Hello and welcome to The Rob Burgess Show. I am, of course, your host, Rob Burgess.
On this, our sixth episode, our guest is The Kingdom of Sweden. Sweden sits between Norway and Finland and is the third largest nation in the European Union by area. This Scandinavian country is home to nearly 10 million people.
Allow me to explain:
A week ago, I stumbled upon an article by Leslie Horn on Vocativ (later in the podcast I wrongly call it “Vo-active”) with the headline, “I Spent My Morning Calling Random Swedes (And They Loved It.)” Here are the first few paragraphs of that story:
“I spent my morning in an an unexpected way: on the phone with several Swedish strangers. Thanks to the the Swedish Tourist Association, there is a phone number, called the Swedish Number, that will connect you with random Swedes. So I called it. It’s a little bit odd to hop on the phone with someone you’ve never met before. But that’s exactly the point. “Calling Sweden. Soon you will be connected with a random Swede,” is the automated message you hear when you dial the number. It’s either +46 771 793 336 internationally or 301-276-0600 for local rates if you’re calling from the U.S. The hotline brings to mind Sweden’s Twitter strategy. Each week, a new Swedish citizen is given control of the country’s Twitter account, and they can use it however they please. This week it appears to be a registered nurse named Cicci. It’s another way to connect Swedes to the rest of the world, and what it has in common with the Swedish Number is that it’s also just delightfully weird.”
I then visited the official website for the project, theswedishnumber.com, where I found this introduction:
"250 years ago, in 1766, Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce a constitutional law to abolish censorship. To honour this anniversary, Sweden is now the first country in the world to introduce its own phone number. Call today and get connected to a random Swede, anywhere in Sweden and talk about anything you want.”
The site also included a Frequently Asked Questions section, which reads as follows:
Who is behind The Swedish Number?Sweden’s Tourist Association. We want to spark people’s curiosity about Sweden - our culture, nature and mind set. To help us do this, we have the people of Sweden.
Who answers when I call?Everyone who lives in Sweden is able to register as an ambassador. When you call you will be connected to a random Swede. 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.
How much does it cost?The call will be charged as an international call. You have to check with your phone operator what your calling rate for Sweden is. It depends on your communication provider and a number of factors such as individual calling plans and time of day. Your call will start getting charged when you are connected to Sweden. If you are calling from one of the local numbers (see if your country is on the list) the call will be charged as a local call.
Is my phone number shared?You are completely anonymous and your private number is never shared. All calls are routed through a switchboard.
Are the calls recorded?Calls via The Swedish Number may be recorded for security reasons. If someone reports a specific call, we can listen to the call and unregister any user who violates Swedish law.
Why is no Swede answering when I'm calling?1. Lots of people are calling and there is no Swede available. 2. Sweden is sleeping. We are in the GMT+2 time zone. 3. If the first Swede you are connected to is not able to answer, you will automatically be connected to another Swede and another until someone answers. 4. It’s the last day of April at 8 p.m., and all Swedes are busy watching bonfires all around the country.
What time zone is Sweden in?Sweden is in the GMT+2 time zone, you are welcome to call at anytime, but we might be asleep.
How does it work?When someone outside of Sweden calls The Swedish Number, a telephone switchboard randomly connects the call to a Swede somewhere in Sweden.
How do I say Hello in Swedish?Simply say "Hallå!" or "Hej!"
How do I enter the “+” before the number?Either access the additional symbols on your phone and find the + sign, or dial 0046 instead of +46.
According to the most current statistics on the website, more than 82,271 calls from 173 countries have come in since the line opened April 6, and callers have spent more than 161 days total on the phone, with two minutes and 50 seconds being the average call time. Almost a third of the calls are from America, while the United Kingdom, Turkey, The Netherlands, China, Australia and Russia round out the top seven calling countries.
On a personal note, I want to thank all the Swedes who took the time to speak with with me. I would highly suggest calling The Swedish Number to anyone.
You'll hear one of the Swedes ask if I have a YouTube channel, and at the time I said “no.” Since then I've started one, which you can like and subscribe to at: tinyurl.com/therobburgessshowyoutube.
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