From Hong Kong to Manchester in 1460 days

As we all get used to waking up in the year 2017 I am once again starting a new year in the UK after 4 years of living and working abroad in Hong Kong – ‘Asia’s World City’. I have now spent an equal proportion of my career in the UK and Asian FMCG markets, and only recently returned to the city of Manchester (where I call home).

Unsurprisingly the UK hasn’t stood still since 2012; I’d barely stepped from the plane and dusted off my flip-flops when Brexit was announced – a monumental piece of our history.

Needless to say, the UK FMCG industry has moved on significantly too and I’ve spent some time comparing the Asian markets with our UK market. I think there are some key factors to consider, whether you are considering a move to Asia or returning home after an International assignment. Or indeed if you are recruiting International talent.

International Relocation
Asia is dynamic and moves fast, which is one of the many reasons so many people choose to live and work there. If you are considering an International move, there are a few things to be mindful of:

  • Those with Visas will ultimately be favoured whether moving to Asia or the UK from other parts of the world.
  • The mechanics of the FMCG/Retail industry will be very different depending on the market, for example; HK is quite insular and localised along with other parts of APAC and can be difficult to penetrate as an outsider without local market expertise and/or language. Also, the Retail landscape is very different, with none of the major UK/Global retailers ie Walmart/Tesco operating there and very few big store supermarket formats which ultimately changes the dynamics of the supplier-retailer relationship.
  • As an Account Manager/NAM on the supplier side it is likely you will find trading/negotiating with Buyers very different going from say New Zealand to the UK or the UK to Hong Kong/Dubai and language plays a big factor here.
  • You should be able to live without a salary for a period of up to 6 months which is how long it could take you to find a job if you are not relocating with your current company
  • Those that are successful at finding jobs are the one’s usually on the ground, able to get in front of recruiters and people hiring, but also have a buffer period that gives them some breathing space.

Coming home

Sometimes the biggest hurdle for people coming back to the UK or their native country after a stint overseas is the disparity of salary and cost of living.

  • Tax!!! Clearly if you are coming from a place like Hong Kong/UAE etc then you will have become accustomed to paying either very low or no tax whatsoever.
  • If you are moving home, you will need to factor in the higher tax rate when considering salary but you will also need to appreciate if you have been out of the UK market for a significant period of time there will be a degree of acclimatising yourself and a period of adjustment which may be a concern for a future employer, and remove some of your bargaining power when negotiating salary.
  • Your international experience will be deemed invaluable to certain organisations but far less useful to others, candidates with recent UK experience could be deemed as a safer bet which could limit the opportunities available to you.

The industry you left will have changed and your network may have moved on, channels may be classified differently, retailers may no longer exist, companies will have merged, or have been taken over and the overall industry landscape is likely to have changed.