Norwegian hotel manager’s meaningful Sundays

What is a hotel manager like? Probably he or she is wearing a suit, if it is a he maybe a striped shirt and a tie with dots. Most likely the hair is well cut and the hands properly manicured. Without any doubt he/she is polite and well behaved. Pleasant, interested in the guests and equipped with a clear vision of how to make a hotel successful.
     So far blond Norweigan Magne Hansen, the General Manager at Arnoma Hotel in Bangkok, fits the bill.
     However, most hotel managers do not work in Klong Toey once a week. But Magne does. He spends every Sunday with children who need him.
     Magne Hansen is a person who seems to have both a vision and a mission in life. He has travelled a long way. From clean white snow and bright orange midnight sun to busy brownish streets with a hot sun trying to work its way through polluted air. From waiting to managing and from a small town to a big city. Magne Hansen from Bodoe in the very north of Norway has moved from one side of the globe to the other. His life seems to lean on fate and contrasts.
     As a little boy Magne used to go down to the chilly harbour in Bodoe, where he grew up with his parents and three sisters, to look at the ships from all over the world. He saw the different flags and dreamed of travels and of visiting countries far, far away.
     When the thirteen storey high SAS hotel was built in the Norwegian town Magne was impressed and overwhelmed by the huge building. He started to work in the reception in various hotels and then took his first step towards the big world by moving to Oslo. Quite fast he went from a job as a waiter to being in charge of all the restaurants at popular Akers Brygge in Oslo. The owners wanted to reward the hardworking young man and offered him a holiday trip of his choice anywhere in the world.
     “I didn’t know were to go so I asked the owners,” Magne recalls. “The two brothers said that if they should pick one place that they would return to it would be San Francisco. So I went to San Francisco.”
     The three week holiday became some years. Magne Hansen took a Bachelors degree in hotel management at University of San Francisco. Shortly he became the manager for well-known Stars restaurant, where among others the Mayor of San Francisco and author Danielle Steel was regular guests. He got married and divorced and started to think about going back home.
     “But on my way to Norway I wanted to travel a bit in Asia and Australia, I came no further than Thailand and I am still here,” Magne smiles.
     “I was truly impressed and fascinated by the excellent service I got in the hotels, it surprised me when someone automatically carried my bag! I had never seen anything like that in USA or Norway.”
     Magne Hansen had some Thai friends who he had met in San Francisco and in the typically Thai way they advised him to try to get a job. But they probably did not believe that he would actually do it, which he did. In working as a Resident Manager for Cape House Serviced Apartment in Bangkok he learned how to cooperate with a Thai staff.
     “At first it was a bit hard to understand their way of thinking. When someone says yes, you think that they actually understand what you are saying. But that is not necessarily the case. Maybe you have to repeat yourself three or five times. They might agree but also have no knowledge or even disagree but that they will not show you because of the respect they have for you or are conscious of loosing their face. So it is vital to follow their culture because I am the one who came here, not the opposite,” Magne says firmly.
     Magne Hansen has now been the General Manager for four-star Arnoma Hotel for some years. It is conveniently located across the street from Central World Plaza previous World Trade Center.
     “It is a totally different leadership here than in Europe and USA. You will probably reach the same result but it will take a little longer. I see a challenge in trying to understand a totally different culture than the one I am used to. But I have to be very patient otherwise it would never work. Also the owners of Arnoma Hotel hopefully think it is valuable with my knowledge of the Thai way of thinking combined with my western culture.”
     “In my leadership I am a team player and therefore it is important to find a mutual trust within the team. To listen, to look and to sometimes take a step back to analyze what is going on, if our mutual goals are achieved. I know that it is important to my staff that I walk around and talk to them everyday, but also that I once in a while take my jacket off and sing karaoke together with them. I know that staff satisfaction is very high since Arnoma is one of the hotels in Bangkok with the lowest staff turnover.”
     All week Magne Hansen stays at Arnoma Hotel and in the weekends he goes home to his family in Sukhumvit road. His work is almost around the clock and he has high expectations and feels a great deal of responsibility for the over 300 members of his staff.
     Working so much he values his free time. 95% of his friends are Thai.
     “I am not just passing by so I want to be around true friends who actually live here and not plan to move in a year or two. I feel privileged that I have been truly accepted among my Thai friends. I know that they will support me when I need it. In Norway you rather have to solve every situation yourself.”
     Having a great job and good friends Magne Hansen still felt a lack of satisfaction when he saw how many people in Thailand suffered. That is the other side of the glorified tourist destination. He started to look for a place where he could be involved and contribute something.
     He found Father Joe and the various projects in Klong Toey. For four years he has been going there most Sundays. He spends his time among children with AIDS and carries them around, plays with them and gives them attention and hugs. The children call him Pa Mag. They don’t know what he works with during the weeks.
     “I want to keep a low profile. I try not to favour anyone but to give equal attention to them all and sometimes bring pads, crayons or something else.”
     “Once a four-year-old boy died in my arms. That stays on your mind forever, but it also made me even more convinced of the importance of going there. Now the children know that not even their sufferings will keep me from coming back to them.”
     “The Sundays with these children give me a lot of satisfaction and a feeling of meaning something to someone just by giving love. But the truth is that they give me a lot more than I give them.”
     So even if Magne Hansen one day may start his own bed & breakfast concept he will most definitely continue to show patience and respect with his staff and to visit the children who give him so much.

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