Sweden has just became the first country to get its very own telephone number. You can now call “The Swedish Number” at +46 771 SWEDEN (+46 771 793 336), which will connect callers from around the world with random Swedes who have signed up to be de facto ambassadors.
These random Swedes who’ll pick up the phone have received no training whatsoever, and have been given no instructions about what to say – or perhaps more to the point, what not to say. You can talk to a random Swede about anything you’d like – northern lights, meatballs, fashion, politics, whatever.
Swedish Tourist Association CEO Magnus Ling explained, “In troubled times, many countries try and limit communication between people, but we want to do just the opposite. We are making Sweden the first country in the world with its own phone number and giving our fellow Swedes the opportunity to answer the calls, express themselves and share their views, whatever they might be.”
There is a switchboard that supports all incoming calls to the Swedish Number round the clock and will randomly connect each call to a Swedish ambassador.
Back in 2012, VisitSweden launched a somewhat similar tourism campaign online. It gave the country’s official Twitter handle, @Sweden, to ordinary Swedes and more or less let them post whatever they liked. From the start there were problems with provocative posts, but they don’t call Twitter the ‘hate machine’ for nothing. However the country was convinced that transparency had more upsides than downsides and stuck with the “Curators of Sweden” program that continues today.
Watch the campaign video below and try it out for yourself at +46 771 SWEDEN – just remember that international rates apply.
So what are your thoughts on the Swedish Number campaign? Is it a clever way to experience the country, or is it a disaster waiting to happen?