Susie Ogeborg is a fascinating Swedish Bangkok expat with many strings to her bow. In November last year she graduated as a National Museum Volunteer guide. If you are lucky, you will be guided by Susie Ogeborg once the Covid 19 lockdown is over and you pay the Museum that long-overdue visit.
“I’m a very curious person and I like to learn new things. I joined this course in January 2019 and received my “badge” and certificate in a ceremony for NMV – short for National Museum Volunteers – at NMV’s 50s Anniversary at Anantara Siam Hotel last November,” Susie tells.
“The course is quite hard. There is a lot to learn and digest. You have to remember everything to be able to describe what you see when you visit the museum. I have really learned much through this education.”
“Today people can ask me questions about the Royal family, the Thai history, sculptures from different époques, local handcraft, traditions, shrines, spirits and much more that make Thailand the country it has become. It’s easier to live and become a good citizen in a country when you have knowledge about the country, its history and culture,” Susie adds.
“When I started, we were about 20 participants, but only 3 of us received our certificates allowing us to work as guides. We were many different nationalities in the English speaking course e.g. Swedes, Dutch, Americans, Germans and Thais.”
Growing up in Sweden
Susie is born in Falköping, a mid-sized city in Sweden near Skövde where her mother lived at the time. But she spent most of her school time in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. After her graduation, she decided to take a year off and go to America as an “Au Pair”.
“That year was in every way a fantastic year,” Susie says.
“The family was great and I took care of two young towheads. They looked more Swedish than most Swedes. I learned a lot and had to take a big responsibility when their mom, only 6 months after I arrived, was admitted to a hospital for mental disorders.”
“During this year, I went to study Art history and also learned how to throw ceramic. During this evening course, I met people from both Germany and Italy who became my close friends. This was the time when I wanted to discover and learn about the world.”
Back in Sweden, Susie enrolled in a Technical College in Gothenburg with orientation on machines/engines, a choice which many years later benefitted her career. But at this point, she instead decided to become a tourist guide with the Danish travel company Tjäreborg.
Long distance romance
Susie was assigned a job in Turkey and this is where she met her husband Steve. She was doing a pub crawl in Sensi Bar, Bodrum in Turkey where she was entertaining the guests by singing “Please don’t go”.
“This is something you do when you are a tourist guide, working for Tjäreborg,” she says with a laugh.
Ever since that night, she and Steve have been in a relation, starting with a 6 months long distance relation.
“We used to call each other at the same time every Sunday,” Susie recalls.
“After my posting in Turkey, I was transferred to Sri Lanka and here Steve came to visit me. During this time, the civil war broke out and we all had to fly out. My boss at that time was a bit adventurous and decided that before departing, we should drive to Colombo in a jeep from Hikkaduwa and see what was happening with our own eyes.”
“That was a sight I never will forget. People sat everywhere on damaged roads with smoke and fire around. They were devastated and wondering, what now?”
After Sri Lanka,Susie got a posting in Phuket at Patong beach for Tjäreborg and where Steve also came to visit her.
Working in London
In 1996, Susie moved to London, still working as a guide.
“All of us guides lived in a wonderful house In Holland Park, 3 floors with only Scandinavian guides – plus one Englishman, Steve, who was allowed to move in with us. What parties we had at that time and what a fantastic community it was! I don’t think we were very popular among the neighbors in this elegant area, though,” she adds.
After some time, Susie decided to say goodbye to her guide job. She now pick up where she left as a machine technician and became the first female “cold call” sales woman in London within ball-bearings, belts and engines.
“As a female, many companies opened up for me where my male colleagues had never been able to get a foot in the door. I was crawling around in my mini skirt and high heels on dirty industrial lofts while identifying damaged and dusty engines.”
Moving to Hong Kong
“It was a very hard work and I was really happy when Steve was offered a job in Hong Kong in 1997. We arrived only a few months after Hong Kong was handled back from England to China. Here we lived until 2001.”
During this period, Susie was working for the moving company “Crown Worldwide” as corporate account executive, VIP Inbound Relocation Consultant and later on as PR manager.
“I had no experience in this field, but went for an interview and the boss who interviewed me said she believed in me. I had four incredibly interesting years working for this company.”
Steve now had a wish to make his MBA in the UK, so the couple said farewell to Hong Kong, during a typhoon with a warning of number 8 on the scale, which caused them to almost miss their train to Beijing.
“We had booked the Transibirian Railway from Beijing and all the way to Moscow and then onward to our end destination, the UK. It was a really crazy trip; we met the most famous Mongolian horse breeder during the Nadaam Festival, which is what they locally call the Olympic Games in Mongolia. It is a traditional competition in archery, falconry, wrestling, etc.”
The summer after, in May 31 2003, Steve and Susie got married in a little, red church in the Swedish village Råda, followed by a wedding reception on Marstrand, a very popular summer island outside Gothenburg.
“I missed out on my Hong Kong friends; but they were not able to attend due to SARS, another terrible virus at that time.”
Three years later, in 2006, Susie gave birth to their first child, Harry, and two years later, their daughter Sofie. Both were born in the UK.
Moving to Bangkok was not part of their plan.
Moving to Bangkok
“We had meanwhile moved and now lived in Baku, Azerbaijan, when my husband suddenly, out of the blue, received a call saying “We need you in Bangkok, come.” Everything was decided very quickly and within only a month, we arrived in Bangkok during Songkran 2017.”
Having settled in the City of Angels, Susie decided to pursue another education and enrolled to become a volunteer guide for the National Museum in Bangkok. This is something she can only recommend other to do.
“I know that several other Scandinavians have taken the course. I absolutely recommend it,” Susie says.
There are courses in English, French, German and Japanese. The course starts with 3 months of class room lessons. The rest of the time the students practice by observing the other guides and by guiding the teachers. Eventually after 8 months, if you have not dropped out yet, you get the badge.
The National Museum is located on the opposite side of Sanam Luang to The Grand Palace. It was founded sometimes during the 1800s by King Rama V. The guide course takes place partly at the museum itself and partly in a building on Asoke.
“There are mandatory topics that have to be covered, but it’s up to you if you want to go deeper into other topics that are close to your heart, like e.g. khonmasks, textile, howdahs etc.”
“NMV offers guided tours weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays. You decide how often you want to work and we follow a plan. We never know in advance how big the group will be, it all depends on the amount of tourists visiting.
Susie adds, that if you don’t want to become a guide, you can contribute to the museum while becoming a member. An annual membership opens doors to workshops, seminars, the Museum magazine Sala etc. “A nice way to support Thailand’s culture,” she says.
During your time here in Bangkok, what has been the most frustrating for you?
“The traffic I would say, especially on Friday evenings. It’s almost impossible to get a taxi or Grab.”
“But if you ask me, what I find the best and most pleasant thing about living in Bangkok, the absolute non plus ultra for me has been to explore the life on all the little Soi’s. Together with two of my friends we started in the beginning of 2019 a group called “Bangkok and Beyond”. We all appreciate exploring what’s going on inside and outside this buzzing city. We have explored many roof top bars, met plenty of fantastic and interesting people and some of them have become friends for life.”
“I feel much richer after having spent 3 years here and Bangkok will always have a central place in my heart. I feel motivated every day, I want to find out about, to me, unknown places and things, and I live like if every day would be my last day. Who can sit home on the sofa dreaming, but doing nothing? For sure not me!”
Learn mere about National Museum Volunteers here: https://www.mynmv.com