One of the world’s most important networking groups for women. SWEA was founded in 1979, by a Swedish woman, Agneta Nilsson, in Los Angeles USA. It’s a non for profit organisation and the largest Swedish community group outside Sweden, promoting the Swedish language, culture, tradition and business. It is a global network for Swedish women living abroad or women returning back to Sweden having lived abroad.
SWEA is represented on five continents with more than 7,500 members and over 600 of them are now living in Asia. SWEA’s purpose is to spread knowledge about Sweden, our traditions and culture and to promote Swedish businesses. SWEA organises monthly activities for members and guests. It has a close cooperation with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, the Swedish church, the Swedish Schools organisation and Swedish companies.
The Bangkok chapter has 72 members and recently SWEA Bangkok started a sub division SWEA Professional, a group working to support Swedish businesswomen in Thailand. SWEA Bangkok was founded in year 2000, but was formed in 1998 as a sub division to Singapore. In 2015 SWEA
Bangkok celebrated its 15 years anniversary with a fantastic gala evening at one of Bangkok’s most prestigious private clubs, the Pacific City Club on Sukhumvit Rd. This year, 25th-28th October 2018, SWEA Bangkok had the pleasure to host the SWEA Asia regional meeting. It’s only after attending a regional/world meeting that you come to understand the impact SWEA has as a group.
Planning and running a meeting means a lot of work. SWEA Bangkok’s board appointed a committee that concentrated on the regional meeting. We started months in advance with the structure, selecting a suitable hotel, arranging an itinerary, lunches, dinners, lectures and excursions. All except the board of Asia’s and Australia’s Presidents took part.
We were 12 women, more or less involved, we met at our homes, mostly during the evenings, discussing, planning, but also socialising, eating and having fun. That is what SWEA is all about – enjoying each others company. Over the weeks and these meetings we came to know each well and identified strengths and who was the right person to handle the different tasks. Everybody had something to contribute with and the work went smoothly.
One of the committee member’s husband is a hotel manager, she booked and took care of everything that had to do with the hotel. Some took care of finding suitable transport and booked excursions; others took care of sponsorship and suppliers. There is usually a trip outside of the capital somewhere after the three days of meetings.
We picked Kanchanaburi made famous for the film ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ for this trip. There are many people and companies involved in such a big event. We were lucky to find some generous sponsors e.g. Pecunia in Bangkok which donated money, Villa Market – Thailand’s most popular supermarket for expats, as they have almost everything you might be longing for and this time we were longing for Prosecco to celebrate our friendship and they provided it.
Prosecco is always a beloved welcome cocktail. The beautiful 137 Pillars Suites & Residences provided us with one night’s stay for a loving couple in one of its most beautiful suites. The cosmetic company Oriflame gave us body lotion for all attendees, ByNika – beautiful kaftans, Sala Essentials – stainless steel butter knives, Tom K – lovely earrings and we received vouchers from The Rembrandt Hotel, the restaurant About Eatery, Rossanos and the Westin Hotel.
River City provided us with practical bags to carry the raffle prizes in and a Swedish woman, living in Denmark had the pleasure to get a beautiful painted plate donated by the talented Danish/ Armenian artist Elizabeth Romhild. Last but not least, we have to thank Novotel Hotel Bangkok in Ploenchit for taking such good care of all our guests and supporting us with pretty much everything we asked for.
So how did the regional meeting go? On Thursday most of the delegates arrived in Bangkok. The Bangkok SWEOR greeted them at the hotel, did the registration and each received a goodie bag including the programme and other suitable things like a practical rain cape, Bangkok map, notebook and pen. In the evening busses took fifty of us to the Swedish Ambassador Staffan Herrström and his spouse Karin’s residence.
Karin of course, belongs to SWEA. At the residence we were warmly greeted with a glass of well chilled Prosecco whilst listening to the Ambassador’s speech. The tables were beautifully decorated and we sat down and enjoyed a delicious menu created by Swedish Chef Andreas Andersson in company with Mia Palmqvist from Mamma’s Kök (Mother’s Kitchen). The food was gorgeous – Västerbotten cheese crème brulle with asparagus, poached halibut, potato puree, anchovies, white wine sauce, and the dot above the i, chocolate mousse with Tonka beans? Such a wonderful evening.
The music was loud, the dancing was energetic, Swedish women know how to have fun and there was not a moment silence. Time passed far too fast and we had to leave and go back to the hotel, a memorable evening and a big thank you to Staffan and Karin. On Friday, our guests had several choices; to explore Bangkok on a bike, Biking with Arne starting at 7am or go for a guided tour with Bangkok SWEOR as guides. There were other suggestions too; there is no lack of entertainment in Bangkok.
In the evening we met at Baan Khanitha, the social bar. Here we gathered together in the Crystal Room; build upon a swimming pool that once belonged to a private villa. Here we had a real taste of Thailand and its flavours. After another welcome Prosecco, we sat down and listened to Khun Ramrada Ninnad who gave us a lecture about the Mae Fah Luang Foundation (MFLF) under royal patronage. This foundation has worked over thirty years to improve the lives for the underprivileged.
The foundation provides education, infrastructure and legal and sustainable ways to earn your subsistence in a balance between human and nature. The foundation has looked after the inheritance after H.R.H the late King Bhumibol Adulyadejs’ mother Princess Srinagarinda, also known as Somdej ya, the royal grandmother. An insightful, educational evening combined with delicious Thai food.On Saturday morning SWEA Asia’s AGM started at 8am in one of the meeting rooms at the hotel.
This was the opportunity for all chapters’ presidents to meet and discuss common topics. After a rich and excellent buffet lunch in the hotel, it was time for the Swedish actor Kjell Bergqvist to take the stage. Kjell is a well-known actor in Sweden. He divides his life between Sweden and Thailand and here he has found a way to help kids in the countryside by teaching them how to swim amongst other things. It’s scary to know that seven children die every day because they do not know how to swim.
The Family Bergqvist’s Foundation is helping and supporting people in need. If you want to know more, please go to: https://www.facebook.com/Familjen-BergqvistInsamlingsstiftelse. SWEA Bangkok donated a couple of IKEA bags filled with blue and yellow towels with SWEA’s logo on for the kids, which was much appreciated. On Saturday evening, the last night in Bangkok. We organised a gala evening at the Pacific City Club, within walking distance from the Novotel Hotel Bangkok in Ploenchit.
This is a very elegant private club on the top floors of Two Pacific Place close to the Swedish Embassy. We met on the 28th floor and again, Prosecco was served. A violinist and cello played during the mingling elegantly dressed, beautiful Swedish women. Our main sponsor Niklas Bloqvist addressed us with a few words about Pecunia and its operations and then it was time for the photos. SWEA’s own photographer Tomas Engström and his wife Lena Alderö, captured us all before we took the stairs up to the 29th floor and its beautiful dining room surrounded by windows. Here you have a magnificent view over Bangkok’s skyline.
We sat down at six lovely decorated tables and our President Anna Frummerin once again took the microphone to welcome the guests. Everyone had to contact our toastmaster if they wanted to say a few words and the first announcement Martina Gehrman MC did, was to introduce the Kuala Lumpur girls. Now we got to see what good Bollywood dancers they are. In colourful saris they started a dance especially for us to huge applause!
A three course dinner was served with fine wines, the atmosphere was electric and after the main course, we had the pleasure to introduce the Swedish couture designer Göran Alfredsson (to all Swedes well-known as he dresses the Swedish Royal Family and a large group of the HiSo in Sweden). The models were a mixture of our SWEOR, an Italian girlfriend and a professional Thai model and last, but not least, the two Divine women Caroline Gentele and Gabriella Lambert-Olsson. What a surprise this was.
Divine has performed at the Nobel Banquette in the town hall in Stockholm and they have travelled with the Swedish King and Queen on their state visits to perform. This time they came from a charity event in Delhi. Their performance of known operas and Sara Brighton’s “Time to say goodbye” left us speechless and gave us gooseflesh. This was a magic evening that will stay in our memory for a long time. I should maybe also mention that we women love to dance and we had almost two hours to shake to the DJ’s Spotify list, before we had to leave and say goodnight.
This is an example of how a three day regional SWEA meeting runs, but every chapter has its own character to it. Many of the visiting SWEOR left Sunday morning to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai and from all of the published photos on Facebook, we understood that they had great fun. It’s not until you have been party to such a successful SWEA event, that you will know what SWEA is and means to all of us. Wherever you go today, you will find a SWEA friend. We are located almost all over the world, ready to reach out a hand and help. I don’t think Agneta Nilsson, almost forty years ago, had any idea how big her organisation was going to be, but now she knows and can be very proud of her network/life’s work. See you all in Stockholm next year for the fortieth anniversary!