Category: Life Abroad

Best Ways to Stay Connected with Family from Abroad

Although 2020 has been a challenge for all of us, it also made us rely more heavily on technology to reach one another. That means that more options have become more commonplace to stay connected with family from abroad.

In other words, we’re finding better, more creative ways to stay in touch!

Below, you’ll find a list of what we believe are the best ways to stay connected with family and friends from abroad. These are tried and true ideas that we’ve been putting in practice to reach our loved ones.

1. Make room for phone calls and video chats

Just because you’re not meeting up with someone in person doesn’t mean you can’t “make plans” for staying connected with your family. Set a time and date to call someone, be it recurrent or a one-time thing. Add it to your calendar and commit to it. Not only will this ensure the call actually happens, but it’ll also make the other person feel like you value them and treasure the time you get to spend together.

2. Keep track of important personal information

A big source of anxiety when moving abroad is the severing of the emergency contact. If you don’t live close to your family, they can’t be the person you list in case of emergencies and vice versa. However, by keeping track of important details like insurance information, doctors’ numbers, and appointment schedules, you’ll feel ready to help out at a moment’s notice.

3. Send a postcard

There’s nothing wrong with keeping it old fashioned! In fact, while technology is more convenient, nothing beats receiving something tangible from that person you’re missing. After all, if calls and vide chats were enough, we’d never miss those who are far. Postcards are short, sweet, and easy to put on display.

4. Start a blog or get vlogging

Not all of us are inclined to the influencer life, but what about starting a private blog or YouTube channel? These are great tools to stay connected with your loved ones and keep them informed about your new life overseas. Give them a tour of your new place, your favorite spot in town, or your birthday celebration. By providing your loved ones with a window into your everyday life, they’ll feel much closer to you and a part of your new journey.

5. Send money for monthly bills or special occasions

One of the backbones of family life is sharing financial responsibilities. And the value of this has little to do with money. It’s about knowing you can count on someone’s help when there’s an emergency or you’re struggling. It means opening ways for a better everyday life or returning the favor to those who supported you. By sending money, you can stay connected to your family while abroad and make sure they know you’re still there for them, distance aside.

6. Make plans for a future visit

Once you’ve lived in more than one place, you’re sure to miss aspects from your old home. At the same time, you will grow to love new things that you wish to share with those left behind. Next time you discover a new part of town or remember an ice cream shop you loved back home, write it down. This way, whenever you are able to reunite with your loved ones, you’ll remember exactly what you missed or what you wanted to show them. At the end of the day, an important aspect of staying connected to family while abroad is creating new memories whenever you visit each other. It’ll prove to you that distance is no match for love.

7. Remember important events

Each culture has different celebrations, and it might be hard to keep track of yours if you’ve moved abroad. However, a surefire way to stay connected to your family, your friends, and your roots is to keep upholding and celebrating the traditions that were once dear to you. The same goes for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, etc. Just because you can’t be there in person, doesn’t mean you can’t be present for these important events.

8. Stay true to the flow of each relationship

As humans, we relate to one another through shared experiences, likes, and dislikes. The easiest way to keep bonds alive amid the distance is to uphold how you relate to each important person in your life. For example, if you share a love for football with your brother, keep up with him about games and merchandise you might find on your walk home. Your brother will be happy that you’re thinking of him and, as a result, you’ll continue to strengthen your bond.

9. Prioritize the family group chat

Life gets busy, especially when we’re trying to make our way in a new environment. So, it’s normal that we will struggle to find time to stay in touch with each and every family member. That’s when family group chats come in handy. Everyone is in one place, and so are all the new pictures and updates. Think of it as your digital home.

Being far from those we care about is hard but living abroad can also be an enriching experience. We hope that these tips help you stay connected with your loved ones so you can enjoy guilt and stress-free what your new home has to offer.

Hometown Associations Helping Diasporas Settle Down on Arrival

Every year, nearly five million people leave their native countries in hopes of finding better job opportunities to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

And although the migrant’s journey can be perceived as an adventure or a privilege, the reality is quite different. An immigrant must overcome loneliness, nostalgia and fear, all while surmounting countless challenges. However, one guiding light is strong enough to see them through: hometown associations (HTA).  

Below, we’ll explore how hometown associations came about, their ecosystem and how they benefit both immigrants and their families back home.

Micro corridors and HTAs

Oftentimes, migrants from the same village wind up settling in the same neighborhood abroad. This phenomenon stems from the fact that, once a member of a community succeeds in migrating abroad, friends and neighbors tend to follow suit to increase their chances of making it as well.

Once a migrant secures a job, the first rule of order tends to be finding a means to send money home. Given that migrants are more likely to trust Once the community is established, community leaders tend to open up a shop or business that then serves as a money transfer hub. In this way, money is sent from one neighborhood to another, resulting in a micro corridor.

Diaspora Alliance defines HTAs as “organizations created by migrants to connect their community of residence with their community in their country of heritage, providing a forum for migrants from the same area to gather, exchange experiences, and work together on issues of common interest.”

In other words, hometown associations are a way for migrants from the same town or village to support their community back home. At the same time, HTAs provide a space for migrants to revendicate their roots, celebrate their culture and mingle with like-minded compatriots.

two children painting on wall

The inner workings of HTAs

Hometown associations are usually composed of 10 to 20 volunteers and run by an elected board of directors. Depending on the case, HTAs may partner with local and host governments who, for example, can sometimes match the funds raised through raffles, sporting events, concerts, etc.

The impact hometown associations can have on the communities and countries they serve is truly remarkable, parting from the sheer amount of HTAs currently operating. For instance, there are more than 400 established Guyanese HTAs in North America.

Manuel Orozco, a Nicaraguan political scientist and director of The Dialogue program, found that towns in Mexico with less than 3,000 people receive more than half the amount of the municipal public works budget through HTA donations. In the case of towns with populations below a thousand, HTA donations are up to seven times great than the public works budget.

How technology has propelled HTAs

In the past, moving abroad meant giving up most communication with those left behind, but thanks to WhatsApp, Skype and other forms of instant messaging, communities are rejoining in a virtual space.

For hometown associations, this means receiving real-time feedback from their communities overseas. Members can oversee the completion of initiatives, be it infrastructure development or investment in education or health, while locals can voice their grievances and suggest projects based on their more immediate needs.

HTAs, along with migrant-to-family remittances, contribute to shortening the distance between migrant workers and their loved ones. They help sustain communities, create infrastructure and foster a more inclusive and sustainable world.

OFW Life Abroad: 5 Ways Filipino Workers Stay Connected

In 2018, there were 2.3 Million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) living and working abroad, according to data shared by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). These Filipinos work overseas, often continuously for years, voluntarily choosing to live far away from their loved ones. Although they regularly send money to ensure a good life for their families, they put themselves at risk of missing out on most aspects of life back home. Children grow up, graduate and start working. Parents age. Friends lose touch. Even the landscape back home changes over time. However, this need not be the case. OFWs often find constructive ways to beat homesickness and continue to be integral parts of the lives of their loved ones even from afar. 

Annual visits 

The most popular destination for OFWs is Saudi Arabia, with nearly 25% of the OFW population working in this desert country. Riyadh is more than seven thousand km from Manila, and tickets are far from cheap. The vast majority of OFWs don’t visit home more frequently than once a year. Needless to say, when an OFW comes home for a visit, it is the highlight of the year for the family. 

Balikbayan boxes 

Balikbayan box literally means “repatriate box” and is a trend that started in California in 1980. It is a package with a collection of items and presents for family and friends which an OFW ships back home, usually via sea freight. Many door-to-door cargo services specialize in delivering Balikbayan boxes, although it is not uncommon for OFWs to take them along on flights when they visit, or to send them with co-workers flying back home. Balikbayans rapidly gained popularity in the 80s’; so much so that in 1987 they were awarded duty and tax-free privileges through a constitutional amendment by the Philippine government at the time. Gifts can be excellent substitutes when you cannot be there yourself. 

Conversations 

Frequent phone calls and video calls over cheap and free apps such as Skype go a long way to keep family bonds strong. Many OFWs keep themselves continuously updated of all the important events taking place back home. Festivals, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, school events and any news in the extended family are great topics of conversation. Despite being physically separated by vast distances, OFWs are able to offer comforting words to ailing parents and effectively convey their love to partners back home. 55.8 percent of all OFWs are women. Phone calls allow parents to remain a part of their children’s lives. Even from afar OFWs make sure to encourage their children before their school exams, congratulate them after, offer advice about money and life when needed, and to ensure that they always remain accessible and approachable to their kids. 

Remittances 

Most events in the family have a monetary overtone. Children needing new books at school, an adjustment in a parent’s medication, a new appliance, celebrations during festivities, household repairs and maintenance, nearly every such occurrence has a monetary implication. Sending money to support the family need not be a formality. Money is a necessary enabler and the families certainly value and respect the OFWs as providers. However, family is the most important part of life. Every financial matter is another opportunity to start a conversation and share opinions. OFWs often use remittance transfers as opportunities to know more about ongoing events back home and strengthen family bonds. Showing interest and involvement in day-to-day family events goes a long way in making up for the distance. 

Financial wisdom 

While OFWs work hard to keep their families comfortable, it becomes important to also utilize incoming remittances wisely and efficiently. Savings are an important part of good long term financial planning. Savings allow families to offset the economic burden of most of life’s major events. 

Another important aspect of financial intelligence is the use of an efficient money transfer service to send money to the Philippines. As on OFW your obvious choice is a remittance service which always offers great USD to PHP exchange rates and lowest fees for credit card payments, in addition to reliability and end-to-end tracking at your fingertips. Choose wisely, and optimize your remittances with Ria Money Transfer. 

Dominican Migrants: Entrepreneurs in Spain

As a progressive money transfer operator, Ria works closely with migrant workers, be them agents or clients. Our agents are entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses or opened their own stores. Through these endeavors, they create jobs, contribute to their host economies and establish themselves as leaders in their communities.

This rejects the idea that migrant workers drain public funds and hinder economic development, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only is there data to back it up, but we can confirm it as well.

A vivid example is that of our Dominican agents in Spain, who we had the pleasure of hosting at our European headquarters in Madrid earlier this month.

First Meeting of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

What makes Ria so special is its network of agents. They help us expand and reach even the most remote of corners. They keep us close to our clients, so we can better serve them. But what we value most is how their own journeys inspire and motivate us. Their stories are what reminds us of why we come in to work every day.

To show our appreciation, we are hosting a series of meeting in our offices. The kick-off I Meeting of Immigrant Entrepreneurs took place this month and counted with the participation of Olivo Rodríguez Huertas, the Dominican Ambassador to Spain.

Dominican agents from all across the Iberian country visited our Madrid offices for a reception. Once there, they were able to reconnect with the field and agent support teams whose guidance they’ve counted with over the years working with Ria.

During an interview, the Dominican ambassador shared his insights on remittances, the impact they have on the Dominican economy and how he supports his countrymen in Spain, a transcript of which can be found below in English and Spanish.

Country Manager for Ria Spain Francisco Martínez and Julio de Castro, director of the Entrepreneurship PhD program at IE Business School and fellow Dominican, joined Rodríguez Huertas in congratulating the entrepreneurs for supporting both the Spanish and Dominican economies through their hard work.

Dominican Ambassador to Spain Olivo Rodríguez Huertas Discusses Remittances and Entrepreneurship

Ria: What do you think about the evolution of Dominican migration into Spain and what type of opportunities do Dominican workers who come here to start their own businesses have?

ORH: There are currently over 2,000,000 Dominicans living abroad, equivalent to 20% of the population, of which 180,000 reside in Spain.

This group has been characterized for their ability to innovate, develop business initiatives, respond to the needs of others and create supportive communities for their fellow countrymen regardless of education level or preparation.

These intrinsic qualities exemplified by Dominicans have evolved, especially in the last decade, thanks to a migration wave composed of technicians, professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and those with proficiency in multiple languages. This has enhanced the entrepreneurial nature and spirit inherent in all Dominicans.

Spain, as one of the major destinations for expatriates given our history and cultural affinity, represents a land of opportunities. The syncretism, the cultural convergence and the presence of a great Latin American customer base and considering the economic situation observed in recent years has resulted in the transformation from employees to autonomous entrepreneurs. These are individuals who turn ideas into profitable initiatives that, little by little, have won their space within the Spanish market.

In terms of opportunities for entrepreneurial Dominicans in Spain, they are as unlimited as their level of creativity and capacity to innovate.

Ria: In your opinion, how do remittances benefit recipient countries such as the Dominican Republic?

ORH: Remittances are a substantial source for the stability of Dominican Republic’s macroeconomy. If we look at our balance of payments, remittances represent the third most important source of income within the checking account balance.

Along the same lines, we can confirm that remittances are one of the primary income sources. Between 2010 and 2018, remittances equated to 7% of the national GDP, superseding traditional sectors such as agriculture. In 2018, remittances rose to €545 billion, a 10.4% increase equivalent to an additional € 512.3 million in comparison to the 2017 total of €494 billion.

Currently, the Dominican community in Spain occupies the second remittance sender by country and by average transaction amount (€ 271.2 a month, equivalent to RD$ 16,407.6).

In the same way, money transfer companies are the primary intermediary for the cashing of transactions, 76.1% compared to the 23% that arrives through other financial institutions.

These remittances positively influence the quality of life of the families, contribute to the sustainable increase of their purchasing power, foster activity in certain sectors (such as commers and construction), are considered as a consumer stimulus (which has a direct impact on the local economy) and enable a better access to education and healthcare.

Ria: Do you have any upcoming projects for the Dominican community in Spain that can help boost their economic growth?

ORH: The Dominican population in Spain is mostly concentrated in Madrid and Barcelona, as well as other territories in Andalusia, Valencia, Galicia, Asturias and the Canary Islands. The embassy’s main objective is to organize meet-ups to promote Dominican values and our culture while simultaneously elevating the image of Dominicans in Spain to facilitate their integration into Spanish society, having a positive impact on the self-esteem of our citizens.

We do so through the visits to different autonomous communities we organize in which we meet with the local authorities and the commerce chambers to foster and strengthen the relationship between the Dominican Republic and the Kingdom of Spain.

Ria: ¿Qué opina sobre la evolución de la migración dominicana a España y qué tipo de oportunidades tienen los trabajadores dominicanos que vienen a emprender y abrir sus propios negocios aquí?

ORH: En la actualidad más de 2,000,000 de dominicanos residen en el extranjero lo que representa casi un 20% de la población de la República Dominicana, de los cuales aproximadamente 180,000 residen en España.

Estos se han caracterizado desde los inicios de los procesos de emigración por su capacidad de innovar, desarrollar iniciativas empresariales, responder a las necesidades de los demás y crear núcleos de apoyo para otros compatriotas, indistintamente de su nivel de estudios o preparación.

Estas particularidades, intrínsecas del dominicano han evolucionado, sobre todo en la última década, en dónde se integra como elemento catalizador la ola de emigración protagonizada por técnicos, profesionales con títulos de grado y postgrado y aquellos que tienen un excelente dominio de idiomas distintos al español, lo que ha potenciado significativamente el espíritu y naturaleza emprendedora que de por sí es inherente en todos los dominicanos.

En este sentido, España, al ser uno de los principales destinos de emigración y debido a nuestra historia y afinidad cultural, representa una tierra de oportunidades. El sincretismo, la convergencia de culturas y la presencia de una gran base de consumidores latinoamericanos sumado a la situación económica que se ha presentado en los últimos años, ha tenido como resultado la evolución de empleados a autónomos emprendedores, individuos que transforman ideas en iniciativas rentables y que poco a poco se han ganado su espacio en el mercado español.

En cuanto a oportunidades para dominicanos emprendedores en España, son tan ilimitadas como su nivel de creatividad y capacidad de innovar.

Ria: ¿Cómo cree que ayudan las remesas a los países receptores como República Dominicana?

ORH: Las remesas son una fuente sustancial para la estabilidad macroeconómica de la República Dominicana. Si nos fijamos en nuestra balanza de pagos, estas representan la tercera fuente de divisas más importante dentro del saldo de cuenta corriente.

De igual forma podemos afirmar que las remesas son una de las principales fuentes de ingreso.  Para el período correspondiente a 2010 – 2018 las remesas representaron un 7% del PIB nacional, superando algunos sectores tradicionales como es el caso de la agricultura. En 2018 ascendieron a € 5,455 millones para un aumento de 10.4%, equivalente a € 512.3 millones adicionales con respecto a 2017, cuando el flujo de divisas por este concepto totalizó € 4,942 millones.

Actualmente, la comunidad dominicana en España se encuentra posicionada en el 2do lugar como emisor de remesas (por país) y en 2do lugar en cuanto a monto promedio por transacción (€ 271.2 al mes equivalente a RD$ 16,407.6).

De igual forma, las empresas remesadoras son el intermediario principal para el pago de los envíos, 76.1% frente al 23% que llega a través de las instituciones financieras.

Estas remesas influyen de forma positiva en la mejora de la calidad de vida de las familias, contribuyen al aumento sostenido de su poder adquisitivo, fomentan la activación de determinados sectores productivos (como el comercio o la construcción), son consideradas como un estímulo al consumo (lo que impacta directamente en la economía local) y posibilitan un mejor acceso a la educación y a la atención médica. 

Ria: ¿Qué proyectos tiene en marcha para la comunidad de dominicanos en España que impulsen su crecimiento económico?

ORH: La población dominicana en España se concentra mayormente en Madrid y Barcelona, y en otros territorios como es el caso de Andalucía, Valencia, Galicia, Asturias y las Islas Canarias. El principal objetivo del trabajo de la embajada con la comunidad es el de generar encuentros que nos permitan promover los valores dominicanos y su cultura al tiempo que elevamos la imagen del dominicano en España y con ello facilitemos su integración en la sociedad española, impactando positivamente el autoestima de nuestros ciudadanos.

Esto lo hacemos en el marco de las visitas que realizamos a las diferentes comunidades autónomas en donde nos reunimos con las autoridades locales y las cámaras de comercio para fomentar y fortalecer las relaciones entre la República Dominicana y el Reino de España.

Mother’s Day Ideas From Far Away

Even though we all know mother’s day is right around the corner, time flies, and it’s easy to forget this special day more so when you’re far away from home. But not to worry- you can still show your mother you care. Here are some thoughtful mother’s day gift ideas to make your mom feel loved from afar.

Personalized jewelry

Want to gift something that your mom can treasure forever? Try getting her a beautiful personalized piece of jewelry to add to her collection. Regardless of your budget, there are a lot of trendy statement pieces available online that can have your mom’s name engraved onto them such as rings, earrings, bracelet, and lockets.

Craft your own card

Your better half or friends might not appreciate the thought and time put into a handcrafted card but your mother surely will. Yes, it does sound a little cliché, but it’s so much better than sending the same kinds of presents each year. So pick up stationary from the local supply store and craft your own card. Write down a few lines expressing your love and gratitude towards the special lady in your life. Put the card in a fancy envelope, seal it with a kiss and send it to your mom. She’ll surely appreciate the effort.

Give her a hobby-focused gift

Does your mother love to cook? Or bake? Send her a customized apron, spices, cheese board, or knife set. If she enjoys gardening, she’d love to have a set of pretty gardening gloves or decorative flower pots. Mini Bluetooth speakers are great for mums who love listening to music, and healthy gourmet baskets or customized yoga mats are ideal for health-conscious mums.

A bouquet full of her favorite flowers

Flowers by far are the simplest yet most effective way to tell your mom how much she means to you. Arrange a beautiful bouquet full of her favorite blooms; add some chocolates to the package, or a small note and just wait for the magic to happen. Your mom will be the happiest person when she opens the door to a flower delivery sent by her little munchkin from miles away.

Give her a surprise visit

While there are plenty of gift options out there, nothing says ‘I love you mom’ quite like a last-minute surprise visit- all moms love it! If you can afford going home, start looking for the cheapest flights and make the bookings as soon as you find a good deal. Remember, nothing will make her happier than having you around in-person.

Send money to mom

But what if your mom is a fashionista? Or too picky? Now you’ll have to choose something trendy, the perfect fit and also that suits her unique style. Clueless? The best way to avoid these tricky situations is to let your mom shop herself. Use Ria Money Transfer to send money online and make your mom feel special this mother’s day. And the good news is that while your mom will get a double bonanza, you’ll also get a small surprise. Ria is giving $5 to the receiver and $5 to the sender on transfers over $100 to Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica and Romania between May 1, 2019, and May 12, 2019. Once you send an amount more than $100 to your mom, note that it can take up to 4 weeks for the Amazon gift card to arrive via email on your registered email id. Grab this offer now by using the promo code while making the transfer. Visit https://www.riamoneytransfer.com/us/en/mothers-day for more information on this promotion.

Senegalese Diaspora in Argentina

Since the 1990s, migrating has become quite popular with the Senegalese, many of whom have found a home in Argentina.

The journeys are long, often with layovers in Brazil or other African countries, and are mostly made by men aged 25 to 40 with no previous migrating experience. To this day, very few have managed to bring over relatives, although quite a few have wives and children.

Still, over 4,500 Senegalese have bet on Argentina, primarily Buenos Aires, to escape poverty and provide for their families in a way they wouldn’t be able to in their native country.

The life of the Senegalese in Argentina

As we discussed recently, deforestation in countries bordering the Sahara Desert has displaced thousands who used to live off the land.

Without a source of sustenance, representatives from these families are forced to migrate and become the token breadwinners.

For this reason, Senegal has become Argentina’s main remittance-sending community given that a large portion of these migrant workers’ income needs to be sent back to their loved ones.

In Argentina, they work hard to learn the language so they can study, find better jobs and integrate themselves into Argentine society, working as street vendors in the meantime.

Of course, this is a complex task as migrant workers must overcome language barriers, homesickness and uncertainty to succeed. This is why the Senegalese community values tremendously any Argentine efforts for inclusion.

Ria in Argentina

Ria opened its doors in Buenos Aires at the end of last year. After only four months, the store has already become the favorite of the Balvanera neighborhood where it is located.

Although we also receive many visitors from Paraguay, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, this month we have had an excellent opportunity to bond with our Senegalese customers.

We received an invitation to participate in the Journee Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Cherif Argentine event, meant to commemorate the life of a revered religious leader of the Sufi tribe, the predominant ethnic background within the Senegalese community in Argentina.

The guest of honor was Serigne Habib Sy Mansour, the Director of the Cabinet of the President of Senegal, and more than 500 people from all over the country attended the event. It was a truly magical evening with dinner and singing.

Guido Taub, Country Manager for Ria Argentina, shared: “We are sincerely thankful to have participated in such a special night. There are many Senegalese people in our country looking for work opportunities. Our main objective in Argentina is to offer them a fast, affordable and secure service, focusing on meeting the needs of the community by being open to our customers’ feedback. We are happy to have become, in the short four months that we’ve been here, the top choice for the expat communities in Argentina.”

Immigration and opening new businesses have something in common: it takes hard work and dedication to get things going. That being said, as we continue to work together, the future looks bright for both Ria and the Senegalese community in Argentina.