Imagine the scenario: You got order from your boss for a new long term job and the one catch is that you must move overseas to live in Asia. In fact you’re getting a salary boost and a bonus for your efforts but you’ll have to leave friends and your home behind.
One of the first concerns coming to your mind is all of the challenges you’ll face as an expat in Asia because although the expatriate lifestyle can seem like paradise on a plate, first-time expats will face challenges. You’ll be starting daily life in a new environment, new culture and so many aspects of your everyday life will be completely different from all you have known before. Living and working in foreign country is a huge gift from an employer thought and that is worth the adjustment period as you learn the new norms in the foreign country.
So, you’re convinced that you should take the job offer and go, but what do you need to know to become an expat in Asia?
First off, if you’re North American or European and move to Asia you really need to head to the library or the Wikipedia entry and learn about the local culture and the country’s history. There are huge cultural differences between North America/Europe and pretty much any country in Asia. So this is a key new part of your homework.
Then consider brushing up on the local laws and regulations because there are some mighty huge penalities for crimes that may be only minor in your home country. This applies to most everything you take for granted that you already know because you have been born and raised in the West.
But Asia is a whole different ballgame for the newly emerging Asian expat. Learn about the local currency, banking regulations, taxes, road signs and rules—all of that minutia of new knowledge can keep you safe and free from paying bribes and jailtime with the local police.
Then think about food! Many products in the supermarket might be packaged differently or known by an entirely different name!
There is a whole lot to understand and learn–some cultural and legal reading should be done before you leave home to become and expat, but other information and norms you’ll get a crash course in over the first year you live in Asia.
Overcoming the hurdles of being an expats in Asia is not about learning how to survive physically but more about facing emotional issues like confirmation identity and spiritual issues as your religious beliefs now must mesh with your new home.
On that front, Asia has many different religions and they are generally very open to every walk of life and faith. You’ll find that Buddhism is one of the more prevalent religions, with different forms of Buddhism praticed through China, Thailand, India, and others.
When you are researching your new country, consider language and security issues. Not all Asian countries have good national security and a handful of countries are still involved in wars and conflicts. This can be very minor (Thailand and Cambodia are in conflict and border disputes but in a region of the country that is secluded from the spots where most Thai expats traditionally live.
The last consideration you really should make as you think about becoming an expat in Asia is your quality of life. As long as you are friendly and open you can guarantee that you will make plenty of new friends in your new home and you will likely be able to upgrade your current lifestyle because the currency conversions means your dollars and paychecks go a whole lot further in Asia!
The bottom line about the changes is that you’re not at home anymore…and that’s the point! This is not to marginalize the emotional turmoil of moving to a whole new country and continent, but you have so many options and resources. There is plenty of information about how you’ll find an apartment when you get there, how to face some of the daily life challenges, how to make friends, how to open bank account? The list can go on and on, but don’t get overwhelmed because the expat path is well trodden in Asia and you can bet another expat has already figured it out!