Reply
Page 1 of 8 1 2 3 4 ... LastLast
Like Tree102Likes

Expat Undergraduate Student: Why are working conditions (salary, opportunities etc) in this "dream city" of mine worse than back home?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    10

    Angry Expat Undergraduate Student: Why are working conditions (salary, opportunities etc) in this "dream city" of mine worse than back home?

    Background:
    I grew up as a completely white-washed Asian American in New York, and eventually had some BS existential "cultural re-awakening" in my late teens, at which point I loved everything about China and Asia, especially in the context of all the hype about "China being the future" etc. I learnt Chinese, visited China whenever I could, became fluent in Mandarin, and then chose to study in HK over Columbia and NYU Stern - because I wanted to be a bit more adventurous, not the trite "hard working asian kid goes to columbia and majors in econ" stereotype. I am now in probably one of the best non-science undergraduate programs in HKU, studying a dual degree in law and business.

    Problem:
    BOY, HAVE I SCREWED UP. I thought this continent was the new place of opportunity and economic growth, yata yata. I was told there was a huge market for truly bilingual Asians in the job market, yata yata. Now, I'm starting my job hunt, and all the jobs that I want (IBanking Front Office, Consulting, Law) are not recruiting from my school! No, no - those jobs are going to my friends back in NYC or graduates in London, who they fly in first class and pay handsomely.

    The jobs I DO have access to pay a bewildering 15k a month. My first reaction was "ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME?". Comparing this vis-a-vis back home, even AFTER computation of taxes, it seems like I'm getting screwed. In HK I'm facing what appear to be 1) Higher costs of living, and 2) Lower take-home pay. I thought this was a first-world city? Why am I getting paid like I'm in the third-world? I know to some of you this might come off spoiled or entitled, but I really can't see myself living in HK on 15k/month. I have cousins and friends in NYC who make US$ 45k/yr and are still struggling - I can't imagine what 15k/month will be like in HK. And unlike the rest of my classmates, I don't have family here I can crash with until I'm 35 and married.

    Is this not complete and utter BS? In addition to that, I'm told I will never, ever, in my entire life, get access to an expat package because apparently I'm not a "real expat" - when I just moved to this continent less than two years ago.

    I would just try to apply to the jobs I want back home, but it looks like I won't even be able to get a janitorial job - no respectable employer back home recognizes an HKU degree, and the kid from SUNY Binghamton has a better shot at landing a decent job than me. "Best university in Asia" my ass.

    Is there any recourse which I can take to remedy this mistake? I think it's far too late and far too big of an investment to transfer back to an American university. Somewhere deep down I know this is just something I'll have to suck up and get used to, but are there any other options for me?


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    2,143

    it's true that starting salaries for undergrads are lower here than abroad but I would venture that your opportunity to climb the ladder afterwards is better here than abroad.

    recruiting from a school is an unknown concept in Hong Kong (unfortunately) so you better start using the resources at hand and find a job through that (ie find out at which consulting firms all the HKU alumni work and start networking).

    last but not least, sorry to break it to you but the business degree at HKU is not world-class - it's not even the best in Hong Kong.

    carang likes this.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    2,143

    on re money, 15k/month is easily liveable here in hong kong. you essentially pay no tax, housing can be 5k or less if you look and food is cheap. i came to the city on 10k/month and still had plenty of money to party

    and why would you compare 45k NYC to 15k HK outright? silly comparison really

    so net-net: suck it up, get your facts straight and start using the resources on hand.


  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Hong Kong, from UK
    Posts
    2,708

    As far as anyone but you is concerned, you are (about to be?) a local graduate of a local school - albeit one who might have better English and worse Chinese than most other local graduates. You're not in any meaningful way an expat graduate. Those classmates who will crash with their family until they're 35 and married? They're your competition in the job market, and you're starting at the bottom of the ladder just like everyone else.

    A couple of specific things: You say you're fluent in Mandarin - how about Cantonese? How about reading and writing Chinese, traditional and/or simplified? Other than presumably being native-level fluent in English, what do you think you bring to the job market which makes you better than other grads from your course?

    As far as expat packages go - you get an expat package when someone wants to hire you badly enough that they're willing to pay, or throw in a bunch of benefits, to lure you away from your presumably comfortable and settled life. They are mostly for high fliers, people with specialist skills, or senior staff - not for local grads...


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    74

    It almost sounds like you are expecting to, as a fresh graduate, be living in mid-levels drinking champagne every Saturday at the Peninsula?
    What sort of starting salary are you expecting?

    And don't forget, it also depends on what job industry you are trying to get into. There's a big difference in Hong Kong. As a practicing lawyer in Hong Kong, you would probably make more than 15k as starting salary. But it really depends.
    Plus you might speak Mandarin, but do you know how many people are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English in Hong Kong? - Quite a few. Especially with business degrees.

    Last edited by Sweeneykill; 26-04-2014 at 05:42 AM.
    Watercooler and carang like this.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Posts
    14,182

    Vmlinuz is 100% correct.

    If you're here you're treated as a local and that means local salary.

    You're not from an Ivy League so no reason for employers to give you anything over and above market rates.

    You need to offer something that gives you over and above the locals you're competing with.

    Watercooler, HKITperson and carang like this.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    4,040
    Quote Originally Posted by cookie09
    on re money, 15k/month is easily liveable here in hong kong. you essentially pay no tax, housing can be 5k or less if you look and food is cheap. i came to the city on 10k/month and still had plenty of money to party

    and why would you compare 45k NYC to 15k HK outright? silly comparison really

    so net-net: suck it up, get your facts straight and start using the resources on hand.


    15K/month is EASILY liveable here in Hong Kong? While I guess that is a matter of opinion. I would say 15k a month is extremely hard to live on (but of course possible)


    Might I ask when you came to Hong Kong? In the 6 years since I've lived here, rent has almost doubled. Times have changed. Your 10K a month might not go as far today.


    And comparing 45k NYC is a yearly salary (thats how salaries are talked about in the US). Take home pay for a 45k salary in the US is similar to that of someone in HK making 15k/month. Fair comparison in my opinion as someone who has lived in both HK and NYC.




    I think the person starting the thread had very good, reasonable and well informed questions and observations.
    Last edited by closedcasket; 26-04-2014 at 08:22 AM.
    bibbju, lifeisgood. and cwardnyc like this.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    2,449

    I think most of the posters on this thread are being a bit tough on the OP. It took balls to break with convention and not go down the easy traditional Asian-American route so kudos to them.

    It's unfortunate that they're now being bitten on the arse by good old HK. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live on 15k if I had other options.

    OP have you considered getting a Masters from a more "globally recognised" university? I know it means more studying and more money but it might be a way of opening those doors that are currently slamming shut in your face.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    5,113

    Don't mean to sound harsh OP, but this is the reality in HK. You should have done your homework before coming to HK. But all is not lost.

    Maybe you can do say, two years as low-income trainee to get the experience and put something on your resume, then afterwards apply for higher paying jobs. In fact, this is how many graduates see their first job after graduation here. Not as a long-term career, but a way station, or stepping stone to a better job. Don't be so concerned about the income now, its more important to get a first job that will look good on your resume. Only after that (applying for your next job) should income become an important factor.

    Right now you need to suck it up and do what the local grads do. You need to prove yourself to prospective employers you have what it takes to add value to their companies in order to get a decent income. That means experience and a track record of your past accomplishment. And as a fresh grad, you don't have those things and are somewhat an unknown entity. Therefore, you need to go "into the trenches" of low-income trainee/intern route before you get to the "promised land".

    Last edited by Watercooler; 26-04-2014 at 12:02 PM.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    10
    Quote Originally Posted by cookie09
    on re money, 15k/month is easily liveable here in hong kong. you essentially pay no tax, housing can be 5k or less if you look and food is cheap. i came to the city on 10k/month and still had plenty of money to party

    and why would you compare 45k NYC to 15k HK outright? silly comparison really

    so net-net: suck it up, get your facts straight and start using the resources on hand.
    45k NYC and 15k HK are both "typical starting salaries" for college grads in those cities, except the NYC figure might be a bit lower than the average. That's the reason I compare.

    Yes, I know with 15k/month I can survive and have a life better than most of the slum-dwelling world, but that's not the point is it? It's not the absolute value of the salary I'm concerned about, but the relative value - why are kids here getting 15k/month when they're just as talented as Joe the Rutgers grad, who can expect 50-55k US/year from a starting job back home no questions asked? He gets more take home pay and a lower cost of living? I have to hustle and work my balls off just to keep up with the expectation salary back home? THEN WHY AM I HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE LOL. Why does ANYONE come here?

    Put it this way: you're okay with buying a laptop for 10k because that's something you're willing to give up for a laptop, but wouldn't you feel cheated if you found the same laptop on sale for 5k? Bad comparison but whatever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweeneykill
    It almost sounds like you are expecting to, as a fresh graduate, be living in mid-levels drinking champagne every Saturday at the Peninsula?
    What sort of starting salary are you expecting?
    No. But I'm the kid who would be able to graduate from Columbia/NYU with fairly average grades and get a job paying 60k USD a year. Wouldn't you be angry if you, reading all this BS about Asia and Emerging Markets, made a move to HK for financial opportunity and found yourself screwed through and through in comparison to your original life?

    Quote Originally Posted by closedcasket
    comparing 45k NYC is a yearly salary (thats how salaries are talked about in the US). Take home pay for a 45k salary in the US is similar to that of someone in HK making 15k/month. Fair comparison in my opinion as someone who has lived in both HK and NYC.
    Yes - finally a New Yorker that I can share these grievances with. My entire extended family in NYC is complaining that surviving in NYC with 45k-50k is almost inhumane. Complaining about the sizes of their studio apartments.

    Wait until they visit me in Hong Kong....

    I was told my whole life that the city I was living in had "lost its opportunity" and there was no such thing as the "American dream" anymore. How could I have been so dumb to believe in that contrarian circlejerk BS? American college kids are living an American dream - a dream because they don't have the lucidity to realize how good they are getting it. They talk all day about China as a beacon of opportunity, but the ones who actually make the move are screwed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Watercooler
    Don't mean to sound harsh OP, but this is the reality in HK. You should have done your homework before coming to HK. But all is not lost.
    This is probably one of the most helpful and accurate answers. Coming to HK is a shitty option for most people - and I didn't realize this.

    I actually did do my homework and read about 20 Hong Kong employment reports from MNCs outlining average salaries by years of experience in different industries here. And I loved what I saw: the average was more than what people get back home, and the city could easily be fun with that.

    Now I'm pretty sure those employment reports only apply to Expats who lateral into HK in their 30s, mid-career, with fancy packages that get them a cozy place in Discovery Bay? What I'm experiencing as what is supposed to be a graduate from a top university in Hong Kong, is a completely different world than the one I was told existed.

    And the saddest and most pathetic thing is that my classmates in HKU, born and bred in Hong Kong, don't know they are getting screwed. A lot of them get the opportunity to study abroad, but don't because they buy into the whole "China is the future" BS that I did or just want to stay closer to family. They think 12-15k/month is typical for grads in any developed country. Guatemala or Nigeria maybe, but for a first world city with HK cost of living, anything under 20k/month is borderline inhumane compared to their peers in NYC, SF and London.

    Quote Originally Posted by Watercooler
    Right now you need to suck it up and do what the local grads do. You need to prove yourself to prospective employers you have what it takes to add value to their companies in order to get a decent income. That means experience and a track record of your past accomplishment. And as a fresh grad, you don't have those things and are somewhat an unknown entity. Therefore, you need to go "into the trenches" of low-income trainee/intern route before you get to the "promised land"
    Good solid advice; thank you. I should stop complaining and work my ass off, but it's hard not to feel cheated.

    Do you think there's a real market out there in HK in which I can be competitive? I know people say that most HK grads are trilingual, but they are very borderline. Their English is clearly at a second-language level, but business proficient. I could say the same for their Mandarin - I've only been learning it for 6 years but I speak it more accurately than them. With native English skills and arguably better oral Mandarin, do you think I can be competitive in this market?

    What's the networking situation like in HK? Do I have to Mainlandify my behavior and bow before presenting my business card with two hands? Is cold calling acceptable? Cold emailing? Should I use English or Mandarin when starting a networking conversation? Is it common for grads at my age to network their way into informal internships as opposed to just doing "formal" schemes? I ask because most of my peers seem somewhat socially inept.

    My Cantonese is really really bad. Like a 2nd-grader. I'm actually deterred from speaking it because when I do, their automatic conclusion (seeing my Asian face) is not that I'm a foreigner, but just an idiot who can't pronounce my language properly.
    Last edited by lifeisgood.; 26-04-2014 at 12:45 PM.
    R.O., Jackie1, Watercooler and 2 others like this.

Reply
Page 1 of 8 1 2 3 4 ... LastLast