Asia Sales Mgr-which country/city might be an ideal base

Here is a question. Say a guy has been offered an Asian sales mgr position where he can be based out of pretty anywhere he chooses. He needs a good international airport to conveniently get to company’s major markets such as China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India. He can look after his own tax affairs. His wife is Taiwanese, no kids, he can speak Chinese and so he can live in Taiwan easily enough and not too difficult to live in China too. He likes Taiwan but sees this a chance to try somewhere new. Any ideas…

Some ideas he is working on-

  1. North Taiwan (advantage of home base and no requirement of applying residence permit, get health insurance on wife’s hukou, can park money in foreign account so should be tax free). Perhaps a base in Nankan area would be good near airport.

  2. Shanghai- good place to live before having family and make connections and service major Chinese clients will be cheap and much better place to network for career and more ‘international’. However may need to deal with more serious busniess regulation and pay 20% tax to reside there. Plus Shanghai seems to be more expensive than Taipei even. There is a good chance the employer can be convinced to establish a registered office there and make some contribution to higher tax rate. Any other Chinese city that has good international transport links?

  3. Osaka- wife speaks Japanese and could study/work there but he has no idea …might be nice change though. No idea of how to get residence there unless company willing to establish registered office. Might be expensive to live though???

Any suggestions of good places for a couple with no kids to make a base of operations, interested to see more of Asia, but easy enough to setup up residence without getting taxed more than 10% (need to save cash next couple of years)? He is not a big fan of HK as feels it is too crowded although might consider Singapore if could get residence permit for himself/wife…might feel a bit stifled after living in free-wheeling Taiwan though.

It comes down to personal choice, which means its up to you … err, him. Take a quick tour of a few cities and decide for yourself.

Regarding residency in Singapore: the nation-state would accommodate you I’m sure given you can demonstrate employment. Worst case is that you would have to set up a representative office or some such entity in Singapore to employ you, but I doubt it would be that difficult. Previously I was granted Singapore residency based on a business I set up there. Later I was granted PR status. The efficiency of government there is something to behold.

My preference would be Singapore simply for quality of life issues. But you have family in Taiwan, so the equation you are looking at is different.

Agreed it’s personal choice and depends on background of people but it would be nice to hear from people who lived in various locations in Asia and run Asian sales from there.
Thanks for info about Singapore, after applying for work permit I guess one would have to pay tax on income.

Japan is an amazing place to live but extremely hard to do business and even more bureaucratic than Taiwan. I would love to live in Osaka but sadly I just wouldn’t be able to make any money there. I tried to justify moving to Japan so many times but just couldn’t do it from a business perspective. We have quite a few Japanese customers but let’s face it, a plane ride to Tokyo or Osaka is quicker than driving to Kending.

Taiwan isn’t perfect but it’s the best compromise in Asia between ease of living and ease of doing business. Taiwan is big enough that there is a lot of money floating around but small enough that a little fish can get some headway into the market.

If you are ruthless and want to earn as much money as possible then I guess you have to look at Shanghai. But I wouldn’t fancy it.

I don’t know much about this, but I do have a few questions:

  1. What about Macao? I always liked it better than HK, just for the difference. That is only as a tourist however.

  2. Doing business in Japan is suppose to be easier as a Hawaiian corp, but they have high taxes, highest amongst developed nations I believe. I’d prefer Nagoya(sp?) or Kyoto. I hate winter so Hokkaido is out.

  3. Why North Taiwan with it’s horrible weather? I’d much prefer something in say Changhua or South Taichung since it’s close to the HSR. I’d say the HSR opens up Taiwan a bit for you. I’m assuming N. Taiwan for business reasons.

  4. Shanghai seems cool, but with pollution and high expenses seems to put people off.

  5. I’d love to live in Singapore and I’d think they’d have a program for such people in order to make it easier to be based there.

  6. What about Malaysia?

I’d imagine you’d want to be close to where the most business would be.

There are reasons why most businesses are based in HK and Singapore. Start to think about taxes, visas, and the ease of transport to the destinations you mention.

As an example - sign a contract with an offshore entity when you are outside of Hong Kong and you can qualify for days in, days out calculations on your tax bill. This meant that for a long time my average taxes were 8.5% a year because I travelled a lot. You won’t get those kind of breaks in the more “interesting” locations.

Singapore makes it very easy for foreigners and you can get a PR after a very short stay. Its great for families but of course you have to put up with the fact that all the locals have been brainwashed and only have one opinion, one way of doing things etc.

My preference given your situation would definitely be HK. If you live out of town there is some gorgeous countryside and housing becomes more affordable.

The good news is that you are in a posistion to have such a problem

I meant to say this guy, not you

What’s the percentage of travel to where? Where will you be spending most of your time?
If most of your time is in China, Shanghai could be an option. If you are also spending a lot of time in India, or a mix of both, somewhere like Singapore is better.

If you are running an office, FOREX payments, (especially non-trade), to and from China as well as licensing and tax can be difficult. Ironically Shanghai is just as if not more expensive that Singapore for daily living. Hong Kong has been the most expensive for everything.

Commuting to China from HKG is doable, but painful. Just try flying out of PVG on a Friday. HKG is great if you travel about N. Asia. My record for getting home from the airport is 45min from wheels down. However, the food is overrated, the housing and schools are expensive and crowded and many things require connections and/or $$$. The bureaucracy is efficient but poorly led which means stupid ideas get implemented brilliantly

Singapore is very efficient, but runs a bit of a caste system with its visas. If you get in the right tier, you can get your visa before you land. Taxes are low, but higher than HKG. The quality of life is second only to Taiwan, but I may just be showing my biases. For what I paid for a 1,500 square ft apt. in HKG I can get a house with a garden and a pool. The food is better than HKG and the schools don’t require debenchers (sp?).

The biggest downside to Taiwan is the bureaucracy.

Osaka? No idea. Only been on short trips, but the airport is far away and how good is your Japanese?

Thanks for all the contributions. I think China and India are a major focus (both with at least 4 customers) and other significant markets being Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Travel could be 50% of time. There’s no requriement to take FOREX or manage a proper office, it’s just key account customer handling for Western tech business. So it would be hard to choose an ideal base from any city really. My impression of doing business in Taiwan is that regulation is not so rigorous, especially if you are married and don’t depend on applying for work permits etc. It’s easy to go through the airport at Taoyuan, not very crowded and there are flights to pretty much all major cities in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam these days. It’s also cheap to live in Taiwan…much much cheaper than HK, Singapore, Shanghai etc. The position on offer pays fairly well but not HK expat well so perhaps Singapore/HK would be pushing the budget.

Drawbacks of Taiwan- career development it is not as good as Shanghai…it’s hard to see how you can jump from a job to a better job in Taiwan but I can see it happening in a place like Shanghai…better chance to meet higher management (Western management, willing to pay bigger bucks $$$), especially for somebody with fairly good Chinese, Chinese customer base and knowledge of Chinese business practice. Also being based in Shanghai means you will suddenly be more popular for visits from friends and relatives…sad but true. Also spouse being Taiwanese it may be easier for her to handle immigration and work permit to China than other countries and there is a very large Taiwanese community there (?).

Maybe this position could start off being based in Taiwan and see how the concentration of business develops.

Make sure you get on of those APEC passes. It’s a bit of a hassle to do it, since essentially you are applying for a multiple entry visa for all of those countries, but well worth the fact you can get through the diplomatic queue at each country that okays it.

There are a lot worse places to live than Taiwan…If you don’t need a registered office, why not? You might lose a little on flight frequency and cost, might be worth it. China’s a snap these days. India, just a transfer through HKG or SIN.

As a foreigner in Taiwan they are sure to suspect you of tax evasion, (offshore income for work performed in Taiwan), so expect to get audited with some level of regularity.

All this talk makes me want a job like this.
So how do you do it?

Work your ass off in local co’s for rather mediocre pay for 8 years to build experience and contacts and take a LOT OF TIME and money to pay for Chinese lessons (speaking/reading/writing)…have the right education background for specialist industry (Masters in that industry or in business is useful for mgmt role), however even though there may be easier ways and probably better ways that everybody wishes for…just to have to earn your stripes sometimes or tough it out…no Xmas holidays etc…not for everybody. Previously I personally thought that Chinese was not very beneficial after all the effort it requires but the Chinese domestic market is really REALLY important to Western companies now with declining markets in other areas and it is starting to be more and more useful to have Chinese, especially reading/writing. Companies are under pressure to grow revenue every year but they can’t really do it in Europe/US now, Asia, Africa and S.America are the places to do this…with Asia taking the lions share of growth by far.

Then go to where these Western companies recruit from (EU/US/ShangHai etc.)…contact with companies there directly or go to recruiters for your industry. It can happen that you can meet the right people in Taiwan but pretty rare these days.

The other part, and this probably isn’t discussed enough, is that most managers don’t take people in their 20s seriously (for obvious general reasons ). If you are in your 30s they see you as a peer and take you more seriously. Pay offers can double within a few years as they see you as more ‘senior’! It’s not something that you personally did sometimes…just the circumstances.

Anyway, after getting a job you have to perform to keep it and keep having new goals!

I wouldn’t call this a problem, I’d call this the opportunity of a lifetime, and would sooo enjoy having to wrestle with the decision.

Green with envy.

Oh, and since it sounds like the company is fairly open, pick someone you’ve never lived and has low barriers to setup (sounds like Singapore to me…) and try it out. Worst case is you move back to Taipei in a few years and are out a few $$$. The experiences and stories would more than make up for it.