As Catharina Jevrell, wife of the Swedish Ambassador to Singapore, prepares to move onto their next assignment, she looks back at the lessons she’s learned while living here the past five years.
It’s really unfair to refer to Catharina Jevrell as “wife of the Ambassador” because she is such a strong and amazing person in her own right. But like many trailing spouses, Catharina had to find a new identity when she moved to Singapore.
“My husband called me up – just hours before the application for ambassador was due – and asked me if he should apply. I said, ‘Absolutely!’ My father was a diplomat, too, so I knew what the life would be, but it’s very different being the wife of a diplomat versus the daughter.”
A big part of that difference is leaving behind a massive career: the head of public relations for Skanska, a Swedish construction company with 55,000 employees. The fifth largest construction company in the world, Skanska’s projects include restoration of the World Trade Center, London skyscraper 30 St Mary Axe, MetLife Stadium in New York and many more.
Catharina always worked, starting her first business when she was just 17 years old. Before Skanska, she had her own PR firm with clients such as Proctor & Gamble. “I actually learned so much about myself when I moved here and my children were a big help. I quickly realised I had an opportunity to spend more time with my teenagers. I always made sure to be home when they came home from school and to have dinner with them almost every day. People always say it’s important to be with your children when they’re little, but I think it’s even more important when they are teenagers. So, I’m thankful for this time.”
Spending time together often meant having two dinners, one with her children and a second at the side of her husband at official diplomatic functions – and there are lots of those. They host two to three events at the residence every week and are invited to several outside events each evening.
But Catharina needed more than being a wife and mother. She did some pro-bono PR work while she was here for places such as Hyper Island. She also created a PR team to work with her husband on promoting the Swedish-SEA Summit in 2016.
“It was super fun because we got some of the major newspapers and Swedish radio to come to Singapore and the SEA media also covered the summit. Overall, we had really strong reach which was exciting for us all.”
She and a Swedish friend then came up with an idea for a pro-bono business called Ennoble.me, a company that teaches etiquette to teenagers, diplomats and those in the business world. It fits in perfectly with her own personal motto: “If you think education is expensive, think of the cost of ignorance. If you think diplomacy is expensive, think of the cost of war.”
They originally started Ennoble.me to occupy themselves, but have found it very rewarding helping people learn how to make a good presentation. They offer one-on-one coaching or small classes and cover everything from how to prepare for your first job interview to how to deal with different corporate cultures to how to navigate a diplomatic dinner.
The good news is she won’t have to reinvent herself again as it’s a business she can take anywhere. But she also knows that anywhere she moves won’t be the same. “Singapore is a country where everyone is a diplomat because it’s such huge hub for expats, so you’re never alone and you always help each other. Coming here was easy. Leaving is hard.”
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