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

The Worm Has Turned: Why Effort Stands More Chance Of Being Rewarded.
August 17, 2011, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

When I first came to Asia, a lot of my colleagues raised their eyebrows.

They didn’t say anything, but I knew they thought I’d gone mad.

Apart from the fact I was moving away from them [which was one of the main attractions to be honest], they were of the belief that Asia was the place where people who had failed in the West went to hide.

They even had a nickname for them, FILTH.

F ailed
I n
L ondon
T ry
H ong Kong

To be fair to them, they were not alone.

Even now, there are people sat in agencies all across Europe, Australia and the US that think if you work in Asia, you must be [1] shit [2] full of scam.

OK, so there was some truth to those opinions at one time – back in the 80’s and 90’s – however what these people have conveniently failed to acknowledge is there’s people full of shit and scam all over the place and proportionately, there’s possibly more in the West than Asia.

Fortunately, as the World becomes more open and Asia starts proving it’s talent and power, these prejudiced views are starting to change, however some of it is for not entirely positive reasons.

As you know, I’ve been in this region for quite a long time.

From a professional stand point, it has literally been one of the most frustratingly wonderful times of my life … however for all the struggles you have to endure to get something interesting ‘through the door’ – driven as much by cultural issues as it is the normal day-to-day nightmares of getting things approved – the opportunities I have been given to get involved with go well beyond anything I experienced in the UK or US.

I choose to be here.

I love the madness, the energy, the confusion and the change.

I know I’ll never truly understand the place but I want to feel I am doing something for it so I embrace the weird [from a Western perspective] rather than shun it.

The reason I say this is that since the economy has gone down the toilet, I have started getting more and more enquiries from people about working in Asia.

My response is always the same.

1/ Why are you interested in coming here?
2/ What do you know about working here?
3/ What do you know about the culture here?

While I don’t expect – and to be honest, wouldn’t believe – anyone who claims they know everything about the culture and industry, I also get very annoyed when I hear people respond with bland or blank answers.

In all seriousness, I’d prefer it if they said “I need a job, there aren’t any in the US/UK/Australia and so I’m considering Asia”.

I probably wouldn’t want to hire someone like that, but I’d at least respect their honesty.

If someone can’t be arsed doing a little bit of research before they look at coming here, then they don’t deserve to be here.

This is an amazing place.

It’s not an ‘also ran’, it’s the second bloody coming.

But potential counts for nothing so it needs people who want to be here.

People who want to learn and teach.

People who are prepared to let go of what they know and embrace what they find.

People who don’t always compare or make things ‘like home’, but want to take the good bits and make them bigger, better, bolder and stronger.

People who want to stay for more than their 2 year contract period – and not because they like the idea of lower tax or ex-pat wanker communities – but because they want to have a real adventure where they literally have to learn again.

People who are ready for frustration, annoyance, confusion and mindlessness and want to come out the other side.

I’m not trying to put people off working in Asia – far from it – and I appreciate everyone has to start from somewhere … but if you’re looking at this part of the World as a lifeline rather than the opportunity of a lifetime, then you’re better off trying somewhere else.

34 Comments so far
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Do people really talk to you about working in Asia without any understanding of what it might be like to work in Asia? Astounding.

I shouldn’t be surprised because I remember when I worked there I met a planner who had just arrived in Singapore. When I asked what it was that brought him there, he replied “the creative reputation”‘. When I pointed out that (at that point) it was all based on Neil French endorsed scam ads, he looked shellshocked. He’d done no research and neither, it looked, had the company that employed him.

Asia isn’t for everyone. I couldn’t get out quick enough but then I didn’t have your ability to understand the culture and manipulate the clients.

Comment by Pete

Or his salary Pete. Or his salary.

Comment by DH

Definitely not his salary.

Comment by Pete

fenchie did more to put asian creativity than any other fucker of the last 20 years. hes also done more to undermine how asia creativity is viewed by the rest of the fucking world than any fucker of the last 20 years. good intentions have a nasty fucking habit of biting you on the fucking arse down the line. just ask my divorce lawyer.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s probably as good an overview of what Neil French did for Asia as I’ve ever read. And your point about longer term implications is very valid – though it is also important to remember that if you take into account negative things that might happen a couple of decades down the road, you probably won’t make any decision at all.

Comment by Rob

where the fuck is my pulitzer?

Comment by andy@cynic

Good post Robert though anyone who thinks moving to a new country is similar to moving to a new job deserve all they get.

Comment by George

Anyone who tries to recreate the life they had in their new country is destined to failure and frustration.

Comment by Pete

Rob comes from Nottingham. Afganistan would be a step up for him. Explains why he can move so often and always be happy.

And he married a saint.

Comment by DH

Gadgets, docos and and bad music didn’t feature in his previous life?

Comment by John

Fortunately for Rob, he only evaluates a place on its ability to offer him access to gadgetry.

Comment by George

As I said John, Rob’s from Nottingham.

Comment by DH

Nice to hear you talk about me as if I am dead. And for the record John, my love of docos, music and tech has been around since day 1 … it’s in my genes, which means it’s all my parents fault.

Comment by Rob

fuck asia. try fucking canada. thats brutal. and fucking beige.

Comment by andy@cynic

And they never stop going on about maple syrup!

Comment by Rob

hey now

Comment by Rafik

It’s funny that a person who didn’t really want to go to Asia has now become their biggest protector.

I’ll say this though, when you were thinking about heading over, you did more research than people put into buying a house. How many times did you go over before making your final decision, 3? 4?

I still remember Andy listing 10 reasons not to do it and you said that’s why you wanted to give it a go. And you came through. Who’d of thought. We didn’t.

Comment by DH

Now that would be an interesting list.

Comment by John

It was. Pretty unique if I remember.

Comment by DH

better than any fucking lonely planet book. didnt take into account campbell is a cockroach than can survive anything.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is like a follow up to your post yesterday. If you want something, be proactive about it. I’ve been a regular follower of your blog and you’ve always made Asia sound a fantastic challenge that I think I might like to explore. Apart from visiting and talking to people, do you have any advice where else I should look to get a better understanding of the region? Thanks Rob, keep up the good work.

Comment by Al 1

best advice is dont ask campbell for advice.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hello Al, I’m glad you have decided to ‘break your silence’. There’s a bunch of things you can/should do – however I think a great start is reading a bunch of Lonely Planet’s because they talk about cultural realities, not adland and that is the foundation – at least in my mind – of what creates great communication.

Feel free to email me if you want to talk more specifically?

Comment by Rob

You could run cultural tours for these aspiring economic migrants – plonk them down in the foyer of a business hotel and let them assimilate the culture through the windows.

Comment by John

thats called being in adland, not being a bastard tourist.

Comment by andy@cynic

Sadly, that’s closer to the truth than most would like to admit. As I’ve said countless times, planning is an outdoor pursuit, not a ‘sit-behind-the-computer-and-read-reports-you-find-online’ pursuit.

Comment by Rob

Nice post Rob. I remember you asking me these questions, not sure what I’d answered, but it probably wasn’t very good stuff.

It must be kind of sad to see everybody have the brilliant “I know, I’ll try Asia” realisation as most Western economies go to shit. Not as sad as thinking it’s a viable plan though.

Comment by Rafik

It’s not nearly as bad as people who say, “I know Asia and I’ll teach them how to be brilliant based on my myopic Western attitudes, beliefs and understanding”

And you weren’t like the people I describe above. You’d know it if you were.

Comment by Rob

I think all those who want to work in Asia should listen to what Rob says here, ‘cos it is absolutely important to know what you are getting into but it isn’t easy and isn’t fun for a long time, I imagine.Good Post Rob.
Interestingly, I do see a lot of expats here now and some have this faraway look in their eyes probably thinking “Why, WHY did I do this to myself.”

Comment by swati

Just so you know Rob, I don’t want to live in asia or work for you. I know you’ll be disappointed, but don’t want you wasting your energy looking at your inbox each morning hoping to see a request from me.

Comment by Billy Whizz

But offer me a mill a year and I might change my mind. That’s US$. Not that chinese shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz

They already have an office pest.

Comment by John

can someone call a doctor, billys news might push campbell to attempt suicide. or not be able to breathe from laughing his fucking tits off. in despair billy, not fucking relief. probably.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think an open mind is more important than knowledge, my friend who went to HK didn’t know much about asia but he has embraced it and loves it there.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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