In the outskirts of small town Bangsaen, on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, lies a truly special senior living project called Scandinavian Village. As in the name, it is dedicated to Scandinavian people only. And after 15 plus years in operation this residential living community is really thriving. A visit is really an eye-opener about how this senior living project has become a true success and the factors why that is the case. A Dane, a Norwegian and a Swede who reside there explain why they have chosen this as long-stay home away from home, and what makes it so unique.
A brief background to the project is that a Swedish investor initiated the concept and obtained, in 2002, approval as the first ever BOI (Board of Investment) facility of its kind for people over 50 years old in Thailand to attract foreign investors. It was promoted and sold to Scandinavian individuals under the ‘long-stay tourism’ category. Being under BOI gives buyers, who shareholders, permission to be 100 per cent foreign in Thailand.
An expansion of the 96 units that were built was halted right in time before the global financial downturn that erupted in 2008. Thereafter, still under BOI, the members have taken over the project. A Thai management team is employed for services and upkeep, where the Scandinavian owners are themselves heavily involved in the maintenance, arranging activities and the continuing sales work.
This retirement community stands out even internationally. But the good thing is that some units are also available for sale year by year, allowing for more Scandinavians to become new owners, replacing those who decide to sell. This is also one of the indicators behind this project’s success story.
Bo Oskarsson, the youngest owner in terms of years as member among the three Scandinavians in charge of re-sales, describes it as a kind of Shangri-La: “God’s place on earth.”
And Bo in particular highlights the special weather zone Bangsaen is situated in: “One of the reasons why the founder decided to build here is that you have a micro climate between the airport and Pattaya. We say that the China winds pass through, reducing humidity and preventing it from getting extremely hot. That’s a very good climate for us Scandinavians and I think we are noticing tremendous difference in humidity here compared to in Phuket and Hua Hin.”
Earlier, along with his wife Bo used visit Hua Hin for five weeks in the festive season, where they stayed in gated communities.
“But we got fed up; it was very far to everything, and downtown we thought there were too many tourists; and the consequences of that! So we said: ‘We are done with Thailand now. Let’s explore another place’. That was until we found Scandinavian Village. We bought within 48 hours of coming here.”
Some residents had invited them to come and try it out: “That is usually how it happens, for more than 60 per cent of the buyers. We had never been at the Eastern Seaboard.”
“There is no other Scandinavian Village in Asia, certainly not in Thailand! There are many condominiums and many gated communities but if you are 50 plus and where the owners speak a Scandinavian language and it is all based on active living and an inclusive society – I think we stay together if something happens, it’s a very active living – it cannot be found elsewhere,” states Bo and continues: “If you’re an active person, and a senior citizen wanting the most exclusive – then you belong here.”
“Many other retirees have also bought a home in Thailand but they do not live in this kind of community but in gated communities. There you get separated; we lived in five different such gated communities in Hua Hin and did not speak to one neighbour even once! You have no natural meeting points, and you must arrange transportation yourself. There may be a few Swedish villages where they have a pool and try to run a restaurant. That does not compare to the unity we have here; you do not get that unless you gather around activities, and agree around how things should be. We do that here, and it should be top quality. And it’s better now than ever!” Bo thinks in terms of the standard and upkeep.
Bangsaen is also a destination for Thais in the surroundings and Bangkok – being the closest beach resort for those to visit.
“They travel here, invading this destination on Saturdays and Sundays. Therefore there are hardly any other foreign tourists; there is no place for them here – this is the destination for Bangkok people! The residents at Scandinavian Village and a few other residential homes in the vicinity are the only Europeans to be found!”
“You don’t have tourist hotels and charter here; you must go to Jomtien and Pattaya for that. It’s nice to have an exclusive university city with high level of cultural status,” thinks Bo.
Speaking one’s mother tongue
Roald Nystad from Norway and Mogens Hansen from Denmark, the other sales representatives for the project, also agree on keeping mass tourism at bay. All three have just arrived from Scandinavia in mid-October. However, being among Scandinavians, and only those, is essential.
“It’s nice to come here and be able to speak one’s own language. And we can understand each other. After ten years in Hong Kong and Malaysia, where you had all your friends speaking English was a bit tiring compared to speaking one’s mother tongue. That is a big advantage here to make one feel at home,” thinks Mogens Hansen.
“We found an ad in a golf magazine in Denmark and we saw an opportunity to get away from the dark winters, which become tiresome. And we thought that we could try a test living trip, which was back in 2015. And then we bought. One could notice at once that it was a really nice atmosphere in the community. We felt very welcomed, be it Norwegians or Swedes.”
“The overwhelming group of people were Swedes and they were very welcoming,” adds his wife Birgitte Lindblad.
“We have people coming from Jomtien beach saying: ‘We live in a so called Scandinavian house but you do not have activity groups like here; you do not have any unity’. The same goes for Mae Phim, which was supposed to be only for Scandinavians but as soon as one loosens the concept one does not get the same unity. Here we are rigid about these things,” says Bo and adds: “There are fantastic benefits to mix cultures but in our winter half-year here we want to be around Scandinavians who appreciate a high level of service, more or less have the same views but mix with the locals and are very active in religion, culture and other things.”
“The only place in the world with something similar are the retiree villages in Florida, but those can consist in 5000, 10 000 or even more houses. That’s an entirely different concept to here with just under 100 apartments. We are like one big family here,” says Roald Nystad.
“It’s a very important aspect at Scandinavian Village. And we have much more social life here in Thailand than back in Norway. That comes from that we live close to each other, are very relaxed most of us and have common interests, enjoying many fantastic experiences together.”
In addition the extended family of each apartment owner is also important – and welcome. Roald brings his family to Thailand every summer even, instead of going on summer vacation in Scandinavia.
“I’ve been here every summer for twelve years. We come from Bergen and there rainfall is probably 3000 millimetres during a year. Then it is great to come to Thailand. If it rains here it is still close to thirty plus degrees compared to 8-10 in Bergen.”
Bo adds that they then get guaranteed good weather, highest standard of living, and with complete service – all for themselves in the summer.
But Roald’s extended family, as many others’, also visits during the festive season. And there are overnight bedrooms available on the premises for these extra guests.
He has lived at Scandinavian Village during almost twelve years and in three different units. “So we have also been part of buying and selling apartments within the same area.”
“We had started off with about 100 Sq m, was offered to buy a 350 Sq m penthouse which we had for eight years, and then, getting a bit older we had less need for large space and moved to 80 Sq m – and are still living here! And that indicates that one has very few negative things to say concerning either Scandinavian Village or Thailand. And Thailand is phenomenal, and the people amazing; caring and friendly – very positive!” adds Roald.
Mogens and his wife agree: “We have travelled to many places and we can say that Thais stand out as being friendly, nice and considerate. They always meet you with a big smile; absolutely fantastic!”
Like the absolute majority of the members they spend between 5- 6 months in Thailand. Back in Denmark they have a summer house to go home to.
“We have little to do there in the wintertime and it’s dark and boring but fantastic in the summer. And since we have moved here we get to have a ‘second summer’, where we enjoy playing golf etc.”
“We have our own time count here, which is when our men and ladies senior golf tour starts, which is on 15 October until end of March. We are happy every year when we will return to Thailand.”
Further proof of how much the members appreciate their senior living in this community is the fact that a few who have lost their spouse have stayed on. They wanted to sell but decided to stay. It turned out that they got so lonely at home, while at Scandinavian Village they have a fantastic life together with other people who take care of them, explained Roald.
“The best example we are using in our sales work is the lady who planned to sell and us telling her to hold it a bit and see how things would feel first. And she returned to meet a hundred people welcoming her back with a hug. And she said: ‘I have more friends here. Nobody said hello when I lived in my condo in Stockholm!’ So she didn’t sell. And we have many such examples. This is like a summer camp; we are missing our summer friends when we are not here, we have grown together as a big gang!” the Swede fills in.
It is also a homogeneous group, with most people having had some interesting work career, such as worked abroad etc. They even hold presentations to each other about their experiences.
Out of the on average ten units being resold every year 60 per cent are sold by themselves to or via their network.
“So we are getting queries continuously and the unique thing we offer is that one can come here and test live. And this is thanks to the co-owners who are not here renting out their apartments.”
In an interview you do of course highlight all the positive things but it is entirely natural because there are no negative things here! Only that the currency has changed, up 35 per cent so now costing a fourth of what it costs in Norway compared to a sixth! We get a lot still for our Scandinavian money in Thailand. Here we can live as kings!” ends Roald.