Bringing the Nordic feeling to Ho Chi Minh City

Sari Thuijs and Nick Jonsson– both 36 years old, form together with the Chairman Sigmund Stromme the “backbone” of the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City. The Chamber is hosting a range of social and business events that gives Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Icelandic and Fins who are living in the metropolis, an opportunity to network and to enjoy special annual events like: Christmas, Crayfish party and Viking fest, together.
Sari -who is from Finland, just arrived in Vietnam three months ago and works as Executive Officer for the Nordcham office in District 1. She has followed her husband, Roger Thuijs, who works for Maersk Line to Asia and now resides in her 8th country outside Finland. “I was hooked from the first time I lived abroad!” she says, explaining why she now is on the 6th consecutive year away from Finland.
Nick -the Vice Chairman of the Nordic chamber of Commerce is from Sweden and has lived 4½ years in Ho Chi Minh City. He shares her view and started his “foreign career” when he first lived abroad as a student in Australia in 1998. He has since lived in England, Thailand and now Vietnam. “Vietnam offers some unique business possibilities because of its recent membership with WTO” he points out and with his founding business -the fashion house of Sophie Paris, which he is the General Director for, Nick is fully realizing Vietnam’s business potential.
Sari has a dream of trying to live in all the inhabited continents and for her it’s the first time living in an Asian country. “It’s different… but I love that it’s so different in terms of language and culture and yet so easy to adjust”, she says. “…And it’s very safe to live here too -especially when you have a family”, Nick adds. He is living with his Swedish wife, Sofi, and 2½ years old son, Percy, who is already attending a Dutch owned international school in the city. Nick has never tried to raise a family back home in Sweden, and also have no immediate plans to do so as his business only allows him maximum one month holiday in Sweden per year. But “I think it’s easier to raise a child here because you can outsource many things like cleaning, cooking and washing”, he states with a smile.
For Sari a great deal of the family life is spend taking care of their two Labrador retrievers. “It was a bit of a hassle to come to Vietnam with two dogs and it took about three month of paperwork”, she says. In her spare time she loves to go swimming in one of the many public swimming pools in Ho Chi Minh City and to take long walks with the dogs. For her it’s important to have a bit of space around, coming from the Arctic Circle in northern part of Finland, Vietnam offers somewhat a different climate and population density. “In district 9 we have a big garden for the dogs which I really love”, she explains, referring to the lack of good opportunities to walk them on the streets in the city. Being told as a joke that she is sometimes walking with “lunch and dinner”, she doesn’t appreciate the common Vietnamese appreciation of dogs.   
Nick likes to travel and play golf in his spare time, which is sometimes done on small weekend trips to Thailand or other Asian countries. “I play golf 1-2 times a week, but it takes quite a long time to travel to the golf courses which are located outside the city, so it’s sometimes easier to fly to another place”, he says. His previous experiences in supporting Swedish’ Chamber of Commerce in both London and Bangkok, gives him the necessary skills of hosting big events for Nordics living in Ho Chi Minh City. “Our next event will actually be a golf event”, and refers to Nordchams golf weekend in Phan Thiet on September 23rd to 25th.
Both of them acknowledge the importance of Nordcham for many Nordic people living abroad like themselves and consequently try to do a better job in making it a very joyful time for everyone coming to live in Ho Chi Minh City for the first time.

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