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Relocating Employees to Asia

Posted on: August 24th, 2022

Assisting employees and their families with international relocations can be an exciting yet challenging process. Transitions to Asia have their own unique considerations. As with any relocation, proper preparation is key to a smooth transition. Preparing employees for what to expect in the following areas is essential for a successful relocation to Asia.


Housing Options and Infrastructure

The housing choices in many Asian cities are different than most Americans are accustomed to. They are often much smaller and more expensive. Housing in Hong Kong, for example, is comparable to New York City as far as size and cost of living. Knowing this ahead of time will help your employees in setting their expectations.


Also, the infrastructure surrounding many areas can be challenging. If employees are accustomed to living in cities with developed mass transit systems, for example, attempt to find a location that is comparable. This may or may not be possible depending on the city.


It is best practice to set up a visit to the area prior to the move, in order to look at the housing options firsthand and to become familiar with the area.


Culture and Language Considerations

Providing employees with basic language and cross-cultural training is extremely important to a smooth adjustment. It is important to become familiar with the norms and customs unique to Asian culture so that employees can adapt to their new daily life, as well as their new work environment. Even a basic understanding of the language will help assignees feel more competent and comfortable as they transition into their new lives.


Cross-cultural understanding is perhaps even more important. In Asian culture, personal relationships carry a lot of weight when conducting business transactions. Personal life, hobbies, and interests are often discussed at length prior to any business talk.


The following concepts are important for both business and social interactions in most parts of Asia:

  • “Face”: This refers to one’s honor and respect.  Maintaining a good respectable reputation is of highest importance. “Face” can be lost, saved or maintained, and it is imperative that you do not cause anyone else to lose “face”. Certain practices that are perfectly acceptable in Western societies may be rude and unheard of in Asian communities. For example, publicly singling out and praising someone in a meeting could actually cause them to lose “face”.
  • Communication styles: These also differ from the Western world. For example, laughter may occur at seemingly inappropriate times during business transactions. And a smile or laugh could be disguising anxiety or another message as a way to maintain harmony or save “face”. It is often necessary to read between the lines, as many Asian people will not give an outright “no” answer. A “yes” could mean “maybe” or “not sure” or “no”.
  • Respect toward elders: In social and business settings, the treatment of the elderly is very important, even if they are not a relative or personal friend. The elderly are given the best food, are introduced first and are given preferential seating. When these and other social norms are not adhered to, it can cause undue offense and can greatly impact an assignees’ transition.

At NWI, we make sure the transition of your employees is as seamless as possible. By properly preparing employees in setting their expectations regarding housing and infrastructure, as well as solid training in cultural norms and language acquisition, relocating to Asia can be a breeze.


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