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The people of Svalbard

Our guide to the tough, resolute and fascinating people who call Longyearbyen, Svalbard, home. Part of our Svalbard special.


The Thai chef

Apidej Prinkan – known around town as Ah – doesn’t seem to know how to stop smiling. He's the sous-chef at Kroa (it’s more whale and reindeer than Thai) and moved to Longyearbyen from Bangkok 14 years ago with his wife. “I like the snow here,” says Prinkan. “And there are good jobs and schools. In Bangkok, things are up and down. For me, something very special about Longyearbyen is that I get five weeks holiday every year when I can go back to Bangkok. In Thailand, I would get two weeks holiday at most.”

While it’s hard to imagine two more wildly different locations than tropical Thailand and arctic Svalbard, the 120 Thais living in Longyearbyen comprise the town’s second largest ethnic group (after Norwegians) – and most of them love living here thanks to high wages and good working conditions. What started with Thai brides coming over to marry miners has matured into a real community. They oversee a Thai supermarket and a Thai restaurant, and many of the meals at Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg are Thai.

Every year in November, Svalbard’s Thai community comes together to hold a festival showcasing Thai customs, with money raised from ticket sales going to a children’s charity. “The Thai community is made up of good people,” says Prinkan. “We are very happy!”


Meet Torgeir, the satellite guy

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