Five tips for working as an expat in Asia

Working as an expat in Asia offers a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and professional opportunities that can vastly broaden your personal and career horizons.

It is essential to approach this adventure with a well-researched plan and an open mind. Each country in Asia has its own unique work environment and set of societal norms.

To make the most of your experience, networking with fellow expats and using all available resources can provide invaluable insights and help you navigate the complexities of the Asian job market.

Getting started in Asia

Embarking on an expat journey in Asia requires a blend of cultural insight, legal preparation, and networking. Your ability to adapt and abide by local regulations will pave the way for a successful experience. Here are five tips to help you.

1) Understand the cultural norms

Even before you arrive, prioritize learning key social etiquette such as greetings, gift-giving, and hierarchy to avoid faux pas. Demonstrating respect for local traditions can greatly enhance your professional and personal relationships.

If you can, try to connect with fellow expats who live in the country you’re planning to move to and ask them for insights on the culture so you can learn through their experiences.

2) Navigate the legal requirements

Working in another country involves understanding and adhering to each country’s visa and work permit laws. Start by identifying the specific types of visas available and the prerequisites for obtaining a work permit. Consulting with legal experts and expat-focused groups can provide clarity and streamline this often complex process.

CountryVisa TypeWork Permit Requirements
JapanWorking visaSponsorship from employer, relevant skills
South KoreaE-7 visaJob offer, qualifications, and paperwork
SingaporeEmployment PassFixed salary threshold, qualifications

3) Find health insurance

Healthcare systems vary across Asia, and finding adequate health insurance is crucial. Options range from local plans to international expat policies, such as Cigna global health insurance. It’s imperative to research the level of care available and ensure your insurance meets both legal and personal needs.

  • International Expat Policy: Often includes coverage across multiple Asian countries.
  • Local Health Plans: Might offer more affordable rates but with varying coverage limits.

4) Establish a professional network

Create a strong professional foundation by networking in your industry. Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with local professionals and join expat business groups. Attend industry-specific events and find local meetups to forge connections that can lead to job opportunities and overcoming potential challenges.

  • Local Networking Events: Great for meeting industry peers in person.
  • Online Forums: Useful to ask questions and find expat-specific advice.

5) Adapt to local lifestyles

Let’s walk through some of the countries you might be thinking about moving to and what to consider when it comes to the different lifestyles each has:

  • Singapore: Known for its high standard of living and efficiency, Singapore offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle with English widely spoken. However, the cost of living, especially housing and food, can be high.
  • Thailand: A favorite for its vibrant nightlife and delicious cuisine, Thailand also offers long-term visas, which can be an incentive for expats. Teaching English here is particularly popular, so if that’s a career you’re interested in, Thailand is a great option.
  • Japan: With a rich cultural heritage, living in Japan requires understanding local customs. Advanced medical care and public safety are notable advantages. However, having at least basic Japanese language skills to navigate daily life is important.
  • China: Rapid economic growth creates numerous job opportunities, but living adjustments are significant due to language and cultural differences. Expats typically find the experience professionally rewarding.
  • Korea: Offers a blend of traditional and modern with an emphasis on high technology and education. Safety is a priority, and healthcare is top-notch here. English is increasingly used, but Korean language skills are beneficial.
  • Vietnam: The rising star for employment, Vietnam has a low cost of living and growing opportunities for professionals. Local food culture is a highlight, while English teaching jobs are prevalent.
  • India: Rich in diversity, India offers contrasting lifestyles ranging from bustling cities to serene landscapes. English is widely used professionally, and the expatriate community is strong, but be prepared for a stark culture shock.
  • Indonesia and Malaysia: Both countries have beautiful natural landscapes and are becoming business hubs in Southeast Asia. English proficiency varies, so learning local languages can be helpful for deeper integration.
  • Hong Kong: There are a lot of job opportunities in this global financial center. English is widely spoken, assisting in a smoother transition for expatriates. The city’s nightlife is awesome, and while housing is expensive, public transport is some of the best in the world.

Whether you’re moving to Asia to embrace a new culture, pursue a new career, live more affordably, or have a remove lifestyle, there are excellent opportunities available. Take time to research the countries you’re interested in, and best of luck!