Please leave a message

Back home we each had a cell phone in addition to our work numbers. No need for a land line anymore since we could be reached directly, and voicemail worked great for whenever we couldn’t answer a call. JM even tested a program that turned his voicemails into emails, receiving them in his inbox just minutes after a missed call.

They don’t have that here. The land of 1.3 billion people, with probably half as many cell phones, notoriously lacks phone message services. It took us awhile before we realized it, but after a few months of ringing up friends, colleagues, and even businesses, we began to realize that when they didn’t answer, they really weren’t going to answer. We thought it strange that the phone company took the liberty of interrupting calls with a recorded message: “The person you dialed cannot be reached right now. Please try again later.”

This inexplicable fact took some getting used to. No leaving messages about important business that couldn’t wait. No making plans with friends by leaving messages with options on their voicemail and then getting a call back from them later. Now when we want to connect with someone, we have no choice but to persistently call back until we reach them.

People here are typically more available, however. Without voicemail, people do seem to take more initiative at answering phone calls. It even seems to introduce a personal element in daily interaction- less playing phone tag back and forth, and actual communication with another human being.

Unless, of course, we send text messages! These have seemed to supercede the place of voicemail by and large- a written communication that you hope will be received by the person you want to reach, but are still unsure of the timeframe of a response, if there will be any.

Just another way we didn’t anticipate life would change drastically on this side of the globe.


1 Response to “Please leave a message”

  1. 1 Julie Muller November 24, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    How strange about the voicemail! Does anyone have it? The Chinese sound like the American youth with all of that text messaging! However, it sounds a thousand times more complicated considering all of the written Chinese characters… how does that work??

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November 2008
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