What happens when you have a problem with your phone? Do you phone the company?

My cell phone stopped working yesterday afternoon. Except it didn’t. The wi-fi worked fine. Emails continued to arrive, as did Twitter messages. Phone calls and SMS? Forget about it.

The reason, my phone informed me, was “SIM card not provisioned.” Had I not fed it enough? I couldn’t think of any other meaning for provisioned.

Being somewhat resourceful, I looked online for a solution. Nothing helped. So I logged onto my service provider’s website. Nothing helpful there either.

I filled out the contact form and explained the problem, in English. After all, the error message was in English. I figured that way I didn’t have to try my limited German in a phone call. That didn’t work – the form rejected my phone number. That left me with only one option. Well, two really, but I didn’t want to try faxing them, I don’t remember when I last used a fax machine.

You know how you hate automated telephone answering systems with multiple options? Try navigating them when your grasp of the language is imperfect.

I did manage to get a human without too much difficulty, though I have no idea if by that point I was still dealing with tech support. Still, humans can help solve problems, can’t they?

Maybe my problem is solved, though my phone still can’t access the network. I spoke for several minutes with a very pleasant customer service worker (possible because I also have a landline). For the most part, I have no idea what she said. My German is limited. Her English was non-existent. So I am not sure if she understood the problem. I could explain “mein handy ist kaput” (my phone is broken) but don’t know if my explanation of “SIM card not provisioned” made sense.

I did explain that my German was limited (I know how to say that really well) and kept having to repeat “Langsam, langsam” which I hope means “slowly, slowly.”

I think she told me someone who spoke English would be in touch by email. Who knows how long that will be. If it isn’t soon, I’m going to ask my wife to call them. She speaks the language.

Once again I was reminded how helpless we are when we don’t have language. For me this is a minor frustration. For refugees, fleeing war zones, it must be traumatic.

They are strangers in strange lands, where customs and language can be so different from their own. They must feel so overwhelmed trying to navigate even a simple thing like an automated phone system.

That is just one of the reasons it is so important to reach out to newcomers, to help them get adjusted to their new lives. You can make a difference, just through doing little things, like helping with phone calls.

By the way, if you need me in the next couple of days, don’t call my cell. Just send me an email.


  1. Hope you get it sorted soon, so difficult to sort those type of things out when you’re not fluent in the language. Had exactly the same when we lived out there.

    1. I finally managed to get an email sent. The response didn’t address the issue – but they will sell me a new SIM card for 14.95. Never had one fail before.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: