For some reason, I picked up my phone and dialed a lot of digits, of which I can recall only the first three. It started with 555. Of course it couldn't be a real phone number, right?

Hollywood hadn't lied to me, right?

Unfortunately, it had. The call completed and someone greeted me in a foreign language. (This has actually happened.)

  1. Which language was I greeted in?
  2. Where in the world did my call land? Be precise. Just the hemisphere or the country isn't enough.

This is using real-world phone rules.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Assuming you live in the UK, as I do, then you'll have dialled a local number (since area codes start with a 0); based on the city I live, there are at least three taxi companies whose phone numbers start with a treble five, so there's a decent chance you'll have reached a taxi driver in your home city. Perhaps he/she was learning a foreign language on duolingo when you called; Spanish is the most common one in the UK according to their latest report, so I'll go with that. $\endgroup$
    – Showsni
    Jan 20 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure 555-1212 still gets you directory assistance, although it's unlikely you would consider the greeting to be in a foreign language $\endgroup$ Jan 20 at 22:40

3 Answers 3


Assuming (from the Hollywood reference) that you are calling from the United States. (If you are somewhere else, there could be many different answers to this, as different countries have very different local numbering schemes.)

You must have dialled:

a + before your digits
Then 55 is the international direct dialing (IDD/ISD) code for Brazil.
The next 5 will place your call somewhere inside Rio Grande do Sul (exactly where depends on the next digit which we don't know).
And the person who answered probably spoke Portuguese.

  • $\begingroup$ US phones don't have a +. International calls start with a 0. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Jan 21 at 2:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Joshua you can dial a + with any smartphone regardless of country $\endgroup$ Jan 21 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @IvoBeckers: Do you mean '*'? $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Jan 21 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua no. + is usually dialed by long pressing the 0 $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 16:17

I presume you are from the US. You went on vacation to a non-English speaking country. Everything else follows from that - you reached a random subscriber who answers the phone in the local non-English language because 555 is not a protected prefix outside the US.


Assuming you added a plus sign which is not a number,

You called the country code, 55, for Brazil, which mainly speaks Portuguese.

The next number is the first digit of the area code. Depending on the fourth digit you entered, you either called

Porto Alegre (51), Pelotas (53), Caxias do Sul (54), or Santa Maria (55).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Brazil is correct, but São Paulo is not - the City Code for S.P. is 11; the third 5 would make the city PORTO ALEGRE (city code 51). $\endgroup$ Jan 20 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the correction! I confused landline prefixes with area codes. However, Porto Alegre is still not correct. You see, Caxias do Sul (54), Pelotas (53), Porto Alegre (51), and Santa Maria (55) all have 5 in the first digit of their area code. $\endgroup$
    – Aaron Liu
    Jan 20 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ OK; the reference I was looking at, when I sorted by City Code, didn't include any other "5*" cities. $\endgroup$ Jan 20 at 15:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.