Sweden has become the first country to have its own phone number.
The Swedish Tourist Association has set up a hotline to connect callers around the world with a random Swede.
Possible questions to ask a Swede:
- Do you own a lot of IKEA furniture?
- What’s the best meatball recipe?
- What’s the best thing about Sweden?
- How do you deal with the winter darkness?
It is a novel approach by the Swedish Tourist Association, a non-profit group, to spark people’s curiosity about a country best known for exports like ABBA and IKEA furniture, and a social welfare system that boasts the most generous paternity leave in the world.
The phone number was set up to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sweden becoming the first country to abolish censorship.
The Swedes who take the calls download a special app on their smartphones, when they have the app turned on they will receive a call from anyone who decides to call the number.
So the Swedes taking the calls have become unpaid ambassadors for their country.
The number has proven popular, with so far over 9,000 calls made since it began on April 6, clocking over 16 hours of chat time between callers and a random Swede.
Among the suggested topics of conversation are: northern lights, hiking, suicide rates, gay rights and darkness.
Some radio hosts in Dubai called the number and were connected to Gustav, who took the call while on a walk, describing the landscape around him to them.
“A park, almost like a forest, it’s very rainy, I have a parachute,” Gustav said.
This lost-in-translation moment had the radio hosts and Gustav chuckling, as they clarified he meant an umbrella.
Gustav said he had heard about The Swedish Number on the news and decided to download the app.
The radio hosts asked Gustav a few questions sent in by their listeners.
“So I’ve got a question from Jerry, how many IKEA furniture items do you have at home?” they asked.
“I’m going to build a new house soon, and I think I’m just going to go to IKEA and buy everything there to my house … But now my apartment is maybe 50 per cent.”
The BBC were also intrigued by the random Swede hotline and gave the number a go.
“Hello, am I talking to a Swedish person?”
“Yes you are … my name is Peter, I’m 60 years old nearly, and I am a typical Swedish man. I’m quite normal you know.”
The BBC radio hosts asked Peter why he volunteered to tell the world about Sweden.
“I thought it was a good thing you know, Sweden is a good country and if someone wanted to know something about Sweden, I can help them.”