Scandinavian men coming on vacation to Thailand often meet and fall in love with a Thai woman. But the cultural differences easily leads to disappointments.
Furthermore, those wishing to bring their girlfriend back to their home country in Scandinavia often face other challenges. If the Scandinavian is a Norwegian he will have to marry within three months or the Thai woman will be sent back to Thailand. Consequently, many Thai-Norwegian couple marry without really knowing much about each other.
This was the situation which Harald Tveråen – a Norwegian resident in Thailand since 1988 and a well-known figure within the Scandinavian community in Jomtien and Pattaya – faced when many years agao he brought his girlfriend back to Norway.
“The lady I met followed me to Norway to get to know my country. But you must marry to stay longer, which we then did. She was less than half my age, and we did not get the time needed to get to know each other. That is Norway in Red, White and Blue,” states Harald.
Harald is clearly disappointed over the policies of his home country, as he has seen Norway harbouring all kinds of criminals from all corners of the world seeking sanctuary there, while innocent girls from Thailand were refused visa extension.
”I suffer from asthma which is partly why I decided to move to Thailand,” Harald explains.
“I also thought I had found happiness. But after having been to Norway the marriage was going for disaster. Of course I also blame myself too,” says Harald.
Once he and his wife came back to Thailand, his wife was not willing to follow his somewhat sparse lifestyle which was required in order to manage financially with the business Thai-Norway Tourist which he had started. Quite soon he was left to his own but by no means paralysed.
A busy man
Harald built the property which is today Baan Sabaijai, a hotel and health retreat centre for Norwegians, to run a small room rental service.
After fourteen years he sold the property and ran a restaurant for one year. From then on Harald’s time has been devoted to run the travel agency, initially marketed by word-of-mouth but gradually benefiting from the Internet boom, offering various services to Norwegians.
And after he became retired, being 68 today, he scaled down even more on the tasks, partly because he fell ill from heavy smoking. He quit smoking completely over 6 years ago but now he has only 30 per cent lung capacity and has to use inhalation medicine.
“After I became retired I have the smallest pension and do as little as possible.” Still, he is of course quite busy during peak seasons.
He brands his services as an info centre and books rooms; arranges roundtrips giving insights on Thai culture and history; and gives advice, guidance and legal assistance etc. to his customers.
“I tell them about the pitfalls, and what they should not do. And especially this issue with confusion of languages. If you don’t understand what the other one is saying – try o find out the reason, if something seems to be wrong.”
People don’t listen
However, far from all people follow Harald Tveraaen’s advice.
“No, rarely; you see, speaking of the Norwegians, they are first, best and know everything and do not listen to others. Then they come back to me afterwards: ‘Why didn’t you tell me that? I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you.’ That is the answer I get back from many.
For investments he refers customers to a lawyer who tells the foreigner the truth and no adapted version of what is the reality.
With many Scandinavian developers in the area the property market is specifically booming. I cannot say: ‘Don’t buy a house’. But a Thai lawyer can tell them the real rules.
“There is some discussion going on regarding ownership. What many are concerned about is when a leasing period of 30 years expires. Who will own, can then the children come from Norway and take over the house? No! Not if you follow the law today. But everybody can promise. Maybe is not enough. One must be guaranteed with one’s investment,” thinks Harald who himself bought a condominium.
“There are too many risks. I say that it is cheaper to rent than to own. That is valid for car, house, motorcycle and especially ladies! That is what I’m saying. Then they can find out for themselves.”
Enjoy and forget
$One thing Harald has seen over the years is how Thais are very skilful at taking care of their guests and what happens when that is not being appreciated.
“I am thinking for example of the ladies, when they meet for example elderly people in the bars. And I must say that is positive on many occasions. The Thais are helpful, which is built into their culture that they should watch over elder people. That is what Thai girls are doing when they are coming here. And they are promised the moon and the stars as we say back in Norway. But that does not last long, because when the Scandinavian travel back home again, and has promised to send money to her family, often she hears nothing, despite that she has given service and helped him during say one month’s vacation. That girl then becomes disappointed, deserted and revengeful. So one must understand why those Thais doing something negative are doing that.”
”We must remember that we are guests in Thailand and should behave thereafter,” he concludes.
About the tourism development Harald recognizes that it has really taken off since the turn of the century and “turned in the right direction”.
“It is positive, in that they are trying to hide the bar scene, even if they cannot get rid of it completely. But more and more retired people and couples are coming here. That is the kind or tourism we want, and the kind I want to run. So I’m not so popular among some of the bar owners,” says Harald.
Recently, he says, travel agents and pensioners have learned that Jomtien is the most reasonably priced resort in the whole of Thailand, as the competition has been firm.
They are building hotels and housing estates to an enormous extent. The number of hotel rooms is always larger than the demand so the price is very different in comparison with for instance Phuket.
“After the tsunami we got lots of extra guests coming here instead. They were really surprised and chocked when they found out how cheap it was. And all the time there has been this rumour: ‘Oh no, it’s not possible to travel to Pattaya, it’s only sex and sin’. This has been good for us who want to live cheaply.”
Also Jomtien has not been a name on its own merits on the map before.
”But now it is becoming known, with more and more family tourists, so I hope we can get away from the notorious Pattaya name. But I doubt it will succeed.”
It is probably evident by now that Harald is a person who speaks his mind. And there have been some controversies over the years among the many fractions within the Scandinavian community.
“I am what we in Norwegian call a ‘bråkebøtte’. I criticize where it should be criticized. When I see that they are creating discord by competing with each other and stealing customers from each other and speaking bad things about others, then I protest. I don’t drink alcohol anymore and therefore I’m not popular as they don’t make any money on me. And I don’t invite the customers to the bar scene.
But he wants to tone down the controversies where the location of the Seaman’s Church was one such matter.
Currently he is involved in trying to get the same rights for Norwegians in Thailand as those living in Spain.
“Therefore we started a group last year and are pushing it hard in discussions with the government agency NAV Utland.”
Other than that Harald is keen on starting a section for retirees within the Scandinavian Society Siam.
All in all Harald finds the future bright with more and more family tourists coming. And with the new airport much closer to Jomtien its popularity can only grow.