There has been increasing number of North American and European professionals considering moving to Asia. Most of them are making decision based on jobs opportunities, here is some analysis on different locations and also what kind of challenges you may encounter.
Australia is the only “western society” in Asia-Pacific region, and it has been a popular destination for American, Canadian and British expats.
Australia has good job prospect with low unemployment rate of around 5%, it has a booming mining sector to support its economy.
The downside being it is becoming a very expensive place to live due to increase in living cost and changes in the exchange rates.
For many expats living in Australia, they were very surprised by the cost of living especially for those from North America, where the Australian real estate price is far more expensive than North America than something comparable.
The mortgage rate is also around 7.5% at moment compares to average around 3% rate in North America at moment. Housing cost can be a major cost factor in Australia, and it is something you must consider before you make your move, as many families are paying up to 60% of their income just for the housing cost in Australia.
Taiwan is an interesting place to work, it is a free country with close ties with American businesses. It has large English speaking population, and the living cost is lower than Hong Kong, China and Singapore.
Taiwan’s living condition is quite comfortable in Asia; expats are often quite welcomed in Taiwan, popular industries for expats are IT, Technology, Semiconductors, Cleantech and Financial industries. However, the average salary tends to be much lower than Hong Kong & Singapore.
There has not been any growth in salary for local employees, but this is different if you are working there as an expat.
However, similar to other Asian cities, cost of living is very high especially for the housing cost. Cost for gasoline is also high. Winter is supposedly to be mild in Taiwan compared to North America or Europe, but because of the different building codes, buildings in Asia are generally not insulated, so you would actually feel cold insider the buildings than outside the building.
Hong Kong is the financial capital of Asia, and this status is the main reason to attract expats from around the world.
The average income in Hong Kong is also much higher than the rest of Asia. Highly paid expats can enjoy luxurious lifestyle in Hong Kong; however, if you are just on local salary, you may find the place quite expensive.
The downsides are pollution, crowded space; small living areas and some expats are finding it difficult to raise family there. There is lack of international schools because of the high demand; you need to enroll your children in these schools as early as possible because these international schools are being sought after by the expats and also local families.
Singapore is another popular destination for expats to find opportunities in Asia.
English is one of the 4 official languages used in Singapore, so the average English proficiency rate is much higher than the rest of Asia. Singapore is very much a western society, and it is quite easy for expats to adapt. The average salary is also one of the highest in Asia.
Major industries include cleantech, semiconductors, technology and financial industries.
The downsides again are crowded space, high living cost, although, many expats mention that pollution is not a major issue in Singapore.
Proximity to Southeast Asia is an advantage as those are popular destinations for weekend gateways. Singapore is much smaller than the rest of Asian countries; it is really just a city.
China is a big booming economy, some expats love to be relocated there, while some are finding difficult to adapt to a new environment. As you can imagine, this is a place where you can see the biggest gap between rich and poor, where the income disparity is beyond imagination for many visiting China for the first time.
Many expats are earning admirable salary in China, but many local employees are finding it hard to meet the minimum living cost due to the double digit rising in living cost every year.
The living cost in China is now very close to that in Japan in some cities, but the average salary remains as one of the lowest in Asia.
Health benefits and education systems vary from company to company, and city to city. General healthcare can be confusing in some systems, and may not be available for foreigners.
For expats with families, it is better to stay in major cities where there is strong presence of expat communities, which have excellent international schools available.
According to our survey, lack of privacy, cultural and language barriers; as well as dealing with politics and employee management are the biggest challenges faced by expats; the main upsides being career growth and business opportunities, as China’s urbanization process is still long way to go, and more millionaires are being created in China everyday.
Asia is an exciting place as it offers enormous career opportunities. However, living in Asia is an entirely different experience, you will not see many things that are taken for granted in North America or Europe such as green space, large houses or fresh air.
Asia offers a completely different life-style that some expats absolutely love them while others are unable to cope with them; I hope you find this article useful no matter what your decision is.