If you’re moving to London away from your home country, you can initially feel alien-ated indeed (*wink-wink* *nudge-nudge*) without your old phone and a contact number beyond that of your hotel for your first days. Well, luckily London Relocation Ltd. will help limit the amount of time you need to spend at the hotel via our one-day flat-finding service, which allows you to then set up a landline phone, if desired, straightaway in your new London apartment. There is also the mobile phone (see my “Buying a UK Phone is ‘SIM’-ple!” post), which will require a UK bank account and address.

Until the phone was squared away, I felt tremendously detached from home…so what in heckfire was I thinking not to phone home using the internet??! I was aware of Skype, but I guess just not educated on how handy it really is, and honestly after 2 years living in London it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve finally started using it.

Skype is perhaps more of a household name now than it was those couple years ago. When you register for an account, it’s free to call other Skype users, or from 1.6 pence a minute for pay-as-you-go calls to worldwide cell phones and landlines. With a monthly subscription, you can pay less than £5 per month for unlimited calls to the U.S. and about £9 worldwide.

My parents don’t yet have Skype, nor do they have a webcam or fast-enough connection beyond their original dial-up service, for that matter, so I pay for the unlimited service to call their landline. While I’m sad not to be able to see them, the sound through my Mac is great, and (opting not to use a headset) it allows me to just kick back and speak into the air as I would if they were right there in the room…which is a plus when our 2-hour calls otherwise bruise the cartilege in my ear with a phone pressed against it :). But when you can phone someone with the vidoeo functionality, it’s terribly fun and the closest thing to having them with you. I love when our visitors call home with Skype at our flat—absolutely heart-melting to see their children’s wee faces speaking to them, probably too young and already too tech-savvy to process what a big deal it is to be able to talk to your parents across an ocean…and on a computer! This child of the 80s is convinced we already live in the sci-fi future…

You can also look into video conferencing via MSN Messenger or, if you’re a Mac user, iChat. I have no personal experience with either of these, so if you do, share your thoughts! Or how about other such international internet services (like Yahoo Voice??)? Any ideas that have worked for you?

At any rate, this has just popped to mind in light of the impending Thanksgiving holiday that many American expats in London will be celebrating thousands of miles away from their loved ones. So with that heart glowing, reach that long, just-as-freakishly glowing fingertip out and touch someone…by tapping your keyboard first ;).