Tag Archives: communication

Spending Christmas in the UK

Mince pies and crackers

This month’s guest post is by Matt Powell from Broadband Genie and describes what a traditional Christmas in the UK is like. Matt also discusses how the internet can help you stay connected to your family at this time of year.

Christmas in the UK comes with many well-loved traditions. Children open their Advent calendars (who doesn’t love getting to legitimately eat chocolate first thing in the morning?), families put up trees and decorate their houses, schools perform nativity plays and people gather in town and city centres to watch the Christmas lights being switched on.

Many children will leave out a plate of mince pies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer on Christmas Eve; it’s also traditional for their parents to eat them once the children are asleep so that in the morning it looks like Santa really has been! Many people will also attend Midnight Mass at church on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning (the 25th December in the UK) generally begins with excited kids waking early and opening the stockings that have been filled with presents for them; the kitchen downstairs, meanwhile, will soon start to get busy as the turkey goes in the oven and people help peel potatoes and carrots.

The presents under the tree are usually shared out and opened, new toys are played with and later everybody sits down to Christmas lunch. Turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy are the traditional items on the plate but every family has its own favourite extras that will be added too.

Afterwards there might be Christmas pudding (complete with flaming brandy), Christmas cake and, if you’re still not quite completely full, mince pies. And Christmas lunch wouldn’t be the same without everyone pulling crackers, wearing paper hats and groaning at the terrible jokes inside.

At 3pm you might find people gathered around the television watching the Queen’s Speech being broadcast and on Boxing Day (26th December) everyone takes part in yet another British tradition: eating up all of yesterday’s leftover food!

Christmas in the UK is very much about being together with family and friends and if you’re living overseas at this time of year it can be hard. Obviously, nothing is the same as actually being with your loved ones but if you are unable to cross continents to spend Christmas at home then the internet can certainly help you feel closer.

Emails are great for sharing news and writing long messages. Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or your country’s preferred social media site can be used to share photos and updates of what you’ve been doing / seeing during the Christmas break from your studies. You can also use apps like WhatsApp to send free text messages across the world in real time.

However, the best way of feeling connected to your family has to be a video call. It can make you feel much closer to people far away and it’s perfect at this time of year if your family are celebrating Christmas so you can really feel part of the festive fun. Even if you are not celebrating Christmas, a video call home at the year’s end is a great way to stay in touch.

Apple users can talk to each other via FaceTime on their iPhones and iPads. Then there’s Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber (for example) for people using other devices. And using the group call function on these services means that even if your family are spread out across the world you can all join in the conversation at the same time, with everybody talking at once. Just like being at home!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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How can I stay in touch with my family cheaply?

Communication tools - Two mobile phones, a landline phone and a laptopThis week we have a guest blog post provided by Dean Reilly, Deputy Editor of Ofcom-accredited comparison site www.cable.co.uk, suggesting ways of staying in touch with friends and family cheaply while you are in the UK:

Keeping in touch with your friends and family while you study in the UK is essential for your general wellbeing. Luckily there are lots of great ways for you to stay connected to your loved ones that are fast, simple and cheap.

Not all communication needs to be conducted over the phone, but if you want to keep your handset, or have a landline, there are a number of ways to save on your telephone bill. Many landline providers have packages that offer cheaper rates for international calls, and mobile phone providers usually offer additional international packages, SIMs or bolt-ons that reduce the cost of international charges or give free international minutes.

If you’re considering purchasing an international call plan for either a landline or your mobile, you can find more information and prices from cable.co.uk’s guide to making cheap international calls.

Another way to cut the cost of calling home is with an international calling card. These are pre-paid phone cards that can be topped up with credit and, in general, offer cheaper rates to international numbers than a standard landline or mobile. Calling cards are available in most phone shops and even some newsagents, especially those in communities with a large student population.

If you have a good broadband connection, making calls over the internet might be a cheaper method. Using a VoIP service, such as Skype or Rebtel, is free if the person you’re calling is using the same service. Skype can also be topped up with credit and used to make international mobile and landline calls. Another great feature of VoIP services is the ability to make video calls, so you can have face-to-face chats.

Staying in touch doesn’t have to cost a lot, especially if the majority of your conversations can be conducted over a VoIP service, or you find a cheap international calls package.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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