Monday, June 18, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Phone Calls

They say phone numbers were partly decided on because they fit the idea of the magic number seven plus or minus two being the maximum number of things (or in this case digits) a person can easily remember. In America, phone numbers include an area code (xxx) and then the basic number (xxx-xxxx) giving a total of 10 digits, however, often only seven are needed. The area code lets you know where the phone is located When a cell phone is bought, it is given the area code for where it was purchased.

In Germany, phone numbers are a bit more complicated (or at least according to her they are).  There are no standard lengths set for either area codes or subscribers' numbers which means that unless you know the system really well, there is no way to know if you missed a digit when writing down a phone number. The area code can vary from two to five digits and the entire number can be as long as 11 digits. In some ways this makes sense. Germany will never run out of phone numbers because digits can continue to be added. Some research says that phone numbers in the USA may need to change around 2038 in order to handle the increasing number of phones and lines being created each year.

Another big difference between Germany and the USA brings us back to the idea that cell phones in the USA are given a phone number with the area code for where it was purchased. In Germany, cell phones are given special area codes that allow users to know that the phone number belongs to a cell phone. Unless the user kept his number and changed service providers, the area code also allows others to know what provider the cell phone belongs to. This is actually quite useful when making phone calls because often calling someone on the same provider as your phone is much cheaper than calling someone with a different service provider. This is also true for land line to land line versus land line to cell phone.

We are not going to get into the whole cost for cell and land-line plans here but we can say that the most significant difference (at least according to us) is that in the USA both the sender and receiver pays. This includes phone calls and text messages. In Germany, only the person making the call (or sending the message) must pay. This idea makes a lot of sense to us and we think that the USA should take note of it. You no longer have to worry about getting many text messages you do not want to receive (There is nothing worse than receieving a message that only says OK and knowing you paid ten cents for it.).   You also then have the ability to keep a pre-paid phone with almost no money on it and use it only to receive calls (a good idea for parents who do not want their kids to run up telephone bills but want them to have a phone for emergencies). The downfall? Making a phone call in Germany is, for the most part, much more expensive than in the USA. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the person making the call is paying for both parties?

Of course there are many other differences between phone calls and phone numbers in the USA and Germany. Country codes, emergency services, fees for calling businesses and hotlines. The thing is we have a few calls to go make and we are sure you do too.

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