+

I recently called a random 27-year-old Swedish dude. Let me explain.

In yet another successful attempt to cement their role as the coolest freakin' country in the world, Sweden created a phone number for the entire country.


Image via Svenska Turistföreningen/YouTube.

That's right, a phone number for the entire country. Call it, and you'll get connected to "a random Swede" with whom you can talk about anything: IKEA, meatballs, gummy fish ... seriously, anything.

It was created by the Swedish Tourist Association to help spread information about the general awesomeness of Sweden and its people, much like they did back in 2011, when they handed off Sweden's official Twitter account to be managed by ordinary citizens.

So I called the number, and I got connected to a guy named Rasmus*.

I'm a 24-year-old from New York City. He's a 27-year-old from Gothenburg, Sweden. And we had a surprising amount in common.

We exchanged names and tentative hellos, and I asked Rasmus a question that, in America, I would ask just about anyone within five minutes of meeting them.

"What do you do?"

"I'm just a Swedish guy," he said, and asked what I meant by the question. I felt pretty silly.

You see, in the unfortunately limited amount of time I've spent in other countries, I've noticed that "What do you do?" as in "What do you do for work?" is a question that hardly ever comes up. In America, it's a standardized bit of small talk that tends to carry an identity-defining amount of weight. In Sweden, Rasmus told me, it's irrelevant.

Gothenburg, Sweden. Not to be confused with Gothenburg, Nebraska, which is also lovely. Photo by Mike Cooper/Allsport/Getty Images.

"In a way, it's like 'How cool are you?'" he explained. "'Should I really talk to you or not?' 'Are you worth my time?' but when I meet new people I'm more like ... 'Who are you? What do you like? What are your interests?'"

Rasmus told me he doesn't even know what some of his friends do for work.

"To be honest, I'm not even really that interested. I don't really define myself by my work," he said.

That cultural difference aside, we decided to discuss our weekend plans.

"I like to dance," said Rasmus. "Gothenburg has pretty good nightlife when it comes to underground clubs. We have a lot of good techno and house clubs."

"I'm going dancing this weekend too!" I told him. (Yeah, I can cut loose.)

Photo by Daniel Robert/Unsplash.

I asked him what music he likes.

"I've realized that I like almost all music," said Rasmus. "I've caught myself digging to like Justin Beiber songs."

He also mentioned he likes post-rock music. OK, wait a minute. Post-rock music? The little-known sub genre of ambient melodies and melancholic sounds that is also one of MY FAVORITES?

"I love post-rock!" I told Rasmus excitedly.

"Amazing! What's your favorite band?"

"Explosions in the Sky."

"Boom! They're really really good!"

This was getting interesting.

We talked about Explosion's new album as well as taking long walks in the woods. "It's really nice to just walk in the forest, listen to post-rock," Rasmus said. "I think you get in touch with nature in a way that's ... I think it's kind of unexplainable. Serene."

Photo by Todd Quackenbush/Unsplash.

Then conversation turned to life in our respective big cities.

"You live in New York. That's really cool, man." said Rasmus. "I've seen it on TV many times, but I've never been there."

"It's very cool," I told him. "But living here is exhausting. It's a really intense environment. I like it, but I'm not sure I can do it for too much longer."

"I understand you, man," Rasmus replied.

Photo by Jake Ingle/Unsplash.

Rasmus said he lived in Berlin for three years. Berlin is city with 3.5 million people, but he got out of there and decided to live in Gothenburg, which has just over half a million people. He also visited London once. "It f***ing sucked," he said.

Big-city life is just about the same everywhere, it seems.

"I live in Sweden's second largest city now," Rasmus explained. "It takes me 15 minutes to get to central Gothenburg. 15 minutes' walk in the other direction, I get to like a huge piece of woods. It's a forest actually, with lakes and shit."

"Sounds amazing," I told him. I've always been a fan of lakes and shit.

My conversation with Rasmus lasted 25 minutes, and the similarities kept on coming up.

We talked about video games — the history of the Hitman series as well as settling friendly disputes over a game of Super Smash Brothers.

He told me about his one visit to America: a four-day business stint in Las Vegas. "It was nuts," he said. "It might as well have been the moon."

And when I asked him where else he might like to visit in America, he mentioned the Lower Hudson River area of New York State. Which is where I grew up — a stone's throw from where I am now.


Photo by Jon Ottoson/Unsplash.

In the end, I realized something pretty amazing.

While I expected the conversation to be interesting and stimulating, I didn't realize how much I'd have in common with a Swedish stranger on the other end of the phone.

Despite the oceans that separate our countries, Rasmus and I live remarkably similar lives. It's easy to say that people are the same everywhere, that we're all part of the same story, and that we all have more bringing us together than separating us. But now I see it.

Whether we're taking a stroll through the woods or totally crushing a noob in Rocket League, Rasmus and I were cut from the same cloth.

It's good to keep that in mind.

To call Sweden, dial +46 771 793 336

Image via Svenska Turistföreningen/YouTube.

via Chewy

Adorable Dexter and his new chew toy. Thanks Chewy Claus.

True

Every holiday season, millions of kids send letters asking for everything from a new bike to a pony. Some even make altruistic requests such as peace on Earth or helping struggling families around the holidays.

But wouldn’t the holiday season be even more magical if our pets had their wishes granted, too? That’s why Chewy Claus is stepping up to spread holiday cheer to America’s pets.

Does your dog dream of a month’s supply of treats or chew toys? Would your cat love a new tree complete with a stylish condo? How about giving your betta fish some fresh decor that’ll really tie its tank together?

Or do your pets need something more than mere creature comforts such as life-saving surgery?

Keep ReadingShow less
Celebrity

U.S. Soccer star expertly handles an Iranian reporter’s loaded questions about race.

Tyler Adams’s response proves exactly why he’s the captain of the US soccer team.

Tyler Adams expertly handles Iranian reporter's question

Reporters are supposed to ask the right questions to get to the truth but sometimes it seems sports reporters ask questions to throw you off your game. There's no doubt that this Iranian reporter who was questioning Tyler Adams, the US soccer team captain at the press conference during the World Cup had an agenda that didn't involve getting to the truth.

It's not clear if the questions were designed to throw the young player off of his game or if the goal was embarrassment. It really is hard to tell, but Adams handled the unexpectedly harsh encounter with intelligence and poise when some may have found it justified for him to get angry.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

Teen raises $186,000 to help Walmart worker retire.

In America, many people have to work well past the age of retirement to make ends meet. While some of these people choose to work past retirement age because it keeps them active, some older people, like Nola Carpenter, 81, work out of necessity.

Carpenter has been working at Walmart for 20 years, way beyond most people's retirement age just so that she can afford to continue to pay her mortgage. When 19-year-old Devan Bonagura saw the woman looking tired in the break room of the store, he posted a video to his TikTok of Carpenter with a text overlay that said, "Life shouldn't b this hard..." complete with a sad face emoji.

In the video, Carpenter is sitting at a small table looking down and appearing to be exhausted. The caption of the video reads ":/ I feel bad." Turns out, a lot of other people did too, and encouraged the teen to start a GoFundMe, which has since completed.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 07.22.21


As if a Canada goose named Arnold isn't endearing enough, his partner who came looking for him when he was injured is warming hearts and having us root for this sweet feathered couple.

Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts shared the story on its Facebook page, in what they called "a first" for their animal hospital.


Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Mom's praise of audiobooks 'post-baby' has parents sharing how it changed their lives

'Audiobooks have helped me regain a part of myself I worried was lost. Let people read however they can.'

Canva/Twitter

Let people read however they can.

Not too long ago, it seemed like you could only be loyal to one team—team “physical books” or team “e-readers.” There was no neutral territory.

That debate might have dwindled, but it echoes on as people take a stand on physical books versus audiobooks, which have become increasingly popular—nearly half of all Americans currently pay for an audio content subscription, and the average adult in the U.S. listens to digital audio for a little over an hour and a half each day, 28% of that being spoken word. Audiobooks had a particularly big surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, as listeners found the activity more comforting and satisfying than a regular book while under quarantine.

You’d think that the general mindset would be “reading in any form has great benefits, so do whatever you want!” But alas, humans do find odd hills to die on.

Keep ReadingShow less