Sarah Johnson, Board Member, Minneapolis-Tours Sister Cities
I did it: I called a random Swede. This spring, the Swedish Tourist Association started a push to help people get to know the Scandinavian country by setting up an international hotline called The Swedish Number. Through this number, anyone in the world can be connected to someone in Sweden to talk about anything they want. So I decided to try it out.
I was calling from Minneapolis on a Friday around 10 am, which is 5 pm in Sweden. I dialed the number directly on my cell phone and first heard a few international dial tones before a message came through saying “Calling Sweden, you will soon be connected to a random Swede somewhere in Sweden. This call may be recorded.” After a few more rings, a man answered and said something in Swedish.
I said, “Hello, I am calling from the United States.” After a second he said, “Oh, hello! Thank you for calling the Swedish number.” I told him my name was Sarah and he said his name was Mats, which is the Swedish version of Matthew.
He asked me if I’ve ever been to Sweden and I said, “No, but I’m hoping to visit next year on a sister cities trip. I am in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Minneapolis has a sister city in Sweden called Uppsala.” Imagine my surprise when he responded, “Uppsala! I am in Uppsala right now!” I laughed and said, “Wow, it’s great to talk with someone from Minneapolis’s sister city!”
I asked if he had any recommendations for someone visiting Uppsala for the first time. “The main thing about Uppsala is it is very convenient,” said Mats. “We are only about 30 minutes from Stockholm and you can take the train so it is a very accessible city.” I asked if he had ever visited Minneapolis and he said no, and I told him if he ever was going to visit, to make sure to come in the summer, not the winter. He chuckled and said, “Yes, Sweden is much the same. The winters here can be cold and dark.” Sounds like Minnesota, I thought.
Our call lasted a few minutes and he mentioned that the number will be shut down next week so it’s a good thing I called when I did. He was very genial and ended our conversation with “Thank you for calling Sweden.” According to their website, the number has been incredibly successful — they have taken approximately 172,000 calls this spring, mainly from the United States (33% of calls, followed by the United Kingdom with 7%). It was fun to participate in this creative way to get connected with someone from around the world who happened to be from my hometown’s sister city. What are the odds?