Damien Bell, Happy in Hong Kong

With our recent global expansion in Hong Kong and Berlin, we thought it would be apt to give you some insight from our people on the ground to see if …

With our recent global expansion in Hong Kong and Berlin, we thought it would be apt to give you some insight from our people on the ground to see if we could entice you to pack your bags and seek out new ventures round the world.

Let’s start over in the east in that city that conjures up more intrigue than any other, Hong Kong.

Our man on the ground Damien Bell, who has been busy getting our office up to speed since last year gives us his take on the city and the opportunities available:

With many economies slowly snapping at the heels of the UK digital market there has been a rise in global, regional and domestic agencies and brands moving to hiring overseas talent to strengthen their digital capabilities. Cogs has always been a local agency but with global reach and having been approached by a number of our global clients we stepped up to facilitate this demand.

So some or many of you may be aware that we have spent the past 12 months sailing international waters in a bid to take Cogs (and all we do) to our brothers and sisters in Europe and Asia. Well after months of arduous research, endless signing of legal documents and drawn out conference calls we have finally shored in Berlin, Germany and Hong Kong, China.

Having spent the past 18 months working in the London office I decided, rather spontaneously, to volunteer myself for the task of heading up our Hong Kong office. So in very short space of time I packed up my stuff, said my farewells and on November 1st 2013 I became a resident of Hong Kong.

Having now been an ex-pat for almost 3 months I thought it best to share my experiences, the experiences of those I have met and as much insight as possible into the formalities of working overseas. Over the weeks and months to come we’ll be speaking to visa agents, tax specialists, ex-pats working within the digital space and just about anyone else we can, to make sure you have all the info and resources you need should you wish to make that move.

The move itself really isn’t as scary as you’d think. In fact it’s far from it and once you land it will take you very little time to get settled. With a solid and growing ex-pat community Hong Kong can cater for Westerners of all ages, professions and family/marital statuses. The ex-pat community here really is a community. I’ve yet to meet an ex-pat who hasn’t had the time to meet/talk to me, extend me to their network or simply offer to help in any way, shape or form they possibly can. In fact I’ve had so many invitations I’ve had to start turning them down.

The quality of life is also good. We have a busy vibrant city full of the finest restaurants, cafes, shops, bars, etc. Everything is so conveniently placed that you can literally get anything you want on your doorstep. Polar to that Hong Kong is built in between lush green mountains and surrounded by beautiful islands. Expect your weekends to be filled with swimming, hiking, sailing or simply to join one of the hundreds of professional, sports, arts or social clubs HK has to offer.

The visa process is simple and you can expect to get your visa within 4-6 weeks (more to follow), tax is low (more to follow here too), healthcare, schooling, etc. it’s all here, it’s all of a high standard and all easily accessible. You can feel at ease moving your family over.

The one major adjustment is property. It’s a very highly populated city so the Hong Kong Chinese have been as efficient with space as possible. This means they have built up and on Hong Kong island it’s rare to find a house. Most people live in high rise buildings and in much smaller spaces. That being said if you live on one of the islands or across the water in the new territories you’ll find as much space as you would in the UK. Property is also more expensive here than in London and the rest of the UK but with tax being much lower (anywhere between 10%-15%) it’s all comparable. Plus very few people spend time indoors as there’s so much to see and do outside. It’s truly invigorating!

Now let’s touch on digital! The market isn’t as mature as Western markets but it’s getting there and the demand of digital skill sets at all levels and across all disciplines is rising. Eastern markets are slowly beginning to embrace digital to market and advertise their products and brands. While there are opportunities at all levels the greater investment seems to be for senior overseas digital talent. Agencies and brands are seeking that depth of knowledge and level of expertise that can be shared down. Our clients are looking for digital ambassadors and who can continue to grow, shape and evolve their digital capabilities.

All-in-all there is a huge amount of potential in Hong Kong and across other Asia markets. We expect great things to come this year.

For now I’ll leave you with that as food for thought but stay tuned as there’s plenty more to come.

Here are some useful resources to get your started but if you are interested in working in Asia or just curious and have a question or two don’t hesitate to drop me a note on Damien.bell@cogsagency.com









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