Working at the Stockholm Tourist Office has been very beneficial for my personal and professional development. One of the things I learned there is taking calls. Literally, I hated being on the phone before. And of course I especially despised having to speak foreign languages on the phone. After three months there, I could have called the King in Spanish and not blinked.
I also learned delay tactics for when people ask you things you don’t really know. Like, “My sister told me about this restaurant in Stockholm, it’s Italian cuisine and really good, can you tell me which one? It’s the one with the red-white-checkered table cloths”. Ah, that one, of course.
In my current job and especially when my dear co-worker who usually handles most of these random inquiries is on holiday, these phone skills become crucial. Last Friday, I got the so-far most random call in my history. (And we get very many strange requests.)
A lady called, four times. The first time she spoke to the intern. “I need the address of the ABBA restaurant in Stockholm”. Mind you, I am not working at the Stockholm Tourist Office anymore. At all. We are very much the wrong contact for this kind of question. But the Stockholm Tourist Office has also trained me to be a true Stockholm Ambassador and that’s not something you take off as easily as your Visit-Stockholm-shirt. So I took over, telling her that what she looks for is probably “Mamma Mia The Party” which is at Gröna Lund.
This, somehow, made her feel a connection between us because she started chatting away. “You know, my mom was Swedish, I don’t speak Swedish, but you know, miss, when I walk down the streets of Düsseldorf and see a Swede, I recognize it in their face! I see it! It’s like with Iranians, you see that, too”. I was very surprised that she mentioned just Iranians. “Sweden is so wonderful, I love Sweden! I think it’s something I inherited, you know, I inherited the feelings of affection for the country”. Ehm, I’m so glad for you.
“So did you hook up with a Swede?” she asked me non-chalantly next thing I knew. Excuse me? In which other job do people call and randomly ask about your romantic life? “Aren’t you homesick for Sweden? I think you should move back”.
She also had some true insider tips for me regarding Stockholm. Yes, the one city that I actually kind of have pretty thorough knowledge about. “Listen, there is this really nice cemetary in Stockholm you should see. It’s in the South, you should go visit it next time you go there”. “Hmm, you mean Skogskyrkogården?” “Exactly! Because, you know what? Greta Garbor is buried there! AND SHE IS BURIED THERE WITH HER GIRLFRIEND! She was living with a woman! Did you know?”
Her last call, all within minutes, was to ask me to help her with Ikea’s address. She wants to design t-shirts and donate part of the revenue to a monkey foundation. “And Ikea, they’re good guys, they’re not destroying the rain forest so I am thinking they might be interested in selling my shirts”. She thanked me nicely for reading up Google’s result on Ikea+headquarters for her and said goodbye with the words, “Move back, I’m telling you, move back, it’s better there!”