Working in Asia Vs London – A Personal Reflection
“What’s it like there?”
This is the question I have been bombarded with following my internal move from VMA Group’s London office to VMA Group Asia. The last five months has been very full on – very Asia – including time in both Hong Kong and Singapore. However, the recent Buddha’s birthday holiday has given me the chance to reflect on my answer to THE burning question.
“So, what is it like?” Let me start with the similarities. I am still a headhunter, still working for the same great global company with fabulously committed colleagues, still specialising in PR and Corporate Communications, still meeting interesting clients and candidates and finding people jobs.
“So it’s exactly the same then?” No, not at all! Let me share just a sample of the major differences:
- When you recruit here you not only have to find the person with the best matched skills, you also have to find someone who speaks the right languages. This can include Mandarin or Cantonese, or Malay, or any of the other amazing Asian languages, plus English. They are so much more talented at languages than us Brits.
- Salaries are talked about by the month, not by the year. And often in a 13 month cycle, including a month’s guaranteed bonus at the end of the year. They can also get bonuses on top of this too. Don’t get this confused, or you might under estimate someone’s salary.
- People are amazingly mobile in Asia. They move about for jobs far more willingly than they would around England even, let alone around Europe. They are unfazed by moving countries, sometimes several times, to find the best career path.
- It can be challenging to calculate Asian first names and family names from CVs. Due to my lack of knowledge I wonder what to say when I first call or meet. However embarrassing this can be, from my experience, people are wonderfully patient, even if you get it wrong.
- Beware. It’s a very small community. I have heard alarming examples of where reputations have been destroyed, through the rumour network.
- On the flip side, people are very friendly – especially once you have proven your value.
- Maternity leave is just one month in Hong Kong and up to four in Singapore. Yes, really!
- You must remember to hand over and receive business cards with two hands. It shows respect. Although your hands fumble with this to start with, it does become natural and now I see it as a lovely touch.
- Space is treasured, whether we are talking about personal accommodation or business offices. Wow, there are some spectacular high rise views!
On a personal level, I have not missed London’s police sirens, the terrible weather, or the high cost of the UK’s public transport. I am also enjoying standing tall at only 5’4”. So now my new burning questions is “how can I distinguish myself as a Brit in the office when I am surrounded by so many Aussies?!”
By Libby Trace
For more information contact Libby at firstname.lastname@example.org
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