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You've just been given your first posting. What should you consider before you leave?

My recommendation, as a veteran of numerous postings across Asia and Europe, is to set up your family with web-cams and broadband access. Telephoning home can be an incredibly expensive proposition and, if you have young children, it is important for them not to forget those back home.

Make sure that the grandparents are connected with broadband and install a web-cam on their computer before you leave. Then, when you arrive at your new destination, you can hook up your own system. Doing this before you leave your home country is infinitely easier than trying to talk them through the process long-distance.

Once you have done this, you can talk and videoconference via the Internet at no extra charge. Sounds complicated? It isn't. When we left our last posting, I made sure that both my mother and mother in-law were using a broadband Internet provider. This means that they have unlimited access to the Internet. For around 30 or 40 I bought a small web-cam and connected it to their computers via a cable. All this was included in the purchase. I then downloaded, free from the Internet, a messenger programme such as MS Messenger. Very easy to do. This means that whenever I was on the Internet the two mothers could see that we were online. They could then send a short message seeing if we wanted to talk (and of course vice versa) and we could then connect our web-cams,

When you are terribly homesick or just want to see a familiar face it is a fantastic way to stay in touch. As a mother with young children, my kids come home, see if any of the grannies are online and, if they are, they then talk about their day, show them the pictures they have drawn at school and chat while they are having a snack. It brings the grandparents back into the picture and, because it is visual, it provides an immediacy of viewing that is so much better than talking on the telephone. The kids even move the camera around to show the grandparents their new abilities at handstands, the buds on the tree in the garden, what the dog is up to and what they are eating for dinner.

The best thing though is that the costs are substantially cheaper than doing this via a telephone call. A small additional charge for broadband and your initial set up costs soon pay for themselves when you are making regular long distance calls. We worked out that it was cheaper to pay for both grandparents' monthly Internet fees as well as buying them the web-cam, than it was for us to call them on regular basis via a traditional phone call.

Worth considering before you move!

Dr Amanda O has been an expatriate most of her life.

Becoming computer savvy! Just one of the things you can experience while living overseas.
Contact HSBC Bank International at www.offshore.hsbc.com or
www.offshore.hsbc.com/1/2/international/how-can-we-help-you for information about the financial opportunities that you can also experience whilst living and working abroad.

Posted 15Sep05