It is 10 years ago, that Merete Fjeld Brattested in 1995 left Bangkok after 3 year as 2nd Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy. Now she’s back. As Ambassador of Norway to Thailand.
“Officially I arrived on 16 August,” Merete Fjeld Brattested says.
“But we have been here on a tourist visa already for 10 days so the children could start attending school from the start of the term.”
The 42 year old diplomat knows Bangkok very well and she is happy to be back.
“The gentle people and Thailand’s beautiful nature. Yes, I’m happy to be back,” Merete says smiling.
Along with her she has her husband Syver, a business man working with a small Norwegian IT company. Now, that Syver is in Bangkok he will be in charge of his company’s first attempt to sell its products in Asia.
Together they bring their two children, Maren, 10 years old (which means she was born in Bangkok!) and her younger brother Kasper, 9 years old. The two children have been enrolled in The New International School of Thailand where they are now studying in level 6 and level 4.
“We are very satisfied with the welcome NIST gave our children” says Merete.
“They run special courses for children, who have not before been taught in English. And they offer extra English tuition. The schooldays are long, but the children are quite happy.”
The girl from Bergen
Merete was proudly born in Bergen. But she is well aware that her Oslo dialect reveals that she was only 4 years old when the family moved to the Norwegian capital where she grew up.
After taking a master degree in economy, Merete has had a very interesting career.
Her very first step in this career was in fact the three years she spent from 1992 to 1995 as 2nd Secretary at the Embassy in Bangkok.
“At that time we were only 4 Norwegians here and I had to deal with nearly everything,” Merete recalls.
Then followed three years as 1st Secretary at the Embassy in Paris. Here, Merete was responsible for press and cultural affairs.
From 1998 until now, the Ambassador was back in Oslo in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. First as an adviser in the Section for Human Rights. Then for two years she was adviser for the Norwegian Security Council team and three years ago she became Deputy Director General of the Section for Humanitarian Affairs.
“Those were all very interesting challenges,” Merete tells.
“Human rights and humanitarian issues have always been my main interest. And international politics. I’m what we call a generalist. Not a specialist.”
My first challenge
Together with Merete a number of new staff members have just started at the embassy. They are a new Minister Counsellor, a new 2nd Secretary and a new Consul. The Embassy staff now consists of eight Norwegian delegates, two locally employed Norwegians and 13 Thai staff members. All together 23 persons.
“To get a new team going is a positive challenge I look forward to”, Merete states.
“I like being “the boss”. I like to achieve results. To get them you need a good team.”
Merete says that the relations between Norway and Thailand are very good and she thinks there are good opportunities for Norwegian business.
“We will help Norwegians to grab the possibilities. Our commercial section will help screen markets and find partners”, Merete promises. As the Ambassador she will work as a door opener to high level connections and play a representative role.
“I’m generally an optimist”, she says.
The expansion of the Embassy is partly because of the increasing number of Norwegian tourists.
“Norwegian tourism is growing”, Merete says “and I don’t think the oil prices will have any negative influence.”
At the same time, Thai tourism to Norway is growing. As early as in 1907 King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) visit Norway, where he went as far as Nordkapp (North cape). Today many Thais do the same trip to visit the places he stayed and the little memory museum, which has been built at Nordkapp.
“Its interesting and exciting that there actually are architectural similarities in our two countries” Merete tells.
“Take the roof construction of the 800 years old Norwegian wooden stavechurches and the temple roofs in Thailand.”
Sport and future
“I’m totally unsporting,” Merete laughs.
“I don’t play golf. I think people get hooked and I have no time for it. But I love the swimming pool and use it a lot . In addition, Thailand has so many beautiful resorts and I look forward to see more of this big country.”
The family has moved into the ambassador’s residence at Soi 38. And Merete is very satisfied with the Sky Train, which has been built since her last stay in Bangkok. “My daily transport to work is 5 minutes” she says.” By car it might take up to one hour. No doubt the Sky Train has solved a lot of traffic problems.”
Normally an Ambassador’s length of stay will be 3 to 5 years.
“Then we will go back to Norway and give the children their last school years at home in Bekkestua outside Oslo.”
“But right now, I’m happy to be back”, Merete smiles.