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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 21 September, 2019
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We called the new Dial-a-Swede number to talk to random Swedes

The folks at the country’s tourist association came up with a genius idea to spread word about Sweden.

HOW MUCH DO you know about Sweden?

Asking around the office, we came up with the usual list of things the country’s famous for: Abba, Ikea, a certain muppet… “yer one from The Cardigans”.

One person (presumably someone who’d been quietly Googling as I asked the question) came up with a few more substantial facts: its population is just under ten million; life expectancy at birth is 82; and Sweden rejected joining the euro in a 2003 referendum.

If – for whatever reason – you want to know anything more specific, now there’s a new option: the Swedish Tourist Association launched a phone service this week allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to simply ‘dial-a-Swede’.

sta Source: The Swedish Number

Why? The STA explains on the number’s dedicated website:

We want to spark people’s curiosity about Sweden – our culture, nature and mindset. To help us do this, we have the people of Sweden.

Everyone who lives in Sweden can register as an ambassador by downloading an app and entering their number. As the association explains:

The chances that you are connected to the same Swede twice are small – so you get a new side of Sweden every time you call.

shutterstock_291867131 Source: Shutterstock/Gajus

So what happens when you call the service?

I took a break from monitoring the never-ending courtship rituals in Leinster House yesterday afternoon to find out.

The Swedes

Upon dialling the number (00 46 771 793 336, if you want to try it yourself) the first thing you hear is a message saying:

You will soon be connected to a random Swede somewhere in Sweden.

Within seconds of getting through a voice comes on the line greeting me with a hearty if slightly discombobulating ‘Bonjour’.

It turns out to be a man named Pontus, who says the dial-a-Swede project “seemed like a really fun idea”.

He had already received four calls. Two of them were pranks – but coincidentally, one of the others had been a man from Ireland planning a trip to Stockholm with his family who was looking for advice.

Says Pontus:

As I live in Stockholm I gave him a few suggestions.

Such as?

I would say in good weather go for a walk through Stockholm. Stockholm is, like, really beautiful when the sun comes out. Or visit Djurgarden as it’s called – a huge, beautiful park in central Stockholm.

shutterstock_357489023 View from the sea to the Djurgarden in the Swedish capital. Source: Shutterstock/Roxana Bashyrova

By this stage I’m more-or-less assured I’m on to a genuine Swede.

Over the remainder of our five minute conversation we chat about the weather in Stockholm – “plenty of blue skies at the moment” – and I ask what sort of questions Swedes generally get asked.

As expected, Abba are high on the agenda whenever he goes abroad, Ponpus says.

I don’t really mind. It’s cool.

ABBA Movie Premiere Source: Associated Press

My second interaction, with a student called Daniel, is equally as pleasant – if a little more stilted due to a bad line (it’s windy where he is – out for a walk miles to the north of the capital).

The 19-year-old only signed up for the phone initiative half-an-hour ago, he says – but already he’s received four calls, all from the US. Most of the calls were short, says Daniel. One man had called to enquire about buying property in Sweden.

Daniel raises his plans to apply to university as we continue our chat. Impressively, he’s hoping to become “an atom physicist”.

I like that kind of stuff, I find it interesting.

Frequently Asked Questions 

I try dialling again – but the line is busy. At any rate, there are statements from various TDs in my inbox, demanding my attention.

The tourist association helpfully explains that if no-one is responding, either:

  • Lots of people are calling and there is no Swede available.
  • Sweden is sleeping. We are in the GMT+2 time zone.

Or…

  • It’s the last day of April at 8pm, and all Swedes are busy watching bonfires all around the country.

You can find out more about the service at the website or you could just call the number and talk to a Swede for yourself. 

Read: Enda calls for ‘end to Civil War politics’ as courtship of Fianna Fáil continues

Read: How Donegal Mountain Rescue Team is using drones to save people

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