Born: In a relatively small town Södertälje, south of Stockholm. (5th of February 1955, a good wine year) Later, my parents moved to Stockholm where I went my first years to school.
Family: My father is an engineer and my mom a secretary. When I and my 4 ½ years younger brother were small, mom mostly stayed at home looking after us. She was born to be a mother. When I was seven, we moved to Gothenburg on the West coast.
Education: I went to a private school, Göteborg’s Högre Sam skola, not very big at that time and we called our female teachers “Aunt” and the males “Senior Master”. It was hard discipline and the principal (headmaster) greeted us every morning and always controlled us, checking that we were on time, properly dressed and had our books. He was a real gentleman and we all liked and respected him.
I studied lots of languages like Latin, ancient Greek and Russian. In Sweden our first foreign language is English, it’s obligatory. My headmaster was an archeologist and he got me interested in Ancient Civic Life, which I went on to study at the University of Gothenburg. I also picked languages, as I was a zero in math.
I went on to the University of Lund, south of Sweden, when my parents moved to Malmö. Here I took Art History. I have always been very interested in art and music.
University life and part-time model During my studies, I worked in my spare time as a model to earn pocket money. I often modeled at the fashion weeks in Copenhagen. It was a fun extra job and quite well paid.
I also went to Paris during six months where I worked for a Danish photographer, Gunnar Larsen. He was, at that time, publisher and owner of a beautiful fashion magazine Le Jardin de Mode.
During my stay in Paris, I was asked to represent Sweden at the Miss World Contest, which took place in London, we’re talking 1975. It was a big thing at that time. We were 68 young women participating. It was a time when London had a lot of turmoil and we girls were watched over very carefully. It was a nice and fun experience, but to be honest, I think there’s a lot of politics behind those contests.
Everybody wanted the Miss Germany to become Miss World that year, but instead a girl from an island – I think it was Aruba – who won. No one expected her to win, but she brought a great gift to be auctioned for charity, and in my mind that might have helped her becoming Miss World (my thoughts).
My first job and the shocking experience in London with an Arab with ill intentions
My first job was as a model, but I also worked during vacations at a shopping mall, selling household utensils, much less glamorous.
I was with an agency in Gothenburg when a strange thing that once happened to me. Many of my model colleagues were sent to London for a casting and all of them returned to Gothenburg with jewelry and design clothes. I was wondering why I wasn’t asked to go and I begged the boss to send me. She refused for a long time, without saying why. I nagged her and eventually she told me to pack my bags and leave. At Heathrow airport in London I was picked up by a dark green Rolls Royce with an elderly driver. You can imagine how I felt…such luxury.
During the drive into the city, the driver looked at me seriously in the rear mirror and asked: “Girl, do you know what you have to do here in London?” I answered; sure I’m here to do a casting for a movie. He looked at me and shook his head. Anyway, I didn’t reflect on his answer, I was just so proud and excited.
We stopped outside a building opposite Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park. I was taken to an immense apartment, where a big Arabic family was sitting on thick carpets, eating very smelly food. A man aged about 50 greeted me and showed me to a huge luxurious bedroom, with an enormous bed placed in the center.
He asked for my passport which I was foolish enough to give him. He opened the closets and asked me to try on all the beautiful clothes hanging there. That I was happy to do, but unfortunately I was a little too chubby and none fitted me.
He got very upset with me. There was no talking about a casting. For the next three days, I was locked in this bedroom, without my passport, no mobile (we didn’t have one in those days) and his landline was, of course, not working. Believe me, I was scared. His servants delivered food three times a day, but I never saw any other family member or him. I was desperate and thought about trafficking, and even saw myself being sold to an Arab somewhere in the desert.
The third day I was taken to a room with a film camera and told to act, wearing very few garments. It was easy to see there was no film in the camera. He was pretending to film, quite ridiculous. I still remember how embarrassed I felt. Back to the room and locked in again. The day after, the driver showed up. He made a sign telling me to be quiet and held up my passport in his hand. I hadn’t unpacked my suitcase, so I was ready to leave immediately. The apartment was empty and the kind old driver drove me back to the airport, just in time for my flight. I kissed him goodbye. I had never been so happy.
Arriving home I told my parents who, of course, were shocked by my story but the model agency chef just shook her head and said that I begged her to send me. Well, true I did. It was a strange and scary experience that ended happily.
Falling in love in Switzerland
When I was 20, I met a young man, a Swede who lived in Switzerland and fell in love. He was visiting Sweden to see friends and invited me to visit him in Lugano, in the south of Switzerland. My brother joined me on the journey to Switzerland but he was too young to have a driving license, so I did all the driving in my red Triumph, which I was very proud of. After a few weeks, my brother returned to Sweden and I stayed on. At the age of 23 we got married in Stockholm at Riddarhuset, the House of Nobility, on a beautiful winter afternoon.
It was an elegant and fun wedding, even if my husband to be and I had a huge fight the day before the ceremony. He was on his bachelor party with the King of Sweden and other male friends. The guys came to pick him up in an ambulance at our hotel and dressed him in a typical Salvation Army uniform. They gave him a money box and let him walk into restaurants asking for donations. I couldn’t believe it, he who was such a shy guy, agreeing to do something so foolish. Of course alcohol was involved.
I had gone out with my family for dinner, but happened to be in one of the restaurants he was visiting. I became completely hysterical and had some kind of allergic reaction and was taken to hospital. The doctor asked what had happened and, crying, I told him the story, and his only words were: You don’t want to marry this guy, do you?
My husband was a close friend of the King since their time in boarding school. I wanted to cancel the wedding, but my future mother in law and the high society priest wouldn’t let me. You can’t cancel such a wedding with so many ‘high-so’ people in attendance, they said to me. I found out later that almost all the couples that priest had married were eventually divorced.
A couple of years followed with many exciting trips and festivities with the Royal couple and life was in a way a dance on roses, but it also had a lot of thorns. We lived in Lugano for almost a year, but it was a city for elderly people, not much to do, so later on we moved to Zurich, which I loved from the beginning. The city has flair, polite people, and beautiful shops and, as everybody knows, excellent food.
Back in Zurich after our honeymoon, I was asked by the fashion store where I had bought my wedding dress if I’d like to start modeling for them. It was a great idea, as I didn’t have to speak a lot of German. I could talk to them in English, but they mostly answered in Swiss German or sometimes in High German, so after a while, I learned to speak acceptable German. I never bothered to learn to speak Swiss German, but I understand it well. In my opinion, it’s not a very nice language, not at all feminine. Today I’m fluent in German after more than 35 years in Zurich.
Zurich was a big fashion center at that time, with a lot of haute couture ateliers and eventually I worked for all of them. It was a time when models were treated as divas. On a day with four or five shows, normally held in an exclusive hotel, you’d start early morning at the hairdresser, followed by the make- up. You were served breakfast, lunch and dinners with mostly Champagne and wine between the shows. You also earned very well. So it was a great time which I’m very thankful for.
When I married in 1977, it was uncomplicated to become Swiss. I received my Swiss passport three weeks after we returned from the honeymoon which made it easy for me to work. That has changed today.
I was very happy in Zurich. I travelled quite a lot, worked in Germany, Italy, France, and Lichtenstein. Those were the days. Well, is there anything that stays perfect forever?
Divorce and a new husband: My husband and I got divorced after seven years, due to his drinking problem. It is harder than one thinks, to live next to someone who is addicted to alcohol. I was happy we did not have any children. I decided to stay in Zurich after our divorce; I was happy there and had a huge circle of friends and plenty of work.
After a year as a single, I met my second husband. He was also living and working in Switzerland. He is half Swedish and half Hungarian. When we met, he was working for the UNHCR in Geneva. We married in Zurich 1984 and the four first years as husband and wife, we lived apart, he in Geneva and I in Zurich.
It was okay to begin with, but after the four years of travelling between the two cities (mostly he had to come to Zurich, as I didn’t like Geneva that much) he applied for a job in a bank and moved to Zurich. Here we had a great life. We wanted kids, but even with lots of trying it didn’t work out.
On that trip we found a shop at the Oriental Mandarin, Khanitha. In the show windows were the most beautiful dresses. My husband wanted me to go in and try. I was hesitating as I was sure they wouldn’t have my size, but as I didn’t want to disappoint my husband, I went in and was very surprised when the dresses fitted me. They were in European sizes. It took about three minutes for my husband to get on the phone with the owner, Mrs. Khanitha herself. Next day we were at her beautiful export office on Suriwong Road and after about two hours, I had become her new agent for Switzerland.
I’d had experience importing garments from Sweden to Switzerland and those collections never arrived on time. Khanitha kept to her promise, however, and over the next ten years I imported and sold her collections in Switzerland. It always worked out perfectly without any delays or complaints.
I had to stop when Khanitha handed over the business to her ex-husband unfortunately. He didn’t have the same feeling for fashion as his ex-wife. Khanitha meanwhile launched restaurants instead and today we all know how successful she has been with all her various ventures.
During those years, my husband and I travelled at least four times a year to Bangkok and we always felt like this was our second home. We decided to try to adopt a baby from here and with the good contacts we had with the Red Cross Children’s Home, after two years, had a beautiful baby daughter to take back to Switzerland. It was, for sure, not an easy procedure to adopt, but we didn’t give up.
The Swiss authorities didn’t really know how to handle our adoption case. We were both foreigners (even though I was a Swiss citizen) living in Switzerland and adopting from a third country. It was a bit too complicated for them. During the two first years, we had a social worker coming to visit to ensure that we didn’t mistreat our daughter.
When our daughter reached school age, we decided to place her in the public school located close to our home. Unfortunately some Swiss people are kind of racist, after a while we discovered that she was being bullied by her class mates. The teacher knew, but didn’t act. The bullying also happened to another foreign child soon after, and the teacher was asked to leave school. It was a small victory, but our daughter had suffered.
We put our daughter in the International school, where she was among many different nationalities and became a good student.
After more than 40 years in Switzerland, my husband wanted a change. Life wasn’t that easy anymore businesswise in Switzerland, so we decided to move to Bangkok. In fact we had planned to retire here.
We left our house in Zurich, sold the house in Sweden and arrived here in 2007.
Our daughter wasn’t happy at all and she didn’t really like it in Thailand. As she looks very Thai, of course, taxi drivers always talked to her in Thai. She’d reply somewhat angrily: “I’m not Thai and I can’t speak or understand Thai, I’m from Colombia”.
As with many Thai children, she wanted to study in England and we found a very nice boarding school for her near Exeter. She stayed and graduated there and loved it. Today she’s almost 25, living and studying in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I will allow myself to say she’s brilliant, very intelligent with many talents, as she’s not our biological daughter, so she might not have inherited it from us, ha, ha…. In fact, she is more European than both my husband and I.
Living in Bangkok
We first settled in a townhouse in Thong Lor. It was a nice area and a beautiful house, but both pool and gym were missing. As a foreigner I think a pool is a must.
Later we moved to Sukhumvit, near Asoke. I’m still living there together with my daughter’s two dogs Whiskey & Bailey and a maid. Both husband and daughter have moved away. My husband is working mostly in Cambodia and frequently travels. I am happy here, teaching complimentary Swedish in several International schools, to the Thai staff at the Swedish embassy and to some private persons. I’m not an educated teacher, but I would say, I’m pretty good at the Swedish language.
I am addicted to the gym and I’m lucky to have a dear friend and neighbor as my PT. She can get me to do almost everything in the gym. The sessions with her are going much too fast and I love it. I also enjoy a daily swim. When I miss out on exercise I don’t feel well anymore.
Happy days in Bangkok
I am lucky to have a huge international circle of friends here. As a Caucasian woman it is not always easy in Thailand, but until today I have been very spoiled with much work, lots of lovely friends, invitations and so on. You never get bored, but of course, I also have my so called “Hate Thailand Days” appear like the period. Sometimes when people don’t understand you and things don’t work out the way you expect, you do get frustrated.
I studied Thai for 179 hours and my teacher understood me, but when I ventured out on the street, nobody seemed to understand what I wanted to say. So I have given up; but I stick with my Tuk-Tuk Thai now.
Those things I miss
What I’m not so fond of here is that most people never arrive on time and always blame the traffic. I’m typical Swedish when it comes to respecting being on time. I mostly use BTS, MRT and motorbikes. I miss driving. When I get back to Europe, the first thing I do is to rent a car and drive. Driving is to me equal to freedom. I love nice cars and in Switzerland I had a Mustang convertible in racing green with white leather seats. I was driving around with my huge, beautiful old Sheepdog next to me, that was a sight…..
I also miss the four seasons. I’m more a winter child than a summer lover. In Switzerland I used to ski. I was never very good at it and had little chance to practice during my years as an haute couture model. We were forbidden to ski. The dresses were all customized for us models and it was impossible to exchange a model shortly before a show if you had an accident and had to cancel.
In my younger age, I did lots of horseback riding, which I miss today. I have rented horses in Hua Hin for a ride on the beach, but that is not the same thing. I taught my daughter how to ride and ski when she was only three years old. We both enjoyed it a lot. In Switzerland I also used to teach disabled kids riding.
I love reading, I play the piano, mostly when I’m alone, and I enjoy cooking for my friends.
I find it difficult to buy clothes in Thailand. Mostly I get to hear, “Sorry mom, don’t have elephant size”, not very motivating. I have had quite a few pieces tailor-made and I used to buy garments while in Europe. To find shoes in my size is another problem here, my feet are too big.
I don’t go very often for SPA treatments, but of course I enjoy a good treatment on and off. I visit the Chiva Som Academy on Ekamai soi 63 sometimes. It’s affordable, even inexpensive.
I am a member in SWEA, Swedish Women Educational Association, with about 7,000 members all over the world. I founded the organization in Switzerland in 1989. Here in the Bangkok chapter I’m involved in raising donations. It’s a great chapter with almost 70 members. I’m also part of SWEA International’s board and I’m a board member of the Swedish School Organization.
The most interesting person I’ve met
I have met many. For example, Paul Allan, one of the two Microsoft inventors and how me, my husband and daughter together with some friends, were invited on board his huge yacht on the Cote d’Azur in France for a trip. That was the biggest and most beautiful yacht I’ve been on. He also took us on a helicopter ride, taking off and landing from the yacht. Another favorite of mine is our Swedish King Carl Gustav. He has such a great sense of humor and he’s fun to be around. He is down to earth, an excellent skier, a good cook, well you name it. I admire him a lot. He also has a very lovely family and he’s a most faithful friend.
I also admire Queen Elizabeth of England. I met her and part of her family in London at an invitation for the World Scout Organization at the National Gallery..
I also had the pleasure to listen to and dine with the three big tenors: Placido Domingo, Jose Carrera and Pavarotti in Vienna.
Can’t leave Thailand
Right now I have no plans to leave Bangkok, even if all new rules and laws make it more complicated for us foreigners. I am happy to leave to other countries on and off, but with two dogs it’s difficult to go away. I have my old parents in Sweden and I try to visit and help them as much as possible. They don’t want to come here anymore, the trip is too long, so I have to go back to see them. My brother is living in Denmark, married to a Danish woman, so I also try to visit him at least twice a year.
In the future, I would love to have a small place in Europe. It could be Sweden or Switzerland. I love cities like New York, London, Vienna and Budapest, not to forget Zurich.
I’m happy almost everywhere, as long as I have something to do and good friends around me. I miss sharing daily life with a family, husband and daughter, but it seems, you can’t have it all, sad but true.
I’m a born optimist, so I still believe in love.
My thoughts on Thai women I would probably be lying if I say I love them. Of course I like many Thai women and I have some close friends among them, but not many. I find it hard and pathetic to see older foreign men with young Thai girls/women. The differences are so big and sex can’t be everything, or….? In the long run I don’t believe in those relations, but there are always exceptions.
Many Thai women, with an international background and English knowledge, are just great and many are, as a plus, really beautiful. I don’t think we western women are as exotic, as the dark haired Asian ladies with their tiny waists…….
Today I’m taking every day as it comes and as long as I have the privilege to be healthy, I’m happy!