The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

If Planners Are Curious, Then Don’t Be Afraid Of Exploring Another Country …
May 26, 2010, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve spent almost 20 years living overseas [or “on the run” as Andy likes to put it] and I’ve enjoyed every bloody second of it.

The thing is, if you asked my friends who they thought was the least likely to ever move away from Nottingham, let alone England they’d of unanimously said me.

The reason for that is because I love/loved Nottingham.

I didn’t just love it because my parents and friends were there … but because it offered everything I thought I’d ever want or need in my life.

And you know what, it probably does … however for a bunch of reasons I’ve ended up hopping around the World and it has been – and continues to be – the most amazing experience I could ever hope to have.

There is absolutely nothing wrong if you want to stay in your home city – or England – but without doubt, meeting, living, working and playing with other cultures gives you experiences and learning you’d never get at home which, with a bit of luck, can translate to you doing things you never even dreamed about.

I know for a fact that living overseas has made me a much better planner.

Much, much, much better …

Given the standard of bollocks I spout on a daily basis, that means I must have been bloody terrible at my previous agencies … but by living overseas, I not only appreciate how different cultures think/behave/observe, but have actually started to understand why … and what that has done for me is ensure I never take things for granted – or worse – allow myself to go on ‘autopilot’ because I assume I know what’s going on.

For me, variety isn’t the spice of life, it’s the liberation of life … which is why if anyone would be ever so stupid to ask me for advice on planning, I’d tell them to ignore anyone in adland and follow the best advice I’ve heard from the incomparable Mae West:

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

You might think it’s a big scary World out there, but really it’s offering you the chance to live a life, not [just] a lifestyle … so if you’re interested, don’t let the fear paralyze you, have a go … the worst that will happen is an expanded mind.

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Also I read somewhere that the single largest spur for pushing intelligence is to put ourselves in environments that we’re not familiar with. Travel makes us stronger though some days in the early years I used to think ‘another meeting, another day of not having a clue what the hell is going on’ ha.

Comment by Charles 'values' Frith

“Another meeting, another day of not having a clue of what the hell is going on” … I’m so with you on that, and yet at the same time, it’s also quite liberating because all your senses are heightened in a desperate bid to try and get some clarity on the situation.

I’m glad I like it because even though I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time there, I think China is going to throw me back in to that situation quite a bit. And not just for the first few months either, ha!

Comment by Rob

My 3 years living in Asia made a huge impact on me personally and professionally. It broadened my perspectives and made me look at issues and situations in totally different ways.

And to think when I was first offered the opportunity I didn’t want to go.

Great post Robert, I hope it encourages more people to step outside their comfort zone.

Comment by Pete

i think saying you pay fuck all tax, get treated like demigods and are surrounded by hot fucking babes would encourage more people to travel east than the promise of broadening their fucking horizons.

i thought planners were supposed to get to the motivation point? pricks.

remember campbell, youre only there because i didnt fancy fucking singapore. worst mistake of my fucking life except #1 and #2.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s more an insight than a proposition Andy. 🙂

Comment by Pete

insight. proposition. better than fucking broadening your fucking horizons isnt it.

Comment by andy@cynic

The reason the tax rate is so low is because the rent/house price is so high and given your peculiar standards Andy, even if you were paying zero tax you’d still be going “Fuck me these fucking rents are expensive”.

And you’re not treated like Demi-gods … but sadly, you do often get treated better than many of the locals which is leading to all sorts of issues with the fabric of society as well as turning some expats into a bunch of patronising, entitlement believing wankers.

As for the “babes”.

Being surrounded by them doesn’t mean being seduced by them … and whilst I know you’re being a smartarse shit, the women of Asia are already fighting a losing battle for equality and so they don’t need some Western man adding to the problem.

Look at me, Mr Self Rightous.

Comment by Rob

germaine fucking greer.

and rents would have to be fucking inner london 4 bedroom house prices to counter the fuck all tax you pay. oh hang on they are in hk arent they. i take it all fucking back and that doesnt happen very fucking often so enjoy the moment campbell, i doubt itll come again.

Comment by andy@cynic

The thought of this scares the shit outta me but at the same time I know it’s going to be inevidable (and invaluable) at some stage when I’m ready.

Good post, mate.

Comment by Age

when will you be ready age? whats the thought process? is it when someone offers to pay you a disgusting amount or when your bird pulls a pete and says “travel or lose me”.

Comment by andy@cynic

Ha, thanks for that Andy, I know my private life is in safe hands with you.

Yes my now wife did want to travel which spurred me to go which is why I’m interested to know what factors will Age need before he goes on his adventure, that is if he doesn’t mind telling them to us.

Comment by Pete

Nah the bird is all happy to sit tight for now – her job is cushy as hell. I did give NYC a fair crack last year and almost had my bags packed for a gig but it fell through :/ The decision process involves one more place after McCann (but still in Melbourne) just to ensure I’m developing my own style – not the style of my current boss. Then we’ll see…

Comment by Age

pussy whipped the lot of you.

age. you know your “developing my own style – not the style of my current boss” is bullshit dont you? what the fuck has that got to do with travelling overseas or not. has melbourne got a fucking unique planning bollocks culture or something. if its the chick its the chick but dont fucking delude yourself staying is something that will help you career, it wont as much as learning from a different pissing culture.

remember age. same shit, different boss. pack your suitcase not your fucking office box.

youll thank me for this one day and ill make sure im there to collect.

Comment by andy@cynic

I hate to say it, but that’s pretty good advice from Andy. Well, it is when you take away all the swear words and actually look at the underlying message.

You almost got the NYC thing happening – but that doesn’t mean you should wait till you’ve done another Melbourne gig, unless that’s for personal reasons … and then that is brill, but it would be for personal reasons, nothing more.

Comment by Rob

Nah it’s got nothing to do with the girl, she is up for moving if we had to and her job is pretty transferable too. I dont really have a reason why, I guess after the NY thing went away I havent really thought about it anymore. Plus there’s some stuff here in Melb to look forward to at least till the end of the year. Who knows… maybe after… I know it’ll happen at some stage though and i’ll be fkn pumped for it.

Comment by Age

these fucking young kids, full of talk and not much fucking fight. hope that pisses you off age and you take my words and shove them so down my fucking throat that you make me shit. then youll thank me. what the fuck has melbourne got to keep you excited till the end of the year? coffee wars?

hang on, youve got a bird? i thought you were close to gaining billy status but youve pulled. well fucking done, and i thought campbell had taken the last hottie with shit taste.

Comment by andy@cynic

I just coughed my biscuit up all over my computer reading that, Andy… LOL!

Comment by Age

and campbell, dont. i said dont, try and do the “but china has a 45% tax rate.”

1) youve not moved there yet
2) youve spent years living in 15 fucking percent tax havens
3) theres no fucking way youll move to china without some way to get that 45% at least fucking halved.

and dont fucking whine about paying tax in 50 different fucking countries including timbuckfuckingtoo. i dont care and neither will anyone else who reads this shit.

hope that clarifies the situation for you.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m not going to say a word … mainly because you’ve said them all for me, hahaha!

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

Totally agree Rob. 12 years in Asia, 7 years in Los Angeles and counting…Every planner should at least think about moving somewhere else – at the very least, your new colleagues will dig your accent

Comment by Kate Bristow

Hello Kate, I thought you had much better taste than to come on here, ha!

Comment by Rob

how do all these seemingly clever people end up on this fucking blog? i know campbells got compromising photos of me but it seems hes more of a blackmailing scum than the news of the screws. i admire him more for that.

Comment by andy@cynic

Only have photos of you Andy – everyone else must be sick. Bit like the photos of you. Hahaha!

Comment by Rob

cock. and you dont have any photos of that but i bet billy wishes he did.

Comment by andy@cynic

“you pay fuck all tax, get treated like demigods and are surrounded by hot fucking babes”

You didn’t mention 365 days of sunny weather, the massages, the home help and the hot fucking babes. Oh wait. You did mention the hot fucking babes.

Comment by Charles 'values' Frith

campbells moving to china, has issues with home help, is only happy when hes stressed and wont let me mention the babes. theres nothing fucking left. what a fucking killjoy.

Comment by andy@cynic

It scares me when I whole heartedly agree with you Rob.

Living and working in the States and Thailand and China gave me so many experiences of “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so…”

In China I learned about the blessed freedom of illiteracy and innumeracy (everyone was shouting but I couldn’t see and I could hear)
In the US it was the terror of choice and almost complete brand blindness
And the lovely Thais taught me a lot about class discrimination

Planning in another country is a great assumption killer….a great way to challenge your taxonomies and build your understanding of what ‘being human’ is all about.

Comment by Katie Chatfield

Ahhhhhh, now I understand Katie.

He was right in saying how good it was too.

Now stop trying to get on my perk turf, ha!

Comment by Rob

This is wonderful post and the comments, even Andrew’s, are informative and thought provoking.

I am a big advocate of international experience, but that requires an immersion in the culture, not a life in an ex-pat compound which would go some way to explain why Katie, Charles, Pete and Robert are so good at what they do.

I love the “assumption killer” term Katie, I hope you won’t mind if I use that.

Great series of posts this week Robert, I hope it is part of a longer trend.

Comment by Lee Hill

Rob, having lived in NYC, San Fran, Tel Aviv and Sydney, I relate in every way to the magic of travel and how it shapes your outlook as a planner.

The hardest part is landing back where the journey started and you return filled with a tenacious spirit and you relish the mental freedom of working with different clients on culturally complex business problems.

Australia is great for a beach and a footy game, not so much for creative fulfillment.

Comment by barry

Hello matey, great to see you on here. I need an update on how your plans are going.

Thanks for the comment – of course we’re kinda preaching to the converted – but I am amazed how many people who have the opportunity [as in, are offered a job in another country] turn it down for no other reason than fear or laziness.

Of course some reasons are fair, but I’m talking planners who are either single or have no kids in particular – and whilst some can have legit reasons, not all can and yet the percentage I hear who say no to this kind of offer is scarilly high.

Comment by Rob

Working overseas would be OK if it wasn’t for the foreigners.

Comment by DH

Planners are very curious.

Comment by John

I saw what you did there John.

Comment by Bazza

You didn’t explicitly state it, but Im sure you meant you have to explore all aspects of the countries and not remain mentally (as much as physically) in some ex-pat, middle class industry ghetto/enclave. Being overseas isn’t enough, you have to go there.

Comment by John

Totally, but Rob did say you have to live in the culture not the ex pat compound.

Comment by Bazza

Sorry Lee said it.

Comment by Bazza

You’re right I didn’t say explicitly John, but I’d hope that was a given – though knowing some of the people around this region [where the ‘cultural change’ will be more dramatic than going to say, the US] – you’re right to point that out.

Comment by Rob

as i only do 1 lucid thought a day (reposted with my knd permission):

I think it is great advice to get better as a person/planner to travel, but as an indsutry my first thought was: hire more immigrant kids and it might have a bigger impact on ur industry. roll with me on this one.

all the stuff you (not u in person but you as western man) go through when going into a foreign country, is what immigrants live while in any western countries..(indeed u made that very point in ur preso – living multiple lives-, which could actually go a long way to explain al my disorders, if i wasn’t just bonkers)..the shapeshift thinking, the goal orientated action, the chip on shoulder/point to prove..Yes huge generalisation, but i think there is some merit to it..

Campbell is kinda an example (on normal industry standards for hiring, u should not have even known advertising was an industry, let alone get in it)

so it strikes me as odd that, esepcially in a country as Aus/UK/US, there is not more culturly sensitive thinking going on, given the fact most of the ppl are ethnically divers, unless the hiring practices are skewed towards a certain type, a type from a mono cultural backround that indeed needs to travel to ‘get’ diversity and what not..

Comment by niko

Variety makes interesting things happen which is why if you saw some of the people Rob hired (or more, wanted to hire) you’d understand how much this comment will strike a chord with him.

Comment by Bazza

We’ve already talked about this on email so Niko knows exactly where I stand on all this.

And I still state that ALL the people I’ve wanted to hire in my time, would have been awesome. Even the hairdresser – but that’s kinda shaky ground, ha!

Comment by Rob

It is one of my regrets, too late, too late.

Comment by northern

Bazza is right Northern, it really is never too late and I guarantee if you and the family decided to do it in 5 or even 10 years time, they’d be jobs offered to you all over the place.

I hope one day you decide to do it – but at least you have a real reason to stop you, not like one person I’ve just found out about who after being offered quite simply a ridiculously awesome job in Tokyo answered, “I can’t because it would affect my progression if I was to come back to London”



Comment by Rob

too late because of kiddos? never fear.

we moved with 2 children (they were 5yrs and 2yrs then) and it was much easier than expected. they are far more malleable than we are, and have become better travelers than most adults I know.

they put new things in perspective with a purist POV I envy. they are our goodwill ambassadors when language is a barrier.

it’s a win-win-win.

Comment by katie dreke

I move countries like Northerners change their pants [errrrm, well, maybe southerners] and I take my bloody cat which in terms of logistics is much harder than kids. Though I accept things like school isn’t as much as an issue … except if you have an awesomely clever cat as we obviously do.


Comment by Rob

I think this is one of your best posts Rob. Not travelling doesn’t make you a bad planner, but travelling does make you a more rounded and grounded one. You, George and Andy helped me see that and I’ll never forget it.

It’s never too late by the way Northern, even with a child though I’m guessing you said that in case Andy tries to get you to move again. 🙂

Comment by Bazza

Don’t got him started again, although that’s too late too, unless he wants a professional tea butler

Comment by northern

I think that’s totally up his street.

Comment by Bazza

Andy likes his butlers blonde, hot, youngish [25?], female and swedish. Not sure Northern hits all the right buttons on that.

Comment by Rob

after moving from seattle to amsterdam 2yrs ago, I’m surprised to find I have no desire to move home, but only to keep going, keep moving to new places, get lost and get found. repeat.

bring it on.

Comment by katie dreke

Hi Katie, great to have you come by and I absolutely relate to that. I must admit when I first moved overseas I was very nervous … however since then, I’ve sort of got addicted but that could also be so the Police find it hard to catch up with me.

Comment by Rob

been to the Burgermeester? that is a proper hamburger i tell u..

Comment by niko

agreed. burgermeester is da-bom-diggity. nom-nom.

Comment by katie dreke

I’m not a planner

Comment by Marcus

Doesn’t matter … you know exactly what I mean and hopefully you agree with it.

Comment by Rob

I agree, yes.

Comment by Marcus

that writing about procurement and selling stuff via cost reduction was proper planning..

now that you mention that writing 😉 I can’t find it anywhere online it erased?

Comment by niko

It has been erased. Because it was of no value – except to those who nicked it.

Comment by Marcus

Thanks for the post and even more for the comments. It’s motivating to hear that none of you (?) regrets having gone abroad.

The different perspective with me being from Vienna is that people here and probably also in Germany – and I must admit I’m thinking like that too sometimes – consider the US, UK as “THE CENTRE OF THE AD WORLD” and the places one should go. You know … the going where they invented it thing.

I think I’ve been around quite a bit for a student and I’ve obviously never “grown” as much as when I left my own culture and the continent but I always had the safety net of returning to “school” after half a year there or 3 months there. So I’m looking forward to find out how the decision feels once the net’s (finally) gone.

Comment by Thomas Wagner

Economies of cultural scale Thomas. Remember what I showed you in London?

Comment by Marcus

Of course I remember Marcus, I had a Bulmers and you explained how Germans (and/or scientists in general) completely suck at explaining economies of scale.

I like your concept. Or the name you gave it.

Comment by Thomas Wagner

I like that: “Economies of cultural scale”. Living abroad has helped me understand what that means.

The thing I found interesting about leaving the U.K was the fact that, after a period where it felt like a holiday, I was stripped of everything that had been important to me. I had to learn everything from scratch; language, behaviour, social interaction etc etc all needed to be learnt anew. And then, when that’s done you get to put your own little spin on it.

Comment by Marcus

this is all well and fucking good, but ive just spoken to campbell and hes just finished one of his whore tours where he ropes a couple of gullible colleagues and goes and interviews ladies of the night and their pimps.

let me say that again slowly.


and get this. he only fucking gets paid for this sort of “research”. paid. cash. not that pacific peso shit, cold hard dollars. the worlds fucking mad but its probably the best reason ive heard to pack my bags and move to fucking asia.

and germans and australians are the worst “clients”. too rough and show no respect im told. talk about cultural fucking stereotype. wont be able to look marcus, thomas, age and lauren in the eye and ill be fucked if im shaking their hand.

Comment by andy@cynic

He gets clients to pay him to spend evenings with prostitutes and his wife doesn’t chop his balls off. That’s a cooler trick than David Copperfield’s vanishing bridge.

Comment by Billy Whizz

first bits right but have you noticed campbells talking with a higher voice than mickey fucking mouse these days so maybe jills got tired of it all and given him a few swift kicks in the bollocks. im amazed she hasnt done it before. lets fucking face it, she doesnt need his prostitute interviews to justify giving him some pain.

Comment by andy@cynic

The fact that so many ad people (planners ın partıcular) spend theır whole workıng lıves ın one country (often then only one cıty) ıs a shame.

Everyone should try workıng somewhere else, even ıf just for a year.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thank you for all the comments everyone made on this post [excluding my Mickey Mouse voice and David Copperfield skills] …

I’m particularly happy with Thomas’ comment … especially his first one … and I’m really grateful for his honesty. Here’s to seeing you see the World, not just the typical advertising World. Ha!

Comment by Rob

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