By Robert Kronberg
“I will not go back to Denmark,” says five year old Mathilde. “Only for Christmas…,” she adds by second thought.
Mathilde is the eldest daughter of Rikke and Soren Simonsen. They are voluntary teachers at a sports college in Suphanburi and he is coaching the Thai National Handball Team for young people under 21 years – the U21 Team.
While Mathilde and Sine, her one year old little sister, like it here, her parents are not so sure.
“We’re happy to stay in Thailand, and the school treats us very well”, the couple said, adding however, that they miss everyday life, home, friends, and family back in Denmark. There are no other Scandinavians in Suphanburi and they don’t know anybody in Bangkok they could go visit.
“Communicating with other people is what I miss the most,” says Soren Simonsen.
“Even at the sports college it is difficult to have good conversations because of the general lack of English knowledge,” he said.
“You are the first Danish people we have met since we arrived,” the couple told Robert Kronberg of C&C Travel Co., Ltd. and photographer Jan Mouritsen when they met on Koh Samet, where the young Danish family had gone for a long weekend.
The sports school in Suphanburi is a boarding school where pupils are staying for free on sports scholarships. Rikke is voluntary English teacher, Soren is the voluntary handball coach at the college and as a part of this job, Soren also instructs the U21 in Thailand, i.e. the National Handball Team for people under 21 years.
Back in Denmark, Rikke – who is 32 and holds a master degree in English – was teaching Danish language to immigrants at a language school. Soren, likewise 32, was finishing his master degree still working on a dissertation about sports psychology while at the same time part-time handball coach for Otterup Handball Club.
Handball is what brought Rikke and Soren together in the first place. They met as 16 year old teenagers in the local handball club and have stayed together ever since.
“Why Thailand? Well, for several years we talked about going abroad for the experience,” Soren and Rikke explain.
“We’ve been considering Norway, Spain, China, and Thailand. But Norway was too similar to Denmark,” Soren explains.
“Thailand on the other hand seemed to be a good choice as an eye-opener to working abroad while at the same time being a safe country with many convenient facilities.”
Mathilde has her own priorities:
“Here in Thailand, I prefer Hua Hin,” she says categorically.
“Yeah, because of the nice swimming pool there, right?” her father adds.