Moving to Europe? You May Need More Tech Than Just a Plug Adapter

There’s little more exciting life changes than packing up, moving and starting a life in a new country. The sights, the people, the food, the landscape – everything is new and worth discovering. However, before you go off into the great unknown during your international relocation, planning for your technology needs is an important factor.

Will my phone work in Italy? How do I get a wi-fi connection in Hong Kong? These are common questions with a variety of answers. We have researched some of the main technology differences and similarities from around the world and have outlined some findings here to add to your list of things to think about when moving abroad.

Let’s start with Europe. It’s important to note there will be country-by-country nuances related to technology availability, compliance and regulation across the continent. You’ll find there are a multitude of resources for expats that offer country-specific advice.

Phone Communication – and Not Necessarily the Landline Kind

Landline phones may still have their place, and there are telephone providers in most countries that can provide that service in your new residence. Consider that VOIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol as a phone call option is very popular, too, because of competitive rates and access to the Internet. Skype is a particularly popular platform for personal use as well as to conduct business calls.

For the vast number of people moving internationally, however, cellular phones are a common necessity and are available everywhere. Nearly worldwide, travelers and newly relocated residents can purchase a cell phone, a plan, a pre-paid phone and plan, etc. It is a question of shopping around and understanding your usage.

Whether your European move is permanent or temporary can influence your decision. In some instances, simply updating your current calling plan to be used internationally on your current phone will suffice.

Another popular tactic is also to purchase a European SIM card to replace the one in your phone, provided your phone is unlocked, so that you may incur less charges and have easier local calling in your new location. The caveat is that some phones are not unlocked and some providers, such as in the U.S., will not easily unlock your phone to make the switch. Plus, you may also lose your trusty phone number as well. If that’s not enough, European cell coverage and technology is different than some systems used in the US (and also Japan and South Korea). In fact, all of Europe and most of Asia use a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network. Phones using GSM will operate across European borders and in most of Asia. But when moving from the U.S. to Europe (or Asia), there is a possibility that your phone may only operate on a platform not supported on those continents.

So…what to do? Check with your current plan first and see what options are available. If there isn’t an option to unlock your phone for European use, you may want to consider starting fresh and purchasing a new European mobile phone service in your new destination. While prices may be higher at the initial purchase, it may work out cheaper in the long run, especially if your move is long-term or permanent.

Wi-Fi Everywhere is a Top European Priority

As the European Union aspires to create an environment where free or affordable Wi-Fi is available publicly and privately, you might be pleasantly surprised at the abundance of connectivity options you’ll find upon your move. This is a result of the Digital Single Market initiative, aimed to “ensure everyone in the EU will have the best possible internet connection, so they can participate fully in the digital economy.”

Many times, travelers will also bring a pocket hotspot device, which provides a portable Internet option to get connected anytime, anywhere! Prices, plans, and device capabilities vary. During a move and as you assess your tech options, a pocket hotspot may be a lifesaver to keep you connected. As the DSM initiative hits its targets, European wi-fi connections in buildings, parks, schools, businesses will continue to be more readily available.

Residents can still work with a European Internet Service Provider (ISP) to connect their homes, choosing from large organizations that provide wired, wireless, and satellite broadband options. Satellite broadband options have become particularly popular to provide connections to rural and remote areas in various countries throughout Europe.

Interesting fact: if you think you’ll miss your daily conversations with Google and Alexa, not to worry, as you can now speak with them in more areas around the world! Launched in the U.S., the availability and support of Google Home and other connected devices continues to be rolled out for new international locations and will no doubt continue to grow. Similarly, the availability of Amazon’s Echo and Alexa for smart home capabilities internationally is growing by leaps and bounds.

While Internet connectivity in our lives today seems like a given, take note of any restrictions or limitations of availability and/or usage depending on your destination. Yes, while there are still some almost-complete bans on the internet in some countries (very rare), there are a handful of places that have different rules and regulations in place or may just be unable to get connected due to geographic location. Be sure to understand the country-specific details of how connected you can be as you make your international relocation plans.

Keep Up With Binge Watching

While your move to a new country will be jam-packed with navigating new cities and towns, you may still find the need for a little channel-surfing to unwind. In Europe, cable TV and satellite TV service providers are readily available and can hook you up to your favorite program.

International internet TV streaming is available as well, although not from every provider so be sure to research your current subscription plan to see if it transfers. Good news is that streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime service nearly 200 countries so the chances of finding your trusted favorites go up with those providers.

Some Additional Tech Tips to Consider:

Researching technology needs for international relocation turned up a few nice-to-know tips that can be added to your list for things to think about:

  • Establish two-factor authentication for password-protected accounts. Because logging in from an international location could be cause for a security alert, don’t get locked out of important programs for email, social media, online banking, etc. Set your recovery protocols to ensure access to these programs.
  • Bookmark apps that will be helpful while traveling and living abroad, like:
    • WhatsApp – fast becoming the top social media platform to stay in touch with capabilities of VOIP, messaging, data sharing and more
    • Google Translate – for obvious reasons
    • Currency – helps to convert costs so that you can manage your money
    • iMetro – various locations across Europe key you into the subway systems to help with local travel
  • Bring that special power plug converter – perhaps invest in one that has multiple conversion capabilities so that you can be sure you can use your electronic devices freely. It’s also important to take into account your large appliance power needs when planning an international move and make a decision of what stays and what goes.

An international move is exciting, surprising and maybe even a little daunting and scary at the same time. The international moving logistics, along with establishing your work and personal life is enough to worry about. Hopefully, you’re now also prepared to ensure you’re starting off on the right technological foot for your adventure. If you start planning early, and enlist the help of a trusted relocation expert and international moving company, you’ll be well on your way to a smooth transition.