Little Stockholm rising in Hua Hin
Sunshine attracts retiring Swedes as seaside town makes moves to accommodate new arrivals
The grass is greener on the other side. While some Thais struggle to emigrate overseas for better opportunities, Thailand is a destination for a large number of foreigners retiring to a peaceful life here.
The Scandinavian community in Hua Hin testifies to that.
"Every morning I can have breakfast on the terrace," Gert Andersson says. "Here in Hua Hin, I can enjoy summer mornings all year round. There are a few summer mornings a year in Sweden."
Andersson is among some 5,000 Swedes who enjoy a long stay in Hua Hin, a resort town in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The pensioner has spent a lot of time here since 2005.
"The climate is excellent. There are three hospitals, two shopping centres and international restaurants. It is my paradise."
Andersson began visiting Hua Hin in 1992 when it was a small village. Ten years later, he came back and was impressed by the town's rapid growth, particularly the rising number of golf courses. Today, he spends six months a year in the resort town, particularly during Sweden's often brutal winter.
Hua Hin is home to about 5,000 of the 15,000 Swedish people living permanently in Thailand, according to Victor Sukseree, honorary consul for the consulate of Sweden in Hua Hin. In 2012, the consulate was opened in the Dusit Thani Hotel Hua Hin to serve Swedish communities in Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi provinces.
He notes that the number of Swedish people in Thailand is rising every year, with sizeable Swedish communities in Phuket, Pattaya, Rayong and in the Northeast.
The main reason Swedish pensioners select Thailand as their second home is the warm weather. The expansion of Hua Hin into a small city with the charm of a small town means it has numerous facilities for foreigners, while the cost of living is close to Sweden.
"Swedish-style food is available at the same price as in Sweden. Wine, luxury meals in high-quality restaurants and golf course fees are in the same price. The same with utility fees. But the cheese is very expensive!" Henrich Nybom says. "Thai produce is cheap and very affordable. Street food is much cheaper."
After retirement, Nybom rented a house and he has been staying in Thailand six months per year since 2006. He finds living in Thailand has the same cost as Sweden.
Without a car or motorcycle, he gets around on a bicycle, making use of the bicycle lanes the local government implemented during his 10 years here. "I love Hua Hin. The motorists are friendly to bikers, but I do not understand anyway why motorcyclists in Thailand use bicycle lanes."
Visitors shouldn't be surprised to find many villages nestled in quiet corners of Hua Hin. These villages turn vibrant during winter time when Europe enters its cold season, while Hua Hin has sunny days following the end of monsoon season.
"Sometime, I swim alone in the village’s pool. It is pretty quiet during summer time when most residents go back home," Lasse Hakasson says.
Hakasson is a new resident of Hua Hin. He worked in Bangkok from 2006 to 2009, falling love with Hua Hin after a weekend trip. After he retired in 2014, he and his wife decided to rent a house in Hua Hin.
Today, his village is comprised of 60 houses. Most of the residents are Swedish, plus some people from the US, Britain and Australia.
"Though we rent a house and stay half a year in Hua Hin, it is still worth it."