After A Shaky Start A Young Swede Makes Her Mark And Thailand Her Home

“When I first arrived here, I was so angry at my family because I had so many good friends in Manila, and here in Bangkok, I didn’t know anyone,” says Erika.
       Today she looks like any other Swedish woman living happily in Bangkok after almost 10 years although far from her homeland.
       Manila was Erika’s first Asian home and she moved there to the capital city of the Philippines because her father was then local boss of Telia the Swedish telecommunications giant. Two years later, 17-year-old Erika and her family moved to Thailand.
       “As a student, I was going to the ISB international school and that was difficult in the beginning. As I said, for the first six months, I was so angry with my parents,” she says.
       “After going through some troubled times, I then made some good friends and they saw me safely and happily through my school days.”
       After finishing school at ISB, Erika continued her studies at I-TIM, an international hotel management school. 
       But although it too was supposed to be an ‘international’ school, Erika somehow found herself learning to speak Thai.
       “After school was over for the day, my friends were too lazy to speak English and went back to their own language when we were hanging out. So if I wanted to have fun and to understand what they said, I had to speak Thai,” she laughs.
       Erika was soon speaking Thai fluently, spending so much of her free time with her Thai ‘gang’ shopping, meeting, or heading for the movies. And all as comfortably and as relaxed as she might in her own homeland.                           
       Erika also joined SWEA where she joined in community activities which also helped her sharpen her Swedish language. Today she says SWEA is now filled with young working women as well as expat wives.
       She is happy to share her experiences of moving to a new place like Bangkok, and is always ready with helpful advice for newcomers.
       “For a newcomer, I would say that if you have to move to Bangkok nowadays, you’re quite lucky. It’s an easy place to live and there are lots of Scandinavians here. You have almost everything here and you’re not gonna miss much. And the lifestyle is great because Thai people are friendly and easy-going so if you move here, you don’t have to be scared – just relax,” she continues.
       Erika is married and her husband is Chinese-Thai. 
       “Integrating with a Chinese family was generally good fun as I come from a big family too. There was a warm welcoming feeling although my Chinese parents-in-law were quite strict, adhering as they do to their traditional ways,” says Erika.
       “But it didn’t cause me any problem as I guess I was well suited in adapting to a new environment, and I thought I had an Asian side of me anyway,” she smiles.
       “Actually I have two nationalities – I am Swedish and Finnish – so I guess I will always be Scandinavian. But I have adapted easily to the Asian culture because I don’t have family here and because I live with my husband and his family.” 
       Erika is now working in the Office of International Affairs at the Royal Thai Army Medical Department, in Pharamingkutklao Hospital. Erika’s title is Assistant to the Director. 
       Her office is responsible for studying and researching HIV prevention, a project which began two years ago in co-operation with a U.S. government organization based in Hawaii that executes HIV/AIDs programs on behalf of the U.S. military, in collaboration with the Royal Thai Army< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> which specialises in HIV medicine.
       Erika is responsible for managing seminars for medical doctors from around the world who work on HIV projects, and the seminars she helps organise are geared at improving care of patients who suffer from HIV.   
       Although she had no experience with hospitals or HIV projects before taking up this post, Erika said she feels great about her new career.
       “I like this job because I feel can really help people,” Erika stresses. 
       She says sometimes she misses Sweden.
       “But when I was back in Sweden for about a month, I started to get bored and wanted to be back in Bangkok again. I guess I just got used to living here,” she says, shrugging her shoulders.
       Asked if she had any words for newcomers, she had this to say”
       “Put aside your fears and prejudices, Thailand is a wonderful place to stay!”

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