Apparently I don’t speak English any more!
When I travel overseas I buy a new sim card for my phone when I get there and use that for all my contacts during my stay. It seems the easiest thing to do. My phone is very old and I don’t want the hassle of arranging ‘roaming’, having heard tales of people getting back to SA and finding massive bills awaiting them, as every call they made in the UK, to someone else in the UK, went via SA!
So as soon as possible after arriving in the UK in June, I walked into the little shopping centre in Windsor, with my friend’s husband D. We soon found a Vodaphone store. I knew their sim would work in my phone, as I’d done this last time. So far so good.
Now came the difficult part. I am English, but having lived in SA for many years, I speak SA English. There are differences in some words. For example, in SA you buy Airtime when your phone has run out of money to text or call someone; in the UK they call it Top Up. This much I knew.
However, the young girl serving me spoke with quite a strong accent and so fast that I was really struggling to understand her. Even D, a ‘native’, was battling!
Well, I explained what I wanted and she suggested options. She did ask me at one point did I want to call overseas. I said no, since I would mostly be texting, and use skype on a laptop to speak to SA. We settled on a 20 pound Big Value Bundle that gave me unlimited texts and 2GB of data for 30 days; more than enough for my needs.
I immediately inserted my new sim into my old phone and texted both my daughters to let them know my new UK cell phone number. The text to Pix in the UK went through no problem, but the one to DD in Germany refused to send. We were still sitting in the shop, so I told the Vodaphone assistant and asked her what was going on.
She said I couldn’t text overseas on this option; it was for the UK only.
So apparently when she said ‘call overseas’, she meant any sort of contact, not just speaking. Also, in my mind, SA was where I lived, and the UK and Germany were collectively ‘overseas’. I wasn’t thinking that now I was in the UK, even Germany was ‘overseas’!
I realise that this was my error. So I had to buy an extra 5 pound Top Up that would allow me to text overseas; both Germany and SA. This would be expensive to use, so I would have to be careful with it, but I did need to be able to contact DD in Germany, when I would be leaving from the airport in two weeks time.
And so it was, until I began running a little low on the Top Up option and needed another 5 pounds to see me through to my Germany visit. This time I went to a Vodaphone shop in Huddersfield with my sister. I must say that the man who served me was very off-hand and not listening to me at all.
I explained what I wanted and even got out the slip from my previous purchase, which had all the details on, but he wouldn’t look at it.
He was busy trying to find something on-line or in leaflets. In the end he called over a younger red-haired guy, who though obviously junior, also, obviously knew more. I started to speak to him and show him my slip from my last purchase, but the young guy said it was OK, he knew what I wanted from the older guy!
So I paid my 5 pounds and left the store. I checked my phone credit outside on a bench in the shopping centre and saw that it had not added any credit to my depleted amount. So I went back in the store and queried this.
After some more discussion, where I am really beginning to wonder if I am actually speaking English to these guys, he tells me, no the amount won’t show up. I do have 5 pounds worth of ‘calls’ to overseas – but I can’t text them!
Huh? So now ‘calls’ actually means speaking calls, which I had thought in the first shop! I explained that I needed to be able to text my daughter in Germany, for example if I am stuck at the airport and she is en route in a train, and unable to take my call or maybe without a signal. At least she will get the text at some point.
OK. Now he understands. That will be another 5 pounds please. It is a simple Top Up; which he would have seen if he had deigned to look at the slip I had been trying to show him in the first place!
I speak English – or so I thought! I can only sympathise with the problems non-English speaking people must have in England!