你确定要“走出去”? / Are You Sure You Want to Go Global?

你确定要“走出去”?

有天晚上和两位老友吃饭,他们和我一样都是在香港生活了20多年的美国人。其中一位是《财富》500强公司的亚太区负责人,另一位是香港大型上市公司的董事。我们几人还在一些香港非盈利机构担任董事。

我们都很幸运,不仅事业有成,还都选择把家安在了香港。为此,我们每个人都心怀感激,感谢上苍让我们在中国和亚洲发生巨变之时,有幸生活和工作在香港,并因此赶上了巨变带来的诸多机遇。香港和很多城市相比,是一个大都会,对外来人口较为开放,给有意来港工作或创业的人提供的税收和移民政策也颇具吸引力。

定居香港这么多年,我们三人倒也不时返美一趟,因为那儿毕竟还有我们的家人,有我们的朋友。借助网络和国际媒体,我们也在一直关注着美国的新闻、文化、体育和美食。

但是,关注家乡文化是一码事,置身其中就是另外一码事了。尤其是考虑到时代发展的速度,旅居海外的时间愈长,对家乡时事的陌生感就愈强。再回去的时候,感觉有点不能同步,好似半个外国人。你会发现时过境迁,有些事变得更好、有些事变得更糟。有时你会问很愚蠢的问题,有时甚至会犯言语上的错误,因为你已经听不懂一些隐语典故了。还有的时候你听到政客的言论,会感觉自己必定是天外来客。

当然这种情况也并不是美国人的专利。事实上,凡是远离出生地、童年成长地生活时间久了的人,都会受此影响。曾几何时,从总部派驻国外的员工被叫做“expatriates”。二、三十年前,香港的外派员工大多来自英国、美国和欧洲。那时候的外派员工薪酬十分优厚,包括租房补贴、子女入学补贴以及返乡探亲补贴等等。然而,为海外岗位招募的员工在人员构成上逐渐向多元化发展,涵盖了来自世界各国的人们,而他们的薪酬构成也发生了相应的变化。因此,时至今日,“expatriates”这个字眼已经变成了某种历史名词。

如果你问我当年初到香港,是什么让我留下来一呆就是十年、二十年、甚至三十多年,我绝对会说“并没有什么”。我根本没有预计或者计划会是如此,我的两位朋友恐怕也会给出同样的答案。事情总是彼此关联,我们只不过灵活运用了各种出现的机会罢了。地利、天时、人和——三者同等重要。

背井离乡虽然有得,但也有失,特别是对父母、兄弟、叔侄、姑表亲情而言,所以并不见得适合每个人。有些人远离熟悉的氛围、语言、风俗、饮食、运动、环境,会感到难以承受的痛苦。

而用都市化、高效化程度都极高的香港来做衡量标准,不免也会产生些许误导。

如果是在世界其他地方生活,日常遇到的人恐怕都会比较迂腐——内向而不开放——对外面的世界既不了解,也无兴趣。这对建立友谊和增进相互间的理解是一个严重的障碍。

同时,我们也不要忘记种族偏见和歧视在很多地方仍有市场。

因此,在一定程度上,个人“走出去”的难度取决于“目的地”是哪里。我必须承认自己也许是被这个特殊历史时期的香港宠坏了。

我和两个朋友在启动个人版“走出去”时,并无从知晓中国即将迎来历史性的开放,且会从根本上加速全球化的进程。

随着对跨国专业人士需求的巨幅攀升,今天的年轻人可以在比较职业选择时,权衡更多的确定性因素。至于这条路是否真的适合你,则需要慎重地考虑。

最后,为成功“走出去”,你不需要像我和两个朋友那样在外生活这么久。但当心啊,日子会在你乐在其中、努力工作、安家落户的过程中过得飞快。

Are You Sure You Want to Go Global?

The other night I had dinner with two very old friends. Both are American guys like me who have lived in Hong Kong for 20 years or more. One is the top executive in the Asia-Pacific region of a FORTUNE 500 company, and the other is a member of the board of directors of a large listed Hong Kong company. Each of us has served on a variety of boards of directors of non-profit organizations in the Hong Kong community.

We’re all very fortunate to have enjoyed success in our careers and our choice of Hong Kong as a place to raise a family. Each of us is grateful for the opportunities which came our way as a result of living and working in Hong Kong during this dynamic period of change in China and the Asian region. Compared to most cities, Hong Kong is cosmopolitan, relatively open to non-locals, and offers generally attractive tax and immigration policies to visitors wishing to work or start a business.

Over the years of living here, all three of us have been frequent visitors back to the U.S., where we of course still have family and friends. Between the internet and the long reach of global media, we’re in constant touch with news of America, American culture, sports, and American food.

Still, it is one thing to be informed about, and another to be a full-time participant in, your home country and culture. Especially given the speed of change nowadays, the longer you live overseas, the more you are liable to feel like you’re a partial stranger to what’s going on at home. When you visit, you feel slightly out of sync, like a half-foreigner. You notice things which have changed, some for the better and some not. Sometimes you ask dumb questions. Sometimes you even make language mistakes because you’re out of step with the latest lingo. And sometimes, when listening to certain politicians talk, you think you must have originated from a different planet.

This is not a phenomenon unique to Americans, of course. It affects people who live for a long time far from the land of their birth and childhood. Once upon a time, employees posted from head offices to a foreign country were called expatriates. In Hong Kong twenty to thirty years ago, most of these were from the U.K., U.S. or Europe. Expatriate compensation packages of that era were generous and based on the concept of “hardship pay”, including allowances for home rental, schooling for kids, holidays at home, etc. Gradually the composition of employees hired for foreign postings diversified to include people from all over the globe, and the compensation packages evolved as well. As a result, the term “expatriate” has become something of a historical one.

If you had asked me when I first arrived in Hong Kong what the chances were that I would remain here for ten, twenty, or thirty-plus years I would have confidently said: “absolutely zero.” I didn’t anticipate or plan it that way. My two friends would probably have said the same thing. One thing lead to another, and we stayed flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities which presented themselves. Right place, right time, right attitude — all three are equally important.

Living far away from home has many benefits, but it also involves lots of sacrifices, especially in terms of proximity to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. It’s not for everyone. Some people find it very challenging to accept the long distance they feel from familiar surroundings, language, customs, food, sports, the environment, etc.

It’s also potentially misleading using a highly cosmopolitan and efficient city like Hong Kong as a benchmark.

Living in many other parts of the world, the people you would tend to encounter daily tend to be provincial — inward looking rather than outward looking — and neither well informed nor particularly interested in the world outside. That can be a serious obstacle to building friendships and mutual understanding.

And let’s not forget that racial prejudice and discrimination are still a factor in many places.

So, to some extent, the personal challenge of going global depends to some extent on the “where” factor. I freely admit that I’ve probably been spoiled by being in Hong Kong during this particular phase of history.

When my two friends and I began our personal versions of the “go global” story, there was no way of knowing that China was about to embark upon a historical opening process which would fundamentally accelerate the process of globalization.

Young people today can weigh their career options with a lot more certainty insofar as the huge demand for globally skilled and qualified talent goes. As to whether it’s the right path for you, that deserves careful consideration.

Finally, in order to successfully go global, you don’t need to live overseas as long as me and my two friends have. But beware, because time flies when you’ve having fun, working hard, and raising a family.


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