Applying for a Telephone Account

Home - About » Humorous Takes - Switzerland
Computer Science
Research, Industry Work,
Community Service
Hillside Group, CHOOSE,
Stanford GSA
The Serious Side
Business School,
Learning Chinese
Humorous Takes
Switzerland, United States,
Software, Fun Photos
Travel Stories
Europe, United States, Asia
Living Places
Berlin (+ Gallery), Zürich
Boston, S.F. + Bay Area

Living is Switzerland is easy---if you are Swiss. If not, life can be full of surprises. Having arrived in Switzerland, I applied for a telephone account assuming I would be able to call home within days. Vain hopes, as I soon had to encounter.

Upon applying for my account I was informed that just applying was not sufficient: Being a foreigner I would have to credibly assure that I would do no harm to the telephone the Swiss Telecom was going to lend me. Now, how do you assure credibility to the Swiss Telecom?

You got it. The Telecom asked me to deposit a security of 500 Swiss Francs, which corresponds roughly to 400 US Dollars. They assumed that the 500 Francs I lend them would prevent me from doing harm to their telephones---and they were pretty right with this.

More specifically, they were right with this, since I did not intend to take one of their precious telephones. The flat I moved in was let to me by my employer, and the landlord of the house provided me with a company owned telephone. So there was no need for taking an additional telephone.

Since I didn't take one of their telephones, the Swiss Telecom decided not to turn on my account, even though I already had received a telephone number. I can only assume that not taking their phones had lead them to the conclusion that I wasn't really interested in using a telephone. No Swiss Telecom telephone, no need to make phone calls, no need to turn on the account.

The weeks passed, and my calls to the Telecom got weaker. Each time I got a different answer. One time, they were sure I hadn't applied, the other time they were sure that the account was enabled and that I could happily chat with the world. Each day, however, when I got home, the line was dead as it had been ever since I moved in.

Then, one day, when I complained about my adventures to a colleague, the wind changed. Having listened carefully to me, she pointed out that I really didn't seem to understand much about Switzerland in general and the Swiss Telecom in particular. I only had to gratefully accept the Telecom's telephone and everything would be fine. Staring at her in disbelief, I was desperate enough to follow her advice.

I called the Telecom whose waiting music I had already learned to appreciate so much. I pointed out how much I would like to receive one of their telephones. I eagerly pointed out how much worth one of their telephones was to me (precisely a security of 500 Swiss Francs) and that I would never consider using a non Swiss Telecom telephone.

Early the next morning, shortly before I left for work, a Telecom technician rang at my door and handed me a telephone. With shaking hands I jacked it in--and got a dial-tone! Five weeks after having applied for a telephone, I was finally able to use my account.

Dirk Riehle, September 1995.

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: