So this is a pretty cliché and unoriginal trick of the bloggers, but it’s one I’m strangely fascinated by. However, I never thought I’d actually do one myself, because as much as I (thought I) loved my phone, I didn’t really feel I could offer that much to the discussion. It’s just a phone, y’know? But then I moved to Madrid, and my phone somehow became so much more than a phone. Wow, this sounds so lame. But it’s true. And it’s still true almost eight months later. I honestly have no idea how the expats of the past lived without smart phones. So here’s ten of the apps that I think make expatriate life not only livable, but more enjoyable.
- WhatsApp: I originally downloaded WhatsApp before I left for Spain so I could text my parents, little did I know how much Spain actually loves it. It’s especially useful when you first arrive in a new country, ‘cause you’re bound to meet people who put off buying a sim card for months and months who you can only communicate with when they’re within WiFi range (don’t be that person, no one wants to be stuck waiting for 40 minutes not knowing if you’re dead or not).
- Weather: I never used this app in the UK, in fact it was relegated to a little folder of ‘boring apps’ chilling on my last page. But almost eight months in and it’s still hilarious for me to screenshot the weather in the UK and the weather here, and send them to my mother with laughing emojis. ESPAÑA!
- Citymapper: Definitely my favourite and most used app, Citymapper has saved me more times than I care to count. It tells me how to get anywhere around the city, so I can pick the fastest route. Or in my case, ‘weeeeell… I could walk the 15 minutes… but it’s only two stops on the Metro…’. And it’s only gotten me lost maybe two times. Yay.
- Citymaps: Yes, this is a different app. A newer addition to my collection, but still an equally important one. This is pretty much if Google Maps and Pinterest had a baby. It tells you recommended places around you and lets you read user reviews (which are sometimes in English). Always useful when you’re just dying for a café con leche in a new part of the city.
- Instagram: Because how else would I make everyone from back home super jealous of my cool Madrid life? (Only joking. Kind of.) Related apps I recommend are VSCOcam and Afterlight, because as much fun as I’m having in Madrid, you can’t doubt that everything’s better with a filter.
- Google Translate: Moon of my life, my sun and stars. Most commonly used in supermarkets when I’m trying to figure out if there’s meat in whatever I’m holding. The new camera scan feature is one of the best things to ever happen to me… even if it means I’m getting lazier with my language learning. Speaking of…
- Cat Spanish: I’ve probably downloaded every Spanish language app in the app store at some point, but none of them ever worked for me (the only thing I remember from Duolingo is ‘the penguin reads the newspaper’. So useful). Maybe it’s because of my deep-rooted love of LolCatz, but this app just clicked with me. And I’ve learnt more with this than any other language learning app. Or even GCSE classes. Cats are magical, guys.
- Pacer: Strangely enough, moving abroad and exploring a new city (and not spending all my time in bed watching Netflix) has made me a teensy bit healthier. Pacer is pretty much a pedometer that tracks your steps in a neat little graph and pits you against your Facebook friends… and I am a highly competitive person. Most of my days now end with rage if I don’t make 10,000 steps (and sometimes frantic pacing around the apartment to bring my score up). But it’s all in the name of health so it’s okay.
- Goodreads: I read a measly nineteen books last year. For an English Literature graduate, that’s embarrassing. So I set myself a goal to read forty books in 2015, and with my new fifty minute commute to work, this should be a breeze. However, I don’t trust myself. So I publicly marked this on the Goodreads reading challenge to shame myself into completing it. Also, using the app to rate a book when I finish it is strangely therapeutic.
- SAM: More of a serious one here, but one I’d still like to talk about. When I was regretting taking on a second internship and cutting down my classes, my anxiety was the worst it’s been since 2013. SAM is way to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, and it really did help me. Whether the breathing exercises were actually calming me down, or I was just distracting myself, I credit this app with me getting to sleep some nights. Expat life is amazing, and I’m all for moving abroad to escape your problems, but sometimes they catch up with you, and this is a good way to help when you’re awake at 3AM. And if I’d have listened to my panic attacks and given up and moved home, I wouldn’t be here now, with a job I enjoy and time to leisurely write blogposts on a sunny Spanish Saturday afternoon.
So wherever you are in the world, I hope these apps help you as much as they help me in Madrid. And if anyone has any tips for new apps to download, let me know! Even though I’m scarily low on space right now. It might be time to reevaluate my need for Robot Unicorn Attack.