So here is the situation: you’re sitting around and you’re nearly bored to death. All you have with you is your mobile phone. What do you do?
For some Cambodians the answer is to search for random phone numbers – in magazines or in the phone directories of their friends – dial them up and see what happens. Many of these calls lead to just a few words.
But believe it or not, calls like these occasionally lead to lasting relationships and even marriage.
Starting your family over the phone might not seem likely. But for Thon Nareit, the 28-year-old head of security at the SK Company, and his wife, Mom Nang Sarong, a 30 year-old garment worker at Indian Garment Factory, their relationship would never have been formed if it weren’t for Thon Nareit’s random call.
“I was sitting at my uncle’s moto-repair shop and a friend said ‘just call this number and see what happens’,” he said. “I called her and eventually I convinced her to give me her house address.”
It wasn’t long after their first over-the-phone encounter that the couple, who now live in an apartment in Phnom Penh, were getting serious. After years of searching for that special someone, pressing nine buttons connected Thon Nareit with the love of his life.
Both Mom Nang Sarong and Thon Nareit took a few months of real-world dating to gain each other’s trust. But they say that the spark of their chance encounter over the phone set them on the course for marriage.
For another couple, Than Van and Srey Pouv, a series of phone calls has the pair already discussing living their lives together.
“I am sure that I will still love her even though I have never seen her,” said Than Van, whose nephew posted his phone number in Kiss magazine without his knowledge. “It already feels like we are husband and wife.”
His nephew’s sneaky move was an annoyance at first, as he received daily calls from random strangers. But as fate would have it, this was the key to finding his true love.
Srey Pouv, who “had nothing to do but read Kiss magazine” on a lazy afternoon, said she was drawn to Than Van’s number and “just decided to dial it”.
While she agreed that things have gone well with Than Van in recent months, her mobile-boyfriend’s commitment to the long term has yet to be fully reciprocated.
“I am afraid when Than Van sees me he will withdraw his love from me,” she said, adding that she also wanted to meet before committing to starting a family together.
Than Van, a moto-cleaner in Battambang – hours away from his cellular lover in Phnom Penh – said that while most men care about physical appearance, he would be happy with an honest heart.
“Outside appearance is a very trivial thing that I don’t even think about,” he said. “Even though I haven’t seen her my mother and siblings all know my feelings and accept my love.”
While Srey Pouv is a bit more reserved in her certainty about the future, she is smitten with Than Van’s over-the-phone advances. “Now he calls me his wife,” she said. “It feels so good to hear him say that.”
“There is no difference between love through the phone or love through other means,” Than Van said.
Instead, he said, it’s about two people getting to know each other, not an instantaneous “lightning bolt of love.”