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Moving from Hong Kong to Japan decision

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  1. #1

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    Feb 2019
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    Moving from Hong Kong to Japan decision

    I got accepted to a big company in Japan but still undecided if I should move there or not.
    I have a wife and son who will come with me.
    Most of the net salary deduction goes to pension and 401k and has like 2x a year bonus.
    Even with dependents, the tax there is way too high compared to HK because of the tax subsidy here.
    So overall the net salary is marginally lower than what I get in Hong Kong which has straight forward computation.
    I know I can learn the language there easily than here in HK.

    If I am single, I will definitely move to Japan because of my love of the culture and all things Japanese,
    but considering the compensation with my family, I still doubt if I should move there.


    Is it wise to move to Japan considering the limited information?
    Any experience from anyone I can use for comparison?

    MandM! likes this.

  2. #2

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    I moved from HK to Japan a couple of years ago with family and very happy. Taxes are higher but this is offset by getting a lot more bang for your buck on property.

    Financially we were a little better off in HK but quality of life wise we are much better off in Japan.


  3. #3

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    About the job- is it a big Japanese company where you will be in the tiny minority of foreigners or a large multi-national company? It makes a big difference. Japanese culture I found to be more insular so a little harder to talk to and get to know people. My office in HK is WAY more relaxed than the more up-tight work environment in Japan. And we were an "international" law firm in Japan so more open-minded that our more traditional clients (did a lot of work for FujiFilm and, boy, that was like a place out of the 1950s or something).

    Also where in Japan? Tokyo- more international-minded- Nagoya...not as much.

    In general, I liked the country of Japan better than HK but prefer the people of HK to the Japanese people.

    Also, I spent nearly 6 years in vary degrees of intensiveness Japanese language courses- it was a lot of work for me (started at age 39 so not a young, flexible, language-acquiring brain). The grammar is rather backward from English grammar and memorizing kanji took me a while- if you already know Chinese characters then you are way ahead of the game.


  4. #4

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    I have worked in Tokyo and Osaka briefly prior to coming to HK. As a place to visit and explore, Japan is amazing. People are indeed generally polite (if reserved) and helpful, streets are clean and crime rate low (you don't have to worry about getting mugged on some dark street corner). I still remember when I first visited the massive Tokyo Station, even when it was very crowded, everyone behaves in a strict orderly fashion unimaginable in the West.

    That being said, whether working in Japan is better than HK depends a lot on the field you are in and the particular company and position you will be employed in, as working conditions can vary a lot. I did worked about a year in Japan split roughly six months in Tokyo and six in Osaka. I was working 80 hour weeks and absolutely hated it. What's more, a lot of time I had to stay in office even when I was done for the day. That's the Japanese work culture, or at least it used to be like that when I was there.

    They even invented a term for death from overwork, karoshi, which is a legally recognized term and companies would be forced to pay compensation to the deceased employee's family. On the bright side, things are slowly starting to change in Japan and the government is encouraging limited working hours. And more and more companies now don't focus on overtime work and ask employees to leave on time. And of course, there are Japanese firms and occupations which don't have such stress and gruelling hours.

    Last edited by Coolboy; 11-07-2019 at 08:50 PM.
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  5. #5

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    Also note that living in Japan with a Japanese spouse is a whole different ballgame than just being a gaijin family. Night and day- having a Japanese spouse to interface with the outside world on a daily basis in Japanese- well cannot compare to being there on your own. I watched my coworker with Japanese girlfriends and then spouse- he had it super easy. Like when I was there, renting on my own was nearly impossible, my company held the lease, paid it, and deducted it from my salary. Maybe things have changed since that time but...just weird. There is discrimination against foreigners in some places and I witnessed a lot of downright racism (if that is the right term) against Chinese and Koreans.


  6. #6

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    @TB, are you or your spouse Japanese ?

    I have also been thinking about Japan, and often travel there. The quality of everything is generally nice, especially when it comes to food. I do feel that Japanese are too process oriented and its a bit off putting to me. Also I prefer more modern things and good service. I feel that Japan makes great things individually but when you put them together it just doesn't seem to be luxury, rather very basic. I also feel the service is quite lacking, especially in hotels. Although it is probably a culture thing, they enjoy waiting in queues and probably the more quiet / left alone feeling.

    Property definitely I saw some unique spaces, affordable, much better than HK. But older homes are very off-putting, with lots of wood and Japanese tatami that just looks old.

    Japan is mostly appealing due to its trains, ability to travel around, nature which is just beautiful and great standard of food.

    Work wise, well for me I have my own company so not a biggie but I do think working for a Japanese company will be a bit hellish. Seems very submissive and process oriented.

    The question you have is simply if you want to make the move job wise. Japan will be great but your whole experience depends highly upon your job, company, boss and colleagues. I talk to some Japanese regularly here in HK and when they explain life back in Japan, it's quite grueling. Get in the office 8am. Drinks 7-11pm. Home 12midnight. Repeat. Anyway your results may vary.

    MABinPengChau and Coolboy like this.

  7. #7

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    My wife is Japanese, though I don't think that makes much of a difference to be honest. I lived in Japan for five years as a single guy and those were the five best years of my life - despite not speaking much Japanese.

    I agree were your views on Japanese service - if you stay within the parameters of what they are comfortable with/trained for then it's great. As soon as you step out of their comfort zone you'll often just get a blank. Same as in Hong Kong, the "cannot" but they'll say "can not" more nicely . Expecting flexibility is a mistake - rules/structures/procedures are very rigid and even easy requests can be turned down. I also think Japan is a lot less child-friendly than HK as a rule - restaurants, hotels etc tend to be more adult-only spaces.

    You're expected to renovate (called reform here) when buying a place, or (more likely) knock down and start again. 80% of property transactions are new-builds, only 1 sale in 5 is a second hand home. The good news is the contractors here are excellent, several notches above HK quality and you can expect a renovation to be as good as new. So, you pay your money and make your choices. We decided to buy a 30 year old wooden house, which is essentially worthless as we just paid the value of the land when buying. We spent about 4 million yen on renovations and now live in a lovely 220 sqm house with 3 bathrooms, double car garage, fully fitted kitchen with US-size appliances etc... with small children, a tumble drier is a real time-saver

    On work life, yes, many Japanese companies expect far too much from their staff and I'd never subsume my life to the company as some Japanese salary-men do. Much better to choose a MNC if you can, rather than get sucked into that culture. Fortunately my hours are same as HK (7:30 to 5pm) so I'm home by 6 and on the tennis court by 6:02. Like anywhere, your company and manager are very important in setting expectations.

    shri, emx and MandM! like this.

  8. #8

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    Yes, Japan LOVES to give mortgages to foreigners with no PR. No questions asked ! No need to have a Japanese spouse at all! Of course, you can always pay cash, that's what I did.


  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by MABinPengChau
    Yes, Japan LOVES to give mortgages to foreigners with no PR. No questions asked ! No need to have a Japanese spouse at all! Of course, you can always pay cash, that's what I did.
    Plenty of banks offer financing on Japanese properties to foreigners with no PR. You can even borrow on a Japanese property while having no residency rights at all in Japan. That's what I did, and I know several others who have done so.

    Here is an example for you

    https://www.orix.com.hk/en/consumer-...loan/index.jsp

    If you want to buy while living in Japan as a non-PR, SMBC Prestia will throw money at you. They still call me a couple of times a year and offer me a mortgage - which I don't want. I imagine this situation (lending to non-PR) might have been different when you were living in Japan but this is the reality now. Banks are over-stuffed with deposits and suffering from a severe lack of demand for loans..

    And - unlike Hong Kong - you don't get hit with special stamp duties if you buy as a non-PR.
    Last edited by TheBrit; 12-07-2019 at 08:39 AM.
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  10. #10

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    Thanks all for the information.
    We are Aussies. The company is not the traditional Japanese style they say
    and a lot of foreigners are employed specially from the US.
    They do not require employees to learn Japanese but you will get better compensation if you do.
    Also working hours is 8 hours only(9-6pm) and most people don't go beyond that despite the company providing free dinner starting 7PM everyday.
    Location is Tokyo.

    I also got some feedback from friends there about discrimination specially outside Tokyo,
    some communities do not accept foreigners as their neighbors.

    Also got the same comment about the locals, they are a lot more uptight and kind of robotic in nature compared to HK locals.
    They also do not socialise with foreigners and like more to live in isolation.
    Also they say if my wife will not work and just stay at home, she will die of boredom because of very limited interaction with other people

    MABinPengChau likes this.

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