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
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
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
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.