by Dr. Iain Corness
was sitting at the bar of the Jomtien Boathouse watching care-free
holidaymakers, and idly trying to imagine why anyone would want to live
in freezing Denmark. The young man who could answer this is the subject
of this week’s column and currently working as the restaurant manager at
Allan Ottesen is the eldest son of a previous ‘local personality’
profile, Ib Ottesen, and has certainly inherited some of his father’s
characteristics. However, his growing up has been done in an environment
that could bring less resolute people undone.
He is a ‘Luk Kreung’, the progeny from his Thai mother and Danish father
(Ib). And whilst being a ‘Luk Kreung’ is highly thought of by many
sectors of Thai society, it brings its own particular problems. “Thai
people think I am 100 percent ‘farang’, but Danish people think I am 100
percent Thai!” As these children grow up into teenagers there can be
difficulties with self image, difficulties that 100 percent ethnically
‘pure’ teenagers do not have. They always know who, or what, they are.
Allan has also another unsettling factor in his life. He is the product
of a broken home. His parents split when he was about two years old and
he lived with his father, but had good contact with his mother. But by
the time he was eight years old his mother had moved to Denmark. Allan
was caught in a lifestyle that was not good for him. Like many Thai
children in Bangkok, he traveled for four hours each day just to get to
and from school. His father was working, so when Allan got home, his
father was still at work. When he got up, his father was sleeping. He
missed his mother and it was decided that he should go to Denmark for a
while. Much of this decision making was done without Allan’s
appreciation of it. In fact, he was told that he was flying to Phuket
when they boarded the plane. “After 10 hours on the plane, I knew it
So this eight year old ‘Thai’, Allan Ottesen, arrived in Denmark for the
next chapter in his life. He could speak his native Thai, and had
learned English at school, but could not speak Danish. “I didn’t speak
one word, but playing football after school with my class mates helped.
I picked up the language very quickly. I was very lucky.”
He then had to settle into life in this strange country where his mother
and stepfather lived. He found it difficult initially to relate to his
stepfather, but described him as “a very nice man”. He also had a
stepmother in Thailand (Kannikar Ottesen) but found he couldn’t call her
“mother” as he already had a real mother. He decided to call Kannikar
“grandmother”, a term he still uses today, even though Kannikar is not a
grandmother. He had to study a new language. In addition he was expected
to study English, but found that he was in front there, even though
disastrously behind in Danish! A case of what you lose on the swings,
you can sometimes pick up on the roundabouts!
By the time he was 15 years old he knew his future direction. He wanted
to go to Business College, which was a three year course. “I had always
wanted to go to Business College. It’s the way to go. I also knew that
my Dad was a businessman, and I wanted to be like him.” Ib had kept in
close contact with his son, visiting twice a year and would give Allan a
list of projects and places he was to accomplish before the next visit.
“He used to say, ‘You have to take pictures so that I know you’ve been
there’ and I used to do that at weekends,” said Allan.
He enjoyed the Business College course which also included six months in
Sydney, Australia, during the Olympics held there. “Thirty 18 year olds
living away from home for six months,” said Allan, his face wreathing
into smiles at the memory of it. I did not enquire further!
On his completion of the Business course, he drew an ‘unlucky’ number in
the ballot for Danish National Service. “I spent a year digging holes
every day,” was his take on that period of his life. Trading in his
boots and shovel he then went to Copenhagen to begin study of Marketing
Economy for the next two years, a course which he is still doing.
In 2005 he came to live in Pattaya, and to work for his father as
restaurant manager. “Dad is trying to integrate me into the business. I
think he’s been successful,” said Allan. However, the way I see it, is
that Allan has been very successful integrating himself into his
father’s business! He has a natural easy way of dealing with customers,
even difficult ones who arrive late for their reservations and still
expect to find a table. “Dad says you have to be very flexible.”
He relates well to his younger siblings in Pattaya, “But I’m old, so I’m
not ‘cool’ any more!” Oh dear, the perils of being 23 and the eldest in
the family! However, he still thinks of himself as “vacationing all the
time. I can’t imagine myself with a wife and kids.”
Allan Ottesen is a charming young man, who is quite at ease with
himself, despite his growing up with two parents, two step-parents and
in two cultures. He has turned out to be a good linguist and feels that
his future should be somewhere in Asia, with his fluent Thai language
skills (even though he can only write his own name!) and his English and
Danish. He is a natural in the hospitality business, and I predict he
will have a great future in that area. While the Ottesen empire
continues to grow, under Ib and “grandmother” Kannikar, the forthcoming
Allan Ottesen will not let them down, I am sure.
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