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Pros & Cons of Working in Asia
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 05:03:51 PM)

hat's not to like about the corporate expatriate life?
     Enjoy an adventure in glamorous cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. Live like a princeling on a generous salary augmented by housing, travel, relocation, hardship and home leave allowances which, collectively, may double your income. Escape the daily grind of reporting closely to the corporate watchdogs, and probably even the need to pay U.S. income taxes for the duration. When the gig's over, you come home with piping hot experience from the front lines of global business.
Expat couple
Advantages to the expat lifestyle?

     To many young Asian American professionals the life of a corporate expat in Asia sounds like a fantasy job. For some, that may well prove to be the case. But most who have experienced overseas assignments know the downside as well.
     "The assignments are too long," is the most common complaint. They typically stretch three to five years. Family, professional and social ties are sorely tested. Annual or semi-annual home leaves provide needed relief, but executives unaccompanied by the immediate family can still suffer homesickness. The enforced lifestyle changes can take their toll on one's physical and emotional well being. In cities like Shanghai, Seoul or Taipei, poor air quality can even trigger conditions like asthma or heart irregularity.
     Another common complaint is the rigors of adjusting working habits to conform to local norms. Expats also typically put in much longer hours than they would have back home and even longer than the local employees. Then expats often return home to find that their companies haven't prepared a position that makes use of their overseas experience. Consequently, an unusually large minority of repatriated execs end up leaving to start their own businesses.
     But there is no shortage of Americans eager for overseas assignments. The Census Bureau doesn't keep official stats, but according to one of its earlier estimates 250,000 U.S. citizens emigrate each year, with maybe 1.8 million Americans making their homes overseas at any given time. Half are native-born Americans. Not counting servicemen and their families, an estimated 360,000 American citizens take up residence in Asia.
     In sheer numbers, the Philippines is the leading host nation. But the vast majority of Americans there -- and in countries like Thailand and Indonesia -- are retirees or dropouts in search of a low-cost lifestyle. For U.S. business expats and their families the leading Asian host nations are Hong Kong (16,000), Japan (10,000), China (9,000), Corea (8,000) and Taiwan (6,000). About a third are employed by medium to large corporations. The rest are entrepreneurs, more likely than not Asian Americans seeking opportunities in their ancestral homelands. In fact, Asian Americans comprise upwards of 80% of American citizens residing in Asia for business or professional reasons.
     Is the expat experience really a boost for Asian American careers or is it just one more way to get sidetracked or even derailed? What are the pros and cons? Share your experiences working and living in Asia.

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I am a Filipino-American who spent three years teaching English in South Korea. My first two years were the happiest years of my professional and personal life. My last year last more of a reality check.

For me, working in South Korea was one of the best things to happen to me. However, Asian-Americans (AA)/Asian-Canadians considering working in Asia should think about the reentry shock they may experience when they return to the US or Canada. My first two years back in the US was a professional and personal hell. Some of my former AA and AC co-workers in South Korea have either stayed in the country or have immigrated to Australia.

I am still in the education field, but I now work as a reference librarian in the US. Sometimes, I miss my yuppie days in Korea, but I have to remember that the ESL field has changed dramatically since 1998.
   Tuesday, March 04, 2003 at 16:59:38 (PST)    []
"But, being an ABC who did have National Security Clearance, which person in their right mind would post their e-mail onto this board???!!! "

He posted a hotmail account, in case you didn't notice. Hardly something of note. ANYone on a computer online can get hotmail, dude.

Why should we believe your story either? It's just text on a screen - I could be Bill Gates for all you know, hyping hotmail to everyone.
   Sunday, December 29, 2002 at 14:56:47 (PST)    []
I agree with Doubting Thomas. I haven't read your previous post, Thomas. But, being an ABC who did have National Security Clearance, which person in their right mind would post their e-mail onto this board???!!! Nicholi is a liar AND an idiot! NSA (National Security Agency) my ass!!!

Nicholi, if you really do have a PhD AND if you really do work for the NSA, they should terminate your employment and launch an internal investigation as we speak. Maybe we'll see you on CNN.

Thomas, he's probably one of those idiots who wants to go to Asia because of an Asian fetish.
ABC, 1st. Lt., USMC, Ret.
   Monday, December 23, 2002 at 08:41:03 (PST)    []
True !
Nicholi has already exposed as a FRAUD in other forums. This guy has nothing better to do.
By the way genius, it's "PhD" not "PHD".
   Monday, December 23, 2002 at 08:35:46 (PST)    []
Hey Nicholi--

Didn't realize you were spouting off all your BS claims here as well.

To everyone else who is reading this board, Nicholi is a congenital liar when it comes to talking about his background. Check out my posts on the "Evaluating China's Progress" discussion where I point out several huge holes in his claims. He can't speak a word of Serbo-Croatian, for one thing. And the only NSA that he works for is the National Suckers Association.
Doubting Thomas
   Monday, December 16, 2002 at 09:04:11 (PST)    []
Expat ABC has a good point. It's important to make sure first that you really do like living in Asia by spending at least a few weeks there before being sent on a corporate assignment. Some people, even Asian Americans, hate it there. There's a whole different mentality that can get on some people's nerves. The pace of life is very different. And people who dislike change or must have a set routine will hate it as well.
But if you do decide it's your thing, the best way to get an expat gig is to learn an Asian language, then go work for a small to mid-sized company that has a lot of business dealings with the country you want to live in. That's how I got my assignment. Most companies prefer to send someone who has proven his worth at home and who has shown aptitude as a self–starter in an unstructured environment.
The other way is to just go through job listings. There are always positions for qualified applicants.
Stateside    Wednesday, December 11, 2002 at 06:41:22 (PST)    []
If people, in particular college age chinese americans, are interested in testing out Asia, I suggest they look into the student exchange programs.
A few years ago, I spent a semester away from UCLA on an exchange program at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). I enjoyed the experience so much that I am now one of these american expatriates living Hong Kong and working for HSBC. Go for it!
Expatriate ABC
   Tuesday, December 10, 2002 at 03:06:54 (PST)    []
Actually I would like to know more information on getting one of these jobs?
apophis    Monday, December 09, 2002 at 12:12:29 (PST)    []
I recently spent four years setting up a branch office in Taipei for a U.S. software company. It was exhilarating for the first week. Then I became bewildered by the number of things I didn't know. I was like a newborn baby for about six months. I had to learn how to be completely and utterly humble because I was constantly having to pick everyone's brain to get anything done. That was a shocking new experience for me because I've always been ahead of the curve in everything, which is why I got the assignment in the first place. It was both scary and exciting in a white-knuckle-terror sort of way.
After the first year, it became pretty mundane and I did suffer a lot from homesickness. I'm not married, so I didn't have a family to keep me company. The AmCham in Taipei was a big help. But I just missed the ease and convenience of being in the states. But I did get to fly home at least four times a year, usually for debriefings and other corporate stuff.
When I finally came back to the states after my assignment, I quickly became disenchanted with the rigid corporate environment because I had been the boss over there, first over a single secretary/translator, and eventually over a staff of 30. I am hoping to return to another expat assignment, but first I want to get married and start a family so I have people to share the experience with.
Stateside    Monday, December 09, 2002 at 06:23:42 (PST)    []
I live an work in different parts of Asia. The NSA of America set me up with three homes. One of my homes is an apartment in Shanghai, the other is an apartment in Tokyo and the third is an apartment in Seoul.
I am a PHD in Electromagnetic Physics & Seismology. Basically, I travel through China, Japan and Tokyo and get to see new weapons in development and new technologies. I have worked with Lockheed Martin Skunkworks a job that I left because of the long hours of experimentation.
Currently, I work in Shanghai, China as a teacher in Fudan University. On occasion I teach Physics in Tsinghua.
Lately I have been developing an electromagnetic projectile cannon to be built in America. I get payed to travel and study the local languages. To date, I speak Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Chinese and South Korean.

Quite frankly, the pay (which comes from America) is really good, however, I keep experiencing culture shock here.
The natives have very strange habits sometimes. I make about $200,000 annually which is more than enough to spend in Asia. Sometimes I have alot of fun being here but at other times, I get into political arguments with people who cannot win. Bouncing from place to place in Asia is quite frightening sometimes. I perfer traveling by boat than plane because I feel safer. It is also quite difficult for me to safeguard my things.
The US Government gives me any equiptment I need from CDPD modems to fast transfer cellular addressing. They gave me one laptop that is really really sturdy. If you drop it, it doesn't break. I must carry it around with me at all times. Its cool in fact, because it has security procedures like auto-erasure from a special switch. Really top-notch stuff. When other people like scientists see it they think I'm a spy :-)

The passage above talks about companies "not fully preparing for their expats who go abroad returning..."
The NSA could use people like me as linguists if neccessary. I like the NSA because I always feel as if I have job security. I am not Asian American but I guess it isnt a big deal since I spend so much time here.
When I have nothing to do at the end of the day, I tune into to see the issues that arise that i'm unaware of both here and at home.
Nicholi Servia PHD EMP    Monday, December 09, 2002 at 03:33:58 (PST)    []