught expat needs to commiserate with another who has walked in his moccasins.  When this need arises, I find the expat blogger community to be an invaluable support network.  Expat bloggers are tightly-knit group—but an open one.  Joining is easy.  All you need to do is find one good expat blog, and then check its sidebar.  It’s likely to list links to dozens of other expat blogs.  Then it’s just a matter of making the rounds each day and adding reasonably tasteful, intelligent comments to the various posts.  You’ll quickly build a rapport with an expanding circle of virtual expat friends.  And these folk—ranging from Canadians in Germany to Kiwis in Belgium to Italian/Turkish/Greeks in Canada—can be great sources of insight, advice and compassion.  

If there’s a downside to the Internet, however, it’s that over-reliance is likely to retard an expat’s learning and mastery of the local language.  I’m a prime example of that. 

 But each expat must look within his heart and ask himself what’s more important? Knowing the correct use of the Spanish present subjunctive?  Or knowing that one cup of warm milk mixed with one tablespoon of lemon juice will result in a passable substitute for buttermilk?

Sal DeTraglia / Expatica 

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