Operator, give me long distance

The job I had when we lived in Chicago and LA was as a telephone reservation agent for a travel company. People would call looking for schedule information and to buy tickets so it was fulfilling since back then those details weren’t readily available to the general public. I loved the work but because it meant non-stop talking from 9 AM to 5 PM, at home the last thing I wanted to do was to use the phone. Consequently Bill got to deal with, as Hyacinth Bucket would say, the “white Slimline telephone with last number redial”, a task that he continues even today. That also means figuring out who has the best offer when your phone contract expires and how to start all over again when you move to another country.

It all started with a free Google Voice telephone number long before we’d ever seriously thought about moving from the US to France. Anytime that we had to supply contact information that might later generate an unsolicited sales call, we always used the Google number that could forward the call to us for screening and without revealing our home number to the caller. The one disadvantage is that Google will only forward calls to another US phone number at no cost, and others at a per minute rate, so once we arrived in France, Bill had to find a solution for that situation.

Enter the dual SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card to connect to the mobile network. We still needed a US number to which Google could forward any calls plus we needed mobile network access in Europe. Our first SIM supplier was British so we had both a UK and a US number until we changed for better pricing which we’ve done twice more since then with the phone numbers always changing as well. Our previous SIM supplier decided to move to ESIM-only support (virtual SIM) and few phones currently support that technology. Therefore we currently have yet another different US number and now a phone number in Lithuania which costs nothing unless we make an outgoing call, send a text or travel outside the EU (such as to Switzerland or the UK).  The one constant has been our same Google Voice phone number since 2009 that continues to be forwarded to us as long as we update it with our new US number. 

That other half of the dual SIM is for a card for calls and data within France. Our Internet and TV service includes unlimited calls around the world using our home phone (téléphone fixe) but not our mobile phone. For that other SIM card we pay 4.99€ per month.

And now for the questions:

Why do we need to keep a US phone number? As US citizens we still vote, pay taxes, maintain bank and credit card accounts, etc., many of which require a US phone contact and cannot call overseas.

Why do we need a French number? As residents of France we pay taxes, utilities, maintain bank and other accounts, many of which require a French phone contact. 

Why not get one SIM that would provide both a US and French number? It’s all about consistency, cost, and network coverage. By keeping the free Google Voice number active, we never have to give our US contacts a new number when we change European suppliers. Since the SIM market is dynamic (mergers, closures, rate increases, changes in technology), Bill can look for the best deal when it’s time to change suppliers.

There’s an organization in France called Que Choisir that’s similar to Consumer Reports in the US. We’ve subscribed to their magazine before and found it helpful and they put a lot of information for free online. Below are their comparisons of offers for mobile telephone SIM cards and for the Internet/TV/Phone packages.

Musical note: Today’s title was inspired by the version of the song “Operator” written by William Spivery and performed by the Manhattan Transfer.

Photo credits: Bill took the featured photo in Brittany that shows 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of standing stones, called the Alignements de Carnac, disappearing into the distance. Coming down the page in appearance order, thank you to Rodnae Productions, Cottonbro, Essow, and Lukas Hartmann.

Compare mobile telephone offers: https://www.quechoisir.org/comparateur-forfait-mobile-n43896/

Compare Internet offers: https://www.quechoisir.org/comparateur-fai-n21205/

2 thoughts on “Operator, give me long distance

  1. Ahhh, the days before the internet. I must confess I do not have a US number which does sometimes still make it difficult to fill out some online forms, etc, as you say. Well done for figuring it all out, Bill – I’m not sure I’d know where to begin!
    We did join the world of fiber optic wifi last Wednesday after 5 technicians took 5 hours to switch us over (whew!)
    Modernity reaches the wilds of France profonde. On another note, I saw a contemporary photo of Manhattan Transfer yesterday – they all look wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand what you mean about not knowing where to begin. I’m grateful that Bill enjoys these types of investigations and I thought it might benefit others making the move.


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