Katja Nordgaard: The Nordic light in Bangkok

Eyes like deep blue fiords, blond hair like snow covered mountains and a smile like the midnight sun, let me introduce to you Katja Nordgaard, Norway’s Ambassador to Thailand.

 

Katja and her two year older brothers were born in the small city Motala, in Sweden. The father was Norwegian and the mother German. The parents met and fell in love during the time Katja’s father was studying in Germany. When the children were 5 and 7 years old, the family moved to Norway, to a suburb to Oslo, the capital of Norway. Katja remembers her childhood as very peaceful and happy.

Already at a young age, Katja was very interested in Internationals Affairs and she was an active member in the organization The European Youth.  After having finished school and before starting at University, she took a year off to travel around the world.

In 1983 she decided to study Public Law, but then changed direction and instead took an MBA at the NorwegianSchool of Business and administration (NHH) specializing in International economics and Finance. After having finished studying, she worked one year in a bank as Chief of Department, Corporate Customers. At an age of 27, Katja applied to the training program for Foreign Service and got accepted.

Already in 1990 she came to London and worked for three years as a Press-and Cultural Attaché at the Norwegian Embassy, a job she found very interesting.

Katja has three daughters, but only the youngest daughter Elida, is living with Katja in Bangkok. Her two eldest daughters are attending university in England. Elida goes to NIST, one of the many International schools in Bangkok. Katja and Elida try to spend as much time as possible together, often accompanied by their beloved dog Remba, who they took care of since she was an abandoned puppy.

 

Long working day

As an Ambassador, Katja has long working days. She wakes up every morning at 6 am and she and Elida take the BTS to Asoke from their home in ThongLoh. Elida goes to her school and Katja often goes to the fitness studio. She likes starting off the day with some exercise and after her session at the gym, she takes the BTS to the Embassy at Phrom Pong.

Her days are full with meetings and no day is the same. Twice a week she has meetings with her staff. There are working lunches and dinners several times every week. She has close contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo and often she receives visitors from Norway or other countries. She is working very closely with all Embassies and also the UN.

 

A sporty woman

In her free time, Katja loves to go hiking, swimming and playing tennis. She is fond of almost every sport. Cross country skiing back in Norway belongs to her absolute favorites.

You have no doubt about her dedication to sport and a healthy life when you see her slim figure. When I ask her if she doesn’t like to eat, she burst out laughing and says “Of course, I love to eat and to cook”, well, it is hard to believe.

She very much likes Thai food and says charmingly “arroy mak” (very good). As she has been around in many different countries, she has also learned a lot about their inhabitants and their specialties’. During 2001 to 2004 she stayed in South Africa as a Minister counselor at the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria where you can safely suppose she had the pleasure to enjoy the South Africa’s good wines.

Until 2013, Katja was also responsible for Thailand’s neighboring country Myanmar, a country she visited often and which she got very engaged in. Norway opened an Embassy in Myanmar by the end of year 2013 and a new Ambassador took over the responsibility for the country.

Katja sometimes travels around in Thailand visiting her countrymen living here. There is a big community of Norwegians settled in Thailand and their numbers are increasing every year.

At least once a year, she also invites the Norwegians for a garden party at the beautiful residence, a very appreciated event among the Norwegians. The Norwegian National Day on May 17th is also celebrated in the garden with lots of happy children running around waving with flags.

 

Memory from Thailand

Katja became Norway’s Ambassador to Thailand in 2010 and I asked her if she has a very special memory from the years that has passed since and she said, “Oh many, many!” but still mentions one in particular.

“I remember especially when we arranged an exhibition to show the world’s oldest Buddhist manuscripts (which were found in Afghanistan) and sold on the international market to a Norwegian collector. It was very moving and unforgettable to see how the Thai people greeted this exhibition with a huge procession and the interest from every part of the society.”

My last two questions for Katja were, what advice she would you give to her daughters. She smiled and answered:

“I want all three of them to live the life they want to, to believe in themselves and be happy. I hope they will contribute to making the world a better place and to always stand up against injustice and for the empowerment of women.”

 

Leaving Thailand

Unfortunately Katja and Elida are leaving Bangkok already this summer, returning to Norway, where Elida will start high school (gymnasium) and Katja will be taking up new, interesting tasks. I asked her if she had a special destination in mind that she would like to be transferred to after some years in Norway.

Katja laughs and says:

“I have no idea. First I want to settle in Norway again and then I’ll wait and see where destiny will take me.”

Wherever she will go, I have no doubt she will stay the beautiful, engaged woman dedicated to her family and work. I wish Katja and her daughter a pleasant return and the very best for her future. We will deeply miss you here in Bangkok!

 

 

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