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ROBIN COLGAN | Jaguar Land Rover

JEFF MANNERING | Audi Singapore.

Brake for Christmas

What do expatriate car bosses living in Singapore do around this time of year? Samuel Ee speaks to four of them to find out where they are headed this festive season.
Dec 24, 2016 5:50 AM

Perth Getaway

CHRISTER EKBERG | Eurokars Group

Christer Ekberg is Swedish, but his year-end holidays are usually spent in either one of the following countries - Sweden, Singapore or Malaysia.

That's because the chief operating officer of the Eurokars Group is married to a Singaporean who happens to have relatives in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, too.

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But this year will be a bit different for the Ekberg family, who are heading to Perth, Australia.

"We have two young children and Perth is great for them,'' explains Mr Ekberg, who is headed to the western Australian city for the second time. "The last time we were there, the whole family enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back.''

But the family will also spend part of the holidays in Singapore, with a "house full of family and relatives from Malaysia''. Singapore holds a special place in Mr Ekberg's heart. Before joining Eurokars early this year, he had been with Porsche, most recently as the German sports car maker's managing director for the Middle East, India and Africa, based in Dubai.

But for 13 years prior to that, he was in Singapore as managing director for Porsche Asia-Pacific. The year-end holidays are equally special because "in some cases, it's the only time we can all get together''.

Not surprisingly at such gatherings, the food will be a mix of both Swedish Christmas specialties and local Singaporean and Malaysian fare.

White Christmas


Axel Pannes, managing director of BMW Group Asia, always spends his year-end holidays at home with his entire family. Home just happens to be Munich and he has yet to miss celebrating a single Christmas there.

This year, the towering German will be with his wife, three-year-old son, his parents, his in-laws, and his brother and family. Attending Christmas Mass is a tradition for the whole family, say Mr Pannes, who moved to Singapore two years ago.

"In addition to that, we'll spend most of our time eating, catching up and going for walks.'' There are beautiful parks in Munich and Mr Pannes and his family can usually be found in one of them.

"But if the weather is nice like it was a couple of years ago, we go to the Alps. Back in 2012, it was 20 degrees Celsius. As you can see, the weather varies a lot.''

By road, Europe's highest mountain range is only about 300 km from Munich, or what Mr Pannes would probably consider a short drive.

This time of year is always very special for him, and it is especially family-focused.

"It's even more important for my parents as my son is the only grandchild. Unlike in other countries, where children open gifts on Christmas morning, it's a tradition in Germany for kids to open gifts on the 24th, in the evening after church. This is something we always look forward to.'

Sunny Christmas

ROBIN COLGAN | Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific Importers

This will be the first Christmas in the tropics for the Colgan family. Robin Colgan, managing director of Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific Importers, relocated to Singapore from the UK barely three months ago, while his wife and two young children arrived here only this month.

Until this Christmas, holidays were almost always in south-west France with family, friends and the dog. "We always head back to the same spot which we love and our holidays are about fabulous food and wine and adventures with the kids, whether that means long hikes into the forests or wild swimming in the rivers that flow through the region,'' says Mr Colgan.

Before this, the JLR veteran was the sales operations director for the overseas region, which includes Asia Pacific, the Middle East, South Africa and Russia.

Although Singapore is not Mr Colgan's first overseas posting, it will be the first time he is based in Asia.

So this year, the family will be "looking forward to a hot, sunny break for Christmas instead of huddling round a fire and trying to stay warm,'' he says.

"The challenge with Singapore is that we have a near endless choice of amazing travel options right on our doorstep, including Singapore itself. We want adventure, jungle and great beaches, something totally different from what we have always been doing.''

He is "very tempted'' by Malaysia because he can load up a Land Rover and head off on "another great family road trip''.

He adds, "It will be very special as it will be our first family holiday since arriving in Asia. We are very much looking forward to it!''

Beach Holiday

JEFF MANNERING | Audi Singapore

Jeff Mannering moved to the republic four years ago when he became managing director of Audi Singapore. But he never fails to make it back home to Australia for the Christmas holidays to be with his in-laws, his parents, his brother, sister and their families.

"We are always in Australia and depending which side of the families' turn it is for Christmas day, the location is determined,'' says the big and friendly Aussie. "My parents are in Sydney, and if it's my wife Sue's family's turn, it is either in Kingscliff in Northern New South Wales or in Nelson Bay which is about two hours' drive north of Sydney. Both are right on the beach.''

This year, Mr Mannering will be in Nelson Bay.

"Fifty people and plenty of fun to be had by all. Prior to Christmas, we will spend a few days in Sydney with our adult children. We'll also catch up with friends and generally relax before the huge Christmas Day celebration with Sue's sisters, their husbands, cousins and all the kids.''

During the festive season, the avid golfer and fitness enthusiast doesn't usually have time for a game or a workout. "Besides eating and drinking, it is a tradition that all family members have to perform a Christmas Day act,'' he reveals.

The performance is bound to be "very competitive and hilarious'' as there is also a "dress code''.

"We have previously had active wear one year where the theme was primary colours only. This year is to have a matching top and bottom, with the same design. So if the shirt has squares, then the same for the shorts or the dress. The hard and fast rule this year is for everybody to have a two-piece outfit. Shoes are optional.''

Whatever they're doing though, it is always a special time.

"Christmas is about giving and sharing time with family. It's a great time where we are all together and have a lot of fun. What could be better than a beach Christmas holiday!''