Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

An essay inspired by the Pope's telephone number! The politics of dialling codes that somehow contrive to associate Greenland with Africa.

article summary —

We are no experts on the magic of modern telephony. But we do use telephones, and the great majority of our calls are, given the nature of our work, international ones. So we have come to learn a thing or two about dialling codes. That for calls to Britain, we dial +44 and for Ireland +353 as prefixes to the national number. But only latterly have we realised that hidden behind the seemingly innocent bureaucracy of a few numbers is a remarkable amount of politics.

Had you noticed, for example, that Vatican City has a new dialling code? Previously, if you needed to call the Pope then +39 was the dialling code - the same as for Italy. But now Pope Benedict can be reached via the new prefix +379.

Montenegro's new found status as an independent state will probably prompt local doubts about the wisdom of sharing +381 with Serbia.


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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 9.