Pin It When we got our orders to come to Germany in September 2007, we were so excited about getting on the European cell phone network. We'd heard such amazing things about it: they're so much more advanced, they're so much faster, they're way better than any plan in the States.
When we arrived here in November of that year, Romas and I looked into cell phone plans. We were shocked at how crummy they were!! In the States, we were accustomed to flat rates for data and minutes, free nights, free weekends - most of you have something like it. We found that their flat rates for minutes were only about a quarter of the minutes we'd been allotted in the States! Not only that, we were going to be paying more for the plan. We were disappointed.
We were told they were 1 year plans, which worked best for us since we never know where the Army will send us next. (Remember, in the States we have a Military clause written into almost any contract! When we left for Germany, we just went to our cell phone provider, showed Romas' orders to come to overseas, and the contracts were broken with no penalty. Here there is no such clause!) We did not want to sign for too long a period of time for fear of having to pay the remainder of the contract should we receive orders to leave Germany.
We signed the contracts. After a year, we went into a store to talk about changing the plan and we found out we were actually contracted on a 2 year plan. Guess that's what happens when you rely on the salesperson to translate the paperwork from German to English for you! Lesson learned.
After the 2nd year went by, we chose not to renew our contracts with the company. In order to do this, we had to send a statement in writing to their headquarters three months prior to the end of the contract. If we didn't, our contract would automatically be renewed for another 2 years. Isn't that crazy? We didn't want another 2 year contract when we only had 1 year left on our orders for Germany!
We've learned that customer service over here is virtually non-existant. In America, we say, "The customer is always right." We've grown up accustomed to being respected and listened to if we have a complaint or concern.
In fact, if you call a company's help line, you are actually charged per minute! No such thing as an 800 number over here! And once you talk to someone, you'll be lucky if the problem is resolved to your liking. I've encountered a lot of "it's not my problem" attitudes from customer service representatives here. It takes a little getting used to, but I can honestly say it's one of the more aggravating things about living abroad.
Anyway, after submitting our request to cancel our service, I was able to use my phone on a pay-per-use basis. It was awesome! I kept my number and my cell phone, and they only debited our account for the minutes or text messages I used the previous month. It turned out to be WAY cheaper than the plan we had used for the past couple years, too! It was ideal.
I started getting phone calls after about 6 months from an unknown number. The person calling would speak German, I couldn't follow along, and they would say they'd call back. I finally spoke to someone in English and found out it was the cell phone company calling. They wanted to know if I wanted to use my phone for a contract. I told them that I didn't and I was just paying as I went.
The next day they disconnected my phone.
So…here I was, without a cell phone and without wanting to sign onto another 2 year contract. By this time I was about 8 months pregnant and I couldn't imagine why I would need a spiffy phone anyway if I wasn't going to be working outside of my home anymore.
I opted for a pre-paid phone from the Dark Ages. Why on earth I didn't pick something nicer, I have no idea. Romas kept telling me to get something nice but I didn't listen. (Big surprise!) Look how snazzy:
But wait! It even has a color display!!
I know, I know…you're all jealous. I'm sure you would love a phone that doesn't ring, doesn't text, doesn't have a camera, doesn't have internet...
After 15 months with this phone, I've finally had enough. I've actually only had to add money to it twice - I never use it. Half the time I carry it around dead for days before I notice! I never think to check it. I don't even know the number so I never give it out. It's pretty unreliable so I'd prefer to have people calling the house phone.
Over the holidays we were Skyping with my mother-in-law and Maia was playing with my phone. I made a joke about how it doesn't even ring, so Maia actually gets more use out of it than I do. She asked what kind of phone it was and I replied, "A piece of crap." Her answer cracked me up…she said, "Oh, it's a Blackberry?" Ha! I wish!!
So today I decided I had suffered long enough. I went out with Maia and she helped me pick out a new phone.
Ladies and gentlemen, I've finally entered into the New Millennium: I have a camera AND internet on this phone!! I'm so proud of it!
It's still a pre-paid phone but I'm ok with that. Pre-paid phones are very popular here. Germans can actually load money onto their phones at ATM machines! But I digress… The plan isn't ideal. My data is really limited and somehow I STILL don't get service at our house. I think we live in a black hole for cell phone coverage. But I will be able to take pictures and update Facebook on-the-go, as well as check and answer emails. YAY!
Plus, Maia's going to be so excited when I give her the old phone to play with for good!
Now I just have to memorize my new phone number. Did you know phone numbers here in Germany are kinda weird? The landlines all start with a prefix, just like in America. Each prefix signifies the town you live in and they are 5 digits long. Cell phones don't follow this pattern. They have completely different prefixes depending on the cell phone provider. Some are 0176, others 0151, etc. The first digit is always a zero and is only used when dialing within the country. So, for example, if my home phone is 06543 and you want to call from your German cell phone, you would dial the entire 5 digits. However, if you were dialing from the States, you would have to drop the zero. Crazy confusing for newbies!
Then, the rest of the phone number is completely arbitrary. Some numbers are so old they contain only 3 or 4 additional numbers! So the number would look like this: 06543-897. Others are longer and might look like this: 06543-178-0776. You can imagine that learning phone numbers for friends is really hard! I have never learned my pre-paid number. It wasn't worth it. I didn't give it to anyone anyway! But I'm not the only one. You see a lot of people with their cell phone numbers written on a tiny strip of paper and then taped to the back of their phone!!
Maybe I should start practicing my phone number so I can actually get some use out of my new phone!