Work opportunities can bring professionals around the world. In many cases, it bring people to places where they least expect it – back home. Erika Cheung, native Hong Konger, who spent many years abroad in Australia, actually wasn’t expecting to ever move back to Hong Kong. But when opportunity called, she made the move, readapting to her home culture and settling into a new life with her family.
Life in Australia and the decision to move
Erika originally migrated to Australia with her parents when she was in high school. From there she went to university, landed her first job and continued working in Australia for many years. In fact, at the time she finally moved back to Hong Kong, she had lived and worked in Australia for the majority of her life.
However, the economic growth and business opportunities in Hong Kong began to make themselves clear, especially with her husband aiming to grow his small business. Weighing up the opportunity versus negatives of making a move, Erika and her husband decided Hong Kong was the place to be. Hong Kong was the best place to grow a small business, due to a better tax situation and access to the market for mainland China.
Contracting to get back into the job market
After moving back, Erika started by helping her husband establish his business:
“When I came back, I didn’t look for work right away. I was helping my husband establish his business. Once he was established, and could handle things himself, I decided to go back to work to keep my skills up to date and I started to look for jobs.”
Erika found that contract jobs were actually the ideal situation her – they provided her with the employment she needed to keep her skills relevant, but also gave her time to adjust to working life back in Hong Kong – which admittedly is very different from Australia!
Personal and professional challenges
Any major move is full of challenges, and in particular, Erika found the biggest personal challenge was to adjust to the sheer volume of people in Hong Kong compared to Australia. However, in the end, she found that even without the personal space she was used to, the transition wasn’t too difficult.
“Overall the transition wasn’t too hard because I’m originally from here – it’s not that difficult for me to adapt as I have been living here before, and I’m familiar with the culture. The main adjustments came from making new friends, and adapting to the city again.”
For professional challenges, as an accounting professional, she was able to quickly get back into the rhythm at work. Because she was working with MNCs in both Australia and Hong Kong, the culture was similar: working in English, and equivalent tasks and expectations.
The biggest challenge for her was adapting to the longer hours in Hong Kong again.
“In Hong Kong, people are very concentrated at work with tight deadlines and long hours – 40 hours a week or more is standard. After living in Australia for so long, this adjustment was probably one of the biggest differences I saw. Work culture is definitely different, but it’s not hard to adapt, if you are willing to work hard.”
Returning to the job market after working overseas
When she decided to get back into the job market, Erika found that living overseas had given her an advantage in many cases.
“In MNCs especially, returnees are valued by potential employers. Having lived or worked in a different country gives you more adaptability and other skills developed in another culture. On the other hand, some local companies may be wary about your ability to adapt to the fast pace of Hong Kong work culture if you come from a place like Australia, where things are much more relaxed.”
If this is the case, Erika stressed that it’s important to work hard to show what you can do, and keep searching for companies that value your overseas experience, rather than questioning it.
Partnering with a company like PageGroup
As she began to look for a new job, working with a company like Page Personnel in Hong Kong made her transition easier.
“With no recent, local Hong Kong experience, I was looking online, but couldn’t find the right roles. Employers generally prefer some kind of local experience, so working with Page Personnel made things much easier. Especially as a contract employee, they were able to help make connections that I would not have made on my own in a new market.”
Advice from a returnee
For those thinking of moving back home, here are three key things to making the transition successful:
1. Keep an open mind during your return.
2. Remember that you will probably have to adapt back to your old culture – and don’t be surprised if that takes a long time.
3. Focus on the positives, rather than the negatives that come up.
Happily ever after (for now) in Hong Kong
For her own story, Erika sees her experience and return back to Hong Kong as largely positive. With all its challenges, the fast-paced life suits her and her family, especially when it comes to the professional areas of her life.
When asked if she would tell others abroad to make the move back home, she was encouraging. “Yes, I would encourage Hong Kongers abroad to move back, especially if you are young. There are many professional opportunities here – come back if the circumstances are right.”
If you're overseas, looking to return home to work, we would like to talk to you. We understand your needs as a returning talent and can facilitate a successful match with Hong Kong’s biggest brands across growth industries. Get in touch
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