Tuesday, November 20, 2012
(Note: "Yoboseyo" is 'hello' on the telephone in Korean. It's how you answer the phone and how you greet someone when you phone them.)
One of the things you never think about when moving to a foreign country is Phone Spam. (Or, perhaps more accurately, one of the things that I never thought about when moving to a foreign country was Phone Spam. Maybe the rest of you were already aware.)
By "Phone Spam," I am, of course, referring to telephone calls from: A) human telemarketers B) robot telemarketers and C) humans who have dialed (or been given) the wrong number. When I lived in the US, the amount of Phone Spam I got on my cell/mobile phone was really quite minimal, and if the house phone caller ID registered a name or number that sounded suspicious, I just didn't pick it up.
Here in Korea, though, we don't have a landline in the apartment, which is very common. Everyone in the family has a mobile and, like everyone else in Korea, we have them with us at all times. Of course, the drawback to this is the fact that all those robocalls and telemarketers are also with us at all times, as are the wrong numbers.
In the case of telemarketers, it's actually quite an advantage to not speak any Korean. As soon as the telemarketer realizes I don't speak Korean (the cheery, "Hello, MsCaroline speaking" gives it away, I guess,) he or she hangs up, presumably to telemarket in greener pastures.
In the case of the robots, it's not really a problem either: I just hang up.
But I just can't hang up on people -especially people who have likely made an honest mistake. Which means I am entirely to blame for the frustration that ensues.
Logically, you would think these calls would end very quickly, as soon as the caller realizes I'm not the Korean person or business that they were trying to reach:
MsCaroline: I'm sorry, I don't speak Korean. You have the wrong number.
Stranger: (hmmm...this person does not speak Korean. It can't be Pizza Hut/Aunt Jane. I must have called the wrong number) *click*
This, however, hasn't been the case at all, and I can't figure out why.
When I get wrong numbers here, the callers just don't accept it. You'd think that they'd hear 'Hello' and hang up almost immediately. But no.
They are tenacious. They suspect I have latent Korean-speaking abilities (or maybe a nearby friend who has them) that will emerge if they only speak more loudly, if they hang on a bit longer, use smaller words. When I state (in English) that I don't speak Korean, they reply - at length -in Korean. And they don't hang up. They sit there -breathing - on the other end of the phone, waiting for me to respond. And when I do respond - in English - they don't just hang up. No! They keep trying! They have unlimited faith in me - or perhaps in my potential. But the point is, It never works.
But they always try. And I always end up feeling very, very guilty.
As an example, I provide the following exchange which took place no less than 15 minutes ago:
MsCaroline: Hello? This is MsCaroline.
Stranger: Yoboseyo? Yoboseyo?
MsCaroline: Hello? I'm sorry, I don't speak any Korean.
MsCaroline: (patiently) I'm sorry, I don't speak Korean. You must have the wrong number.
Stranger: (with determination) Yoboseyo? (More statements in Korean that MsCaroline does not understand.)
MsCaroline: You have the wrong number. I don't speak Korean.
Stranger: (skeptically) .....Yoboseyo? (More Korean that is not understood).
MsCaroline: (inexplicably feeling the need to speak loudly) You. Have. The. Wrong. Number.
Stranger: .............. (Lengthy discourse in Korean, louder)
MsCaroline: (desperately) English. No Korean. Wrong number.
Stranger: (first, speaking over shoulder to others in the room in Korean, then turning back to the phone)....(loud, simple sentences in Korean that MsCaroline does not understand.)
MsCaroline: (hopelessly) I speak English. Wrong number!
(MsCaroline drops phone from nerveless fingers and runs abstracted hands through hair, which makes her appear recently electrocuted. Phone rings.)
MsCaroline: (guardedly) Hello?