Staying in Touch
An important aspect of life abroad is how to contact people via phone or the Internet. Luckily these days it’s easy, and cheap, to get in contact with anyone from all over the world.
As soon as you get to Germany you may want to get yourself a phone or Handy in German. How much you will pay for one will depend on what features you want from the phone. If you’re happy to just have a phone that makes calls and sends texts with no extras (camera, mp3, wifi), you can get one very cheap. I was lucky to get a phone and SIM card for only €5! Of course it’s a very basic phone but it serves my needs well. The staff in the phone shops were very easy to deal with and helped me pick out a phone.
There are many different mobile phone networks in Germany, e.g., Telekom, Vodafone, O2, and E-Plus. Each of these networks had a wide range of phones and if you shop around you can get some good deals. Most will give you an option to either get a Bill pay phone or a Top Up one. I prefer a Top Up mobile as it allows me to budget how much I spend on credit. Bill pay sometimes offers better rates, however keep in mind that Bill pay phones require you to sign a contract with the phone networks. These can last from 12 to 24 months. If you do sign a contract make sure it doesn’t last longer than your stay in Germany. You will need to end your contract as well when you leave.The cost of making and receiving calls with in the EU has come down due to a recent regulation so you don’t have to worry about running up a huge bill for your calls. More information can be found here.
The other main way to get in contact with someone is of course the Internet. Whether it’s through email, social media or video calls, having an Internet connection can be immensely useful. If you are staying at a student dorm, you’re in luck. Most student dorms include Internet fee in the rent. If you have any problems with setting it up, you can contact the Netztutor in your dorm for help. A Netztutor is a student who helps with any problems that you may have with the dorms Internet.
If for some reason you can’t get Internet access in your dorm or you are living in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft or flat sharing), don’t worry. There are plenty of WiFi spots to find in any city. Most coffee shops will offer it, some for free while others will require you buy something. For the price of a coffee you can have Internet access, a fair trade in my opinion. Some of the mobile networks have hotspots (WiFi areas) throughout cities and if you are a member of these networks you should have access to them. Unfortunately if you are not a member, you wont get access. The networks also sell USB modem broadband cheap enough. However you do have to pay a bill every month to us it. Again prices vary depending on what you want. Of course you can still get broadband for your WG/apartment from all the major networks. Your university will also have interent for you to use for free on campus, either in computer rooms or WiFi.
A great program/app to use to video call home is Skype . Other programs similar to Skype include Viber, Google Voice or goober Messenger. Skype is a video calling program that you can download and use for free. All that is required is that whoever you are calling has Skype installed and, of course, an Internet connection. I lived in New York for a while and Skype was the best way to stay in touch with people back home. You can even buy credit for it and use it as a mobile phone . This means you can call any landline or mobile number from your computer. The rates vary on what type of membership you buy but they are reasonably priced. It can be used between laptops and phone (iPhone /Android/Blackberry).
There are many apps for smartphones that can be used for free such as WhatsApp or PingChat. They usually cost money to download but arn’t expensive. They are available on iPhone, Andorid, and Blackberry smart phones. So no laptops, I’m afraid. It works much like Skype: both people need to have the App installed and an Internet connection. However this is a text only service but they are free to send.
So with these options available to you its hard not to stay in touch with people in Germany and beyond.