How to Make International Phone Calls to/from the USA

How to Make International Phone Calls to/from the USA

The first international phone call I ever made occurred from a police station in Windsor, Canada. Just as I was preparing to cross the Ambassador Bridge and return to the United States, I realized my Michigan license plate was missing. Unsure how to get home, a police officer helped me place an international phone call. During that call, I discovered that I had somehow managed to drive to the US-Candian border, cross the international bridge and spend a few days sightseeing without a license plate. What happened to the plate? It was laying in the driveway - back at home!

My second international phone call took place years later on Christmas Day in Cozumel, Mexico to wish my older brother a Merry Christmas. A man in a leather cowboy hat facilitated that call.

My third international phone call transpired shortly after moving to Busan, South Korea. I bought a 10,000 won phone card for 30 minutes of talk time to call my parents. I suggested they call me in the future, but they seemed to believe that an international phone call was a complicated story problem that could only be solved by the family member out of the country - me.

Now, several years later, I've made international phone calls from around the globe and while I use mobile apps to place calls nowadays, knowing how to dial internationally to landlines and cellphones is still relevant. Let's examine how international calls are made between the two countries where I spend most of my time – the USA and Japan.

Phone Calls to/from the USA

To the USA

  1. Dial your country’s international direct dialing number (+010 for Japan).
  2. Dial the USA’s country code (+1).
  3. If the area code starts with “0,” drop the “0” and dial the rest of the area code + the phone number.

From the USA

  1. Dial the international direct dialing number (+011).
  2. Dial the code of the country you’re calling (+81 for Japan).
  3. If the area code starts with “0,” drop the “0” and dial the rest of the area code + the phone number.

Culture Tip: Confirm Your Contact is Available to Talk Before Proceeding with a Call.

Contacts App - iOS 10

Since you're calling internationally and might not be able to foresee your contact's schedule, it's best to begin phone calls by saying who you are (if your contact won't easily recall) and then confirming he/she's available to talk.

Perhaps, he/she's driving, snoozing on a train or just about to walk into a movie theater or attend a meeting. Granting this courtesy at the beginning of a phone call establishes an immediate respect for both the caller and the callee.

Start phone calls like this:

  • Is now a good time? (Formal)
  • Can you talk? (Informal)
  • Are you busy? (Colloquial)

Now You Know...

Now you know how to make an international phone call to/from the USA and Japan. Remember, international calls may be subject to additional rates and fees. How do you make international calls? From you a landline, cellphone or desktop/mobile app?

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