30° in February is the title of a 2 seasons (20 episodes) series on Netflix. The series begins in the month of February with the temps creating weather that at best could be called cold and blustery, and with snow every where in sight. We could be anywhere in the northeast of the USA or any of the plains, or central, or mountain states. In those locales, 30 degrees, and lower, in February is the norm.
But we are not in those locations. Rather, we are in Sweden, and in Sweden, the temperatures are measured in Celsius degrees, rather than the Fahrenheit scale used in this country.
So in Sweden, 30 degrees in February is a dream, a fantasy, and not a normal occurrence. Using 30 degrees Celsius as the measuring stick, that temperature in Fahrenheit is 86.
And so, more than 600,000 Swedes vacation in Thailand every year. Now I’ve been to Sweden, not in February, but in middle late March. I missed most of the snow, but I saw some on the ground. I’ve also been to Phuket, Thailand, a number of times. So I was rather eager to watch this series.
In case you are thinking that this series might be something like the films The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1 & 2), where a group of British retirees all go the same hotel – only with Phuket subbing for Jaipur in Rajasthan, India, along with Swedes replacing the Brits – then you’d be just partially correct, and that would be in the broad strokes rather than the details.
Here, our Swedes are both separate and unrelated. They did not meet at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, nor did they travel as a group. They did not arrive together, or meet on a tour, or even stay in the same location once they reached Phuket.
They’d traveled to Thailand to find themselves and to find happiness. They leave everything behind and their search for a new life, and a new page in their book of dreams begins. And in this particular series, the location maybe the idyllic Phuket, but finding happiness anywhere does not happen by accident. If it happens at all. There are no guarantees.
I am through all ten episodes of the first season, and I think I’ve seen enough to be able to offer you a fine introduction to the series. Let’s meet the characters. First up is Glenn. He’s a geothermal heating installer, and he’s single. And lonely.
It is no surprise to find him at a speed-dating get-together, nor should we be surprised to know that he’s carrying on an internet chat with a woman from Thailand. We know that Glenn has posted an image of another man, a much better looking man than himself. But the woman in Thailand does not know this.
Glenn is played by Kjell Wilhelmsen. He’s far more towards slovenly than neat. He’s portly, and with nearly every encounter he has with a woman, he speaks too much. His loneliness and needy personality ooze from every one of his pores, which means he’s lacking in what is called impulse control.
He’s not a particularly likeable character, but you do root for him.
Next is the teen-ager Joy, played by Hannah Ardéhn. She’s the daughter of Kajsa (played by Maria Lundqvist, and there’s a small seven year old sister called Wilda (played by Viola Weidemann) that rounds out this family.
They are a middle class family, and there’s no husband in sight. Early on in Episode One, While still in Sweden, as Kajsa is driving her kids to school, a day like so many others, only on this day she’s going to have stroke.
It’s mild enough to have not killed her, but she will experience the loss of the utility of her right arm, and some speech issues by the time she’s released from the hospital. A decision is made. They will emigrate to Thailand, specifically Phuket, a place they’d vacationed at a few years back.
While you can’t tell what Kajsa’s young girls are saying as they drive to the airport in Sweden in this picture, I can tell you. They’re yelling out the word T-H-A-I-L-A-N-D. They are heading for a small out-of-the-way bungalow colony that they’d stayed at before. For reasons not made clear to us (maybe the tsunami, maybe an absentee owner, the place has fallen into disrepair. Once it was a thriving and popular cottages for hire entity, now it is a shambles, it is closed and it is also up for sale.
Not a problem. Kajsa decides to buy the place outright as both a home for themselves and a fixer-upper for the guest cottages. We will come to find out that she and her family had stayed in this very place before.
Our third family is an older couple: Bendt and Majlis. He’s as ornery as they come, and beyond that he’s wheelchair bound. He needs a full-time care giver and that turns out to be the wife Majlis who is not unexpectedly bitter. They’ve booked a hotel and they’ve paid for full board as well the room.
When Majlis thinks they might enjoy a meal outside of the hotel, Bengt abuses her. He also wants to leave on an earlier flight as such things like the beach, the sea, and so forth hold no interest for him as he is unable to take advantage of any of it. In short, he’s a domineering and an abusive man – at least to the point that all of it is either verbal or mental abuse.
Among the other characters that will come into play, let’s begin with are women that take up with Glenn. Karn was the girl involved with Glenn in the internet chat and he’s able to set up a meeting with her. She’s a bar girl working at the Full Moon bar on Bangla Road, in Patong, which is Phuket’s biggest town. To go out on a date with Glenn, he will have to pay her bar fine which is 500 baht or a bit less than 15 US dollars or 120 Swedish Krona.
Other girls are Oh (above) and Dit who come from the same family. Oh works in a Thai Massage parlor and lives with a Swedish guy, and Dit, who is divorced has a young son of her own. She works for a large hotel as a chambermaid (housekeeping).
Sara is Swedish and works as a Divemaster for a Diving Tour Company. She is going to cross paths with Majlis who is eager to find a diversion from her husband.
Chan is a Thai man who had left Thailand for Sweden. There he ran a Thai Food Truck. Chan may have been the owner who abandoned the bungalow colony. He’s divorced, and had a son called Pong with his Thai wife before leaving for Sweden. Now he returns to Phuket. Pong is about 15 and when we meet him, he’s a drug addict living in a crack house.
Chan is going to pull this boy out of the crack den, and send him to the Wat Patong where the hope is that the orange-robed Thai monks, who run the Wat or monastery, will straighten the boy out.
Chan also wants to take over (or return to running the bungalow colony, that is now owned by Kajsa. He’s frustrated when he discovers that she owns it, and in an act of both spite and ego, he decides to put up his own bungalow colony on the adjoining lot , right next to Kajsa’s place.
Trouble will ensue.
Okay, that’s your character introductions. The stories play out separately to a degree. The acting is superb and the actors have to use a mix of Thai, Swedish, and English. However, these are family stories which means issues are plentiful. Happiness is hard to find for these people, and in one sense, their stories are not fun.
The characters will anger you, or disappoint you for the choices they make. But these stories are involving as well as interesting. It doesn’t matter if you are not Swedish, or have never been to Phuket, Thailand.
You will be swept along and right into the stories.
What makes this series even more attractive is that you likely won’t recognize the actors, and the on location scenes are just beautiful to see. The thatched cottages, the wriggling bodies of the pole dancers on Bangla Road, the baby elephant, a tsunami, the beaches, the underwater diving scenes, and the rubber tree plantations that we will see on the way to a hidden cove.
The characters are not always loveable, and yet, despite their trials and difficulties, these people are living in Thailand which remains the Land of Smiles.
The full series (two seasons of 10 episodes each is available on Netflix now. Season One first appeared in 2012, and season two was shown in 2015, so some of the actors have a different, as in older look to them. Check out the Season 1 trailer: