The recent 2010 Expat Explorer Survey reports that for expatriates emotional worries cause much greater concerns than practical issues. More specifically, the survey results indicate that re-establishing a social life (41%) as well as feeling lonely and missing friends and family (34%) are topping the list of the most common expat concerns.
Given these data, the amount of blogs, communities and forums in the internet related to expatriate life do not seem surprising. All these technological possibilities may ease socialization and cultural belonging. Moreover, social media, especially those facilitating instant interaction, are useful for connecting expats with their friends and families. The great importance of social media is captured in the words of one expatriate from Scotland cited in a December 2010 Financial Times article:
“Being able to actually see my wife and kids via video makes a massive difference. If Skype didn’t exist, I don’t think I would be out here. It would be just too tough.”
Similarly, 71% of the 2637 respondents of the 2011 Global Professionals on the Move Report argued that social media/instant messaging helped ease homesickness whilst overseas and made the transition easier.
However, despite the spread of technology and the radical changes it has brought to the way we communicate with each other, the likes of Skype or Facebook are unlikely to substitute face-to-face communication. As the 2011 Global Professionals on the Move Report shows, although social media help to connect people, relations with family and friends continue to lead the ‘list of things to miss’ for 70% of professionals already abroad.