Depending on what country or culture you live in, certain people associate certain attributes with their status in society. Symbols of one’s social status have evolved through time and are largely based upon what that society values. In a culture that values bravery, social status may be determined and identified by things such as scars from battle. In a society where food is not readily available, being fat is considered a status symbol and in other cultures, males growing out their fingernails as a sign that they do not perform manual labor signifies their status. For you sociology buffs, in western societies, social position is often determined as a result of achieved status. For example, the type of job someone has, how much money they make and in many cases, what type of possessions (cars, homes, etc.) they have… all things people believe are a reflection of the type of skills they have and thus their position in society.
A few days ago, I wrote about how some things were pretty random here in Mongolia and it just so happens that how some people establish their social status here is also pretty random. I went to a mobile phone shop to get a SIM card so we could have a Mongolian phone number while we are here. To my amazement, there was a fairly long line of customers waiting to get in. After standing in line for a while, I gave up. Another guy who we met here in Ulaanbaatar, Dave, was also trying to get a SIM card and went back to the shop only to end up waiting in line for 3 hours to get one. I later learned that in Mongolia, one sign of social status is your mobile phone number. I have not yet determined just how this works… whether higher, lower or a certain sequence of numbers is better, but one thing is for sure, Mongolians are constantly changing their cell phone numbers and wait in line for hours to do so.
I did go back a few days later and managed to get a SIM card in under an hour, but people were still haggling over what number they wanted assigned to their account. When it came time for me to select a number, the girl helping me out had quite a confused look on her face when I told her I did not care what number was assigned to me. Lets just hope that when I try and call some people here in town they don’t hang up because of the number that pops up in their caller ID.