Go East, young man?
June 2, 2006 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How hard is it to get work in Hong Kong without being fluent in Chinese?

I've always had a pipe dream about living in Hong Kong, but due to the relatively high cost of living I obviously couldn't do it without getting steady employment. Hong Kong-immigrants, how difficult is it to find work if you are only moderately conversant in Cantonese and Mandarin and work in the tech industry in a support/consultant capacity?
posted by Big Fat Tycoon to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Despite being born in HK and raised by Honkers in Montreal, I don't think my moderate cantonese gives me enough confidence to actually work there. Somehow, I don't think people would have the patience with me.

I remember this one time I was hired to do sales (telemarketing) targeting the Asian market. After a while on the phone with some guy in HK, he insisted that a spoke to him in English. Needless to say, I didn't make the sale. I have pretty much brought shame to my ancestors :P.

However, for some reason, if you were obviously a foreigner (caucasian, or what-have-you), Honkers would be more tolerant. I don't know where this assumption of mine comes from though.
posted by freakystyley at 9:17 AM on June 2, 2006

Response by poster: Let's just say I don't look like a foreigner.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 9:41 AM on June 2, 2006

This fellow might be able to help.
posted by dmo at 10:26 AM on June 2, 2006

Lack of Chinese will be somewhat of a hindrance, but the bigger concern is that it is hard for a foreigner to get decent work (i.e. something besides teaching English) in Hong Kong unless you are the best of the best. If you are expecting to live an expatriate lifestyle, you are competing against legions of others who were already dispatched to HK by their employers. And even if you're happy living like a local, you're competing against all the other locals, many of whom were educated overseas at elite universities. By all means give it a try -- just be aware that it will take quite a bit of effort and entrepreneurial flair to make it happen.
posted by randomstriker at 10:46 AM on June 2, 2006

Hong Kong is extremely modern, educated, and technologically advanced and a large portion of the population is fairly fluent in English. To be honest, there isn't a significant advantage for an expat coming into the tech support/consulting sector. It'd roughly be the same as moving to San Francisco and trying to get a tech support job without being able to speak English.

If you're not set on Hong Kong, you have a better chance working in the up and coming cities like Shanghai and its neighbors. The path for this would probably be to find a global tech consulting firm that has offices (or near-term plans for offices) in China. Work your way through and keep pounding away at having them promote you to the China office. You will most likely be supporting/consulting for other firms who are also global in scope and based out of Europe/Americas rather than Chinese firms.
posted by junesix at 5:05 PM on June 2, 2006

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