Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.
To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.
Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.
Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.
As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.
There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.
But who are the Swedes volunteering to serve their country? And who have they been chatting to?
We rang up to find out.
Denmark or Norway? ‘They’re both kind of lame’
The first ambassador we spoke to was Hennes, a steelworker.
CNN: How’s it going so far?
Hennes: You’re my second call. The first one went well. It was two girls from the Netherlands. They asked me random questions like, “What are you doing?” “What are your plans for the weekend?”
CNN: Could be a good way to meet girls.
Hennes: Yes, definitely! Who knows?
CNN: The tourist board’s press release says we can ask you for the perfect meatball recipe. What are your tips?
Hennes: Umm… The best ones are when you have elk-meat. And you grind the meat. Nice brown meat, couple of eggs, salt and pepper, bit of onion. It’s been a long time since I made my own, I mostly buy them pre-made.
CNN: Which is better: Denmark or Norway?
Hennes: I would say Denmark. I don’t know, they’re both kind of lame. Denmark has Christiania. They’re not as strict with weed.
IKEA or Abba? ‘IKEA is more fun’
Our next call connected us with Malin, 57, a medical writer in Stockholm.
CNN: What’s the best thing to do in Stockholm?
Malin: During the day, go on a boat tour of the archipelago. The snow has gone but we have a small piste in the middle of Stockholm where you can go skiing, but it’s not possible right now. It’s Friday night, so perhaps you can go to Kungstradgarden, take a stroll, then have a glass of beer or wine.
CNN: Which is Sweden’s better export, IKEA or ABBA?
Malin: IKEA is much more fun. But ABBA is also very good.
CNN: What’s the best Swedish movie ever?
Malin: The film about Rodriguez, “Searching for Sugar Man.” It was awarded an Oscar.
[The late director Malik Bendjelloul won for Best Documentary in 2013 for his film about obscure U.S. folk musician Sixto Rodriguez, who unwittingly had a cult following amongst South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement].
CNN: Which is the better band, Roxette or Ace of Base?
Malin: Oooh, maybe Roxette. They are much more my age.
CNN: Which is better, Finland or Norway?
Malin: Oh, they are similar, I can’t say. They are good neighbors, both of them! Maybe the Norwegian language is a little bit better, because Finnish is really, really hard.
CNN: Who have you been talking to today?
Malin: I’ve been talking to Mongolia, Australia, Honolulu, New York, Switzerland, Luxembourg … That’s it.
CNN: Are you enjoying it?
Malin: It’s really, really fun, you get the feeling that the world is very friendly. People are really, really nice. You can talk to anyone in the world and it’s really great.
One from New York, he called and said, “I can’t sleep,” and I said, “Oh I can be really boring!”
CNN: Why did you volunteer for the Swedish Number?
Malin: I got a link from a friend. At the beginning I didn’t dare to turn it on. Now I think I’m one of the persons taking a lot of calls right now! I have received nine so far.
CNN: Thank you very much, it’s been really nice talking to you.
Malin: It’s been nice talking to you. It’s a friendly world! Have a nice day.
Fancy a chat with a Swede? The number is +46771 793 336 (+46771 Sweden).
More details at theswedishnumber.com.