Why You Should Work Overseas in Your Early Career

By Kevon Cheung in


March 6, 2014

Exactly 123 days ago I moved to Singapore, from Hong Kong, and began to live a life I would never have imagined before. No, it is not one of those dramatic, crazy lives you’ve seen in the movies; in fact it is a simple, peaceful life of a 23-year-old continuing to be alone overseas.

The fact that I work away from my home city has given me a chance to look at another concrete jungle in Asia in a local perspective. Most importantly, I have no fear of being alone and am able to form numerous excellent habits.

To me, the pros of working overseas far exceed the cons in this early stage of my career, hence I would hope that more young people would opt to do the same before it is too late. Responsibilities tend to pile up as you get older, and it is likely you’ll stay in your home city for the rest of your life, then these few years fresh off university might be your favorable time to do so.

Travel with your eyes, not your camera

The word “traveling” has a special meaning to me. Most of the time you and I, the ones that have a full-time job and only have limited days to travel, would fly to a city or island with a “tourist” book in hand that you pick up from the bookstore. You eat, you walk, you snap a few photos, and in no time you’re back at home. I enjoy this kind of exploration, but something is missing from this 5-day-trip, something important.

On top of the fun, I also care and want to know more about what local people do over weekends, how the government is helping its people, and why expats enjoy working in this city etc. I need way more than 5 days to achieve that. Personally, from spending three months in New York in the summer of 2013, to now I’ve been in Singapore for four months, I know for the fact that you have to be physically present in a city to find out the answers to those questions, and trust me, this is way more fulfilling than just being a tourist and eating local food.

Open your eyes in multiple aspects

I was looking for a job in Singapore, and that opened a door for me to learn how I would survive in the two major cities, Hong Kong and Singapore, because I got to evaluate income in relative to cost of living.

Income is probably the first factor everyone looks at, but living standard is as important. For example, the same job in the two cities might make you the same amount of money, but which one costs you more? Some insights I’ve gathered over the past few months allow me to do simple comparison between Hong Kong and Singapore. In terms of food, Singapore has more choices which you could go from a $4SGD dinner or a $120 one and still get your stomach filled, whereas in Hong Kong, the starting point is slightly higher and you can hardly find a $25HKD dinner. If you can handle hawker food, you will be able to save a ton of money.

For transportation, Singapore is well connected through MRT and bus, and to go from airport to downtown, it costs you $2SGD if you take MRT! It would take you about $40HKD for bus or $60-100 for airport express if you’re in Hong Kong. Again, big money saver. Lastly, Singapore has a 7% tax on goods and services, so shopping definitely will hurt your wallet. And the list goes on and on, but you get the point. From daily tiny things, you could find out about the city and make comparisons to where you come from. Maybe one day you’ll find a place that fits your lifestyle more than your home town.

Be uncomfortable and grow to be fearless and independent

The ultimate benefit of working overseas is definitely the personal growth you’ll achieve. In a new city, you have a ton of time with yourself. You’ll have plenty of time to think about your life and how you want to pursue goals. Working in a new city is different from studying in university; those in your age and with similar background are not there anymore, you’re all alone. However, the greatest thing about being alone is you’re so independent that you no longer fear to be alone. You spend your time wisely and appreciate the number of things you’re able to do.

I have formed a number of habits, which include working out regularly, reading books, trying out different activities, and blogging (sharing) of course! I would hit the gym whenever I can; I would read a lot of books I enjoy (I was never a reading person, I have always hated it); I would go rock climbing and archery on the weekends; I would enjoy a Sunday afternoon at home or in a park reading about Hatching Twitter and writing up blog posts. I have no doubt I’ve developed a healthy routine for myself, and I’m enjoying. If I were in Hong Kong, it would have been much more difficult.

Lastly, since I’m in an entirely fresh place without any best friends around, every single person I meet post a new challenge to me. I have to figure out the best way to interact with them, and this teaches me about people! Sometimes I have to get out of my comfort zone, but that’s okay.

Anyway, above are just the obvious reasons for working overseas, there are much more to the experience. I hope I have given you enough reasons to at least think about your young career or even make an attempt to apply for a job elsewhere.

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