Phone Service in Germany
Since the deregulation of the Phone Service in Germany, many independant small phone companies have sprouted like mushrooms. And just as with mushrooms, you have to be wary of some of them.
First of all, even though you can get a brand new cellular phone (called a Handy
in German) in twenty minutes flat, getting phone service in Germany with a land-line and high-speed Internet access can take weeks (even though they will all tell you that you can have it in 2-3 days).
Everyone we know - even Germans - has horror stories to tell about this. So you will have to be patient and prepared to make some temporary arrangements, like leaving your neighbour's phone number with your family back home for emergencies.
Another point: yes there are many separate small phone companies where you can buy a phone and sign up to get all kind of rebates on phone and internet charges. But what these companies won't tell you is that most of them do not have access to your personal phone file because it is automatically lodged with T-com, the major German phone service provider.
So, if you have a problem with your phone service in Germany, such as still not having a line after waiting for 3 weeks, these little companies can't help you much and will refer you to the big T-com.
My advice; get your Handy wherever you want, but for your land-line with internet access, you might as well deal directly with T-com as you will probably end up talking to them anyway when you have a problem.
It is rather expensive in Europe to have a phone line. You must pay for every call you make (local or long distance, it doesn't matter, you pay).
So it makes more sense for most people to purchase a flat rate plan, i.e. you pay a certain amount per month for your phone service in Germany for an unlimited amount of time for local calls and unlimited Internet access.
They also offer other deals in which you get a flat rate for a limited, specified amount of time on the phone and the net, and then you pay extra for each additional minute that you (or your teenage kids) use. These kinds of deals might look good at first, but the extra minutes accumulate fast and cost a lot.
Of course all documents are in German and very few employees speak English on the phone at T-com.
Also, for those with computers that don't have wireless capability and need to be "plugged in", you will need an adaptor, as the phone plugs in Germany are not like in North America or elsewhere. The adaptors are not difficult to find in an electronics shop in Germany.
For Internet access, you will also need to install a program on your computer with the CD the phone company will send you. As your computer is likely not of German origin, you might have a problem and need technical assistance to get it started.I, for one, could not use their CD on my computer; I got a message saying that because my computer was not German I could not install the new program. Our neighbour had to help me with the phone technician at the other end of the line. Thank God for German neighbours who can speak English!
Phone bills are sent by mail every month and must be paid within 5 working days. Interest on unpaid bills is rather stiff.
The easiest method of payment is to have it automatically debited from your bank account. This avoids having to go to the bank or the post office to pay the bills every month (unfortunately, personal cheques are accepted almost NOwhere in Germany). The automatic bill payment option is called Lastschrift.
The country code for Germany is 49.
Phone numbers in Germany start with a "0" and you must dialed this "0" when calling in Germany from Germany. For example the area code of Heidelberg is 06221, so, when calling from within Germany you must dial that "0" first.
BUT, if calling from outside Germany, then you do NOT dial the "0". For a number in Heidelberg, for example, dialed from the USA, you would dial the country code (49) and then 6221, droping the first zero.
And this brings us to the last point about international direct phone calls: different countries have different international dialing prefixes. In North America, as in the example above, they use 011, then the country code. But, when dialing internationally from Germany, dial 00 followed by the country code etc.
Emergency doctors, ambulance, fire service anywhere in Germany: 112
Police anywhere in Germany: 110
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