I will be in the United States for five months, so I decided to buy myself an American sim card. My decision to perform this action might have been taken under a little bit of pressure. Everyone I met in the first weeks asked my phone number so they could reach me when they needed to. I figure that having an American sim card might be cheaper on a long-term basis. So I walked to the store to buy the sim. It was not as easy as I thought it would be. The guy in the store told me that they do not have sim cards for phones. “But you can buy a kit with a phone included.” I do not need a new phone; I have my own phone with me. So I walked out and googled all options. After a week, I finally decided what to do. I bought a sim card for $10 without a data plan, but at least I did not buy a new phone. I already have two phones and I do not need a third.
I came home with my new card and the card said I needed to activate it. Second stress attack in this get-yourself-an-American-number process. The steps in the info brochure are not really clear, so it took me a while before figuring it out. After a while, I finally managed. Now I have to choose a plan: $45 or $30 a month. I do not want any of them to be honest. I just wanted to give up when I read the fine print below. There is a 10 cent/min plan, too. Sounds good to me. I am not planning to use the phone very often anyway.
Text me please
Proud as I am, I send my number to all the Americans I know already. “You can now send me messages if you want.” One of my friends is the first one. After receiving his message, a pop-up appears asking how much money the text cost. I am surprised. I have to pay for receiving messages and calls? That does not make sense to me.
I start to read the brochure that came with the sim card and I soon realized that the money I added on the account is only valid for a month. That is a big waste of money I think. I added $10 so people would be able to reach me and I am able to reach them; but I am never going to use that amount of money in a month. So having an American sim card will cost me almost $40 for my entire stay, even when I am not using the phone. I think I might not add any more money but then people can’t reach me either, can they?
I just activated the card when my phone starts to ring. I have no idea who is calling me, since no one has my number yet. Soon, I realize they are spammers. I already get annoyed when I receive emails from people I do not want, now they are calling me? No, please no!
Call me like the Belgians do
So this is my first big dislike of the United States. Belgium has two options. You can have a monthly plan or you can have a prepaid card. I had a monthly plan for a while, which gave me free minutes and text messages for $16 a month. Before I left, I changed back to a prepaid card. I add $16 to my account whenever I want and the money stays on for a period of a year. If you do not use the money in a month, the account transfers it to the next month. This way I always have money on my account.
Also whenever we text, we do not pay for receiving texts. If my friend decided to spam me with of plenty messages, I do not have to pay for her crazy texting. When my mom calls me, I just pick up and say hello for free. So I am probably never going to complain about my provider ever again. I am thankful for free calls and text receiving and money transfers.
Melissa Callaert is working as an intern at North Country Public Radio for the Spring 2016 semester.