Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Being an Expat

I received a phone call from a guy looking for advice. Free advice can be fun to give, particularly when doing so brings back good memories.

His company was buying a company in Korea and offered him a position managing it (based in Korea). He Googled some terms, and found my personal web site (http://www.singlespeed.org) and my Blogs from when I lived there.

Ah, Korea. Had some of the best times of my life while there, but also some of the worst. But overall it was a great experience for me. Enough so that I would love to live in another country again.

This guy has quite a few steps up from me when I went to Korea. He is Korean, but moved from there to the States when he was a teen. He has traveled to Korea many times and still has family there, but he is very Americanized, so wasn't sure what to expect about living and working in Korea. And he also wanted to know about what an expat package would be like.

Expat packages are expensive for a company. Here is a web site that talks about the basics of what is usually offered - http://www.expatsingapore.com/getting/expatpak.shtml (this page is for Singapore, so any prices listed are specific to there and in Singapore dollars, but the basic data all holds true). One concern he had was whether his company would be willing to pay for it, or if they even are ready for what it would cost.

When I was in Korea, I figured that it cost my company an additional $100k for sending there (as compared to what it would have cost if I was working in the States). And I was cheap - I chose a relatively inexpensive apartment, didn't get a car, etc., all of which were offered to me. I had heard that $250k a year as the cost for expats is not uncommon.

We talked about some ways to cut the costs down (a big one would be to not live in a westernized house or apartment, which are always overpriced, but instead live as a Korean would).

Also talked about differences between the Korean business culture and the American business culture. Even though he is well exposed to Korean culture, Korean business culture seems very different. Among the advice I gave him was to read a book called The Koreans by Michael Breen. Excellent book for anyone who works with Koreans and wants to better understand who they are and why they do what they do.

I hope it all works out for him.


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