From a small fishing village, Hua Hin has become one of Thailand’s major tourist destinations with a fast growing expat community. Among the nationalities of expats living there, the number of Swedes has increased rapidly in the last decade.
Gert Andersson and his wife Margareta Olsson, together with their close friend Lars Olof Fagerström, founded the Swedish Association in Hua Hin four years ago as a meeting point for Swedes who live in the area.
Gert Andersson, the president of Swedish Association in Hua Hin, has been in Thailand for over seven years. The retired 73-year-old was invited by a friend to buy a house at ‘Ban Thai Village’ in Hua Hin in 2004, which at the time consisted of about eight to ten houses. Since Gert has visited Hua Hin many times before, he was interested and later decided to buy a house there.
“Though it’s not in the centre of town, it’s nice and peaceful here and there is a bus going to town regularly which is convenient for us. When we have dinner or a drink in town, sometimes we don’t want to drive and we take a bus,” Gert says as he sits down comfortably talking to us.
His two-storey house is indeed located in a tranquil area of Hua Hin where you can’t hear traffic noise from the main road. During a typical sunny day, the house is pleasant and shady as it is surrounded by a small garden, a private swimming pool and some trees planted as a wall. It’s no surprise why the couple decided to buy the house – it’s a proper tropical holiday home.
“There are over 50 houses in the village now. Our neighbors are from many countries such as Canada, England, and the U.S. It’s a very international environment here,” says Margareta while treating us to a tasty salad for lunch.
Establishment of the Swedish Association
With the Swedish community growing substantially in Hua Hin, the Swedish Association was founded four years ago as a platform for Swedes to network and learn from each other.
“We started by meeting at a small Swedish restaurant in the middle of Hua Hin thinking there would be just about 30-35 people turning up. But it turned out to be 68 people so we needed to find somewhere else for our meeting,” says Gert.
The meeting point changed to a spacious restaurant called “3 Girls” at Mooban Smorprong in Hua Hin. Gert says that since then, the number of members has increased very quickly. Within four years, the association has grown to include over 800 members nowadays.
The association organises various activities for members to participate. A networking event is held on last Thursday of every month, except summertime. At this event, traditional Swedish food including yellow pea soup with bacon mustard, and Swedish pancake and jam are served every time.
“Normally there are between 120 – 150 participants, but the highest number on record is 212 participants,” says Gert.
On various occasions, Gert says that well-respected people from many industries such as bank, healthcare, real estate, law and the embassy are invited to speak at the networking events.
“We discuss problems with each other and exchange experiences. We give news and try to help each other here,” says Gert.
In addition, members can get together to participate in activities such as playing bowls, golf, or joining classes e.g. Learning Thai-language, organised by the association.
Connection with the Immigration and the Swedish Embassy
Today the association has a good relationship with the Swedish embassy and the local immigration office.
According to Gert, a few years ago the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok demanded the local immigration office in Hua Hin to move to the centre of Prachuap Khirikhan province. If the plan succeeded, the relocation would mean all Swedes would have to travel the lengthy journey to Prachupa Khirikhan every three months to do their 90-day reports.
“That was not good news because it is so far from Hua Hin. It doesn’t make sense that we have to travel 250km just to get the paper stamped. And there are hundreds of us living here,” says Gert.
With his determination to help, Gert negotiated with the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok.
“I negotiated with them and said it was not correct. Also, together with other people, we could stop them from relocating the immigration office. The immigration office here was also pleased about that,” says Gert with a smile while showing a certificate he received from the local immigration office. “They also gave me a certificate showing their appreciation when I visited them after that.”
Swedish consulate opening
The good news is that the Swedish Consulate in Hua Hin opened at the Dusit Thani Hua Hin in the middle of September 2012 to service the large number of Swedes in the area.
As the president of the Swedish Association, Gert gave a speech at the opening event where he thanked the Swedish embassy and congratulated the new honorary consul Khun Victor. Gert welcomed Khun Victor by offering him a basket filled with Swedish delicacies including a glass of marinated herring, a can of pickled or matjes-herring, a bottle of Swedish snaps, Pirantens besk, Kalles Kaviar and a package of hard bread called ‘knackebrod’.
For more information, visit http://www.svenskforeningenhuahin.se/