When you’re a Kiwi living overseas, people back in NZ often ask you some version of “So, when are you coming home?” As though your time overseas is a bit of fun, but perhaps also a period of mild insanity that you just need to get out of your system.
They’re waiting for you to come to your senses and move back to paradise a.k.a Aotearoa.
This isn’t always the case – some people never come home. On the other hand, for the first time in twenty-four years more people are migrating to New Zealand from Australia rather than the other way around – including Kiwis coming back to the motherland.
In part two of a two-part series, we talk to another Kiwi living and working in another country to ask what motivates her to live overseas, and to see when (or if) she’s ever coming “home”. Emily Crutchley is a 29 year-old lawyer, living in Hong Kong.
How long have you been living in Hong Kong and what do you do there?
I originally moved to Hong Kong in 2013 to take up an Associate role at a multinational law firm. I have since moved to an in-house legal counsel role for The Bank of New York Mellon, where I advise on employment law matters across 12 APAC jurisdictions.
What drove the move to Hong Kong?
My boyfriend, now husband, and I had always planned to live and work overseas once we had finished university and gained enough experience working in New Zealand. He always wanted to look to Asia for work, but that seemed a bit too daunting for me and I was more interested in the more traditional move to London.
However, after about four years of working in Auckland as a solicitor, I was contacted by a recruiter regarding an employment law role in Hong Kong. I knew that those sorts of roles didn’t come up often and weren’t always easy to get, so I knew I had to go for it.
How did you make the decision to go, and what were your feelings about it?
I knew it was a great opportunity to work for a multinational law firm, but I hadn’t really properly contemplated the realities of living and working in Asia and it all happened very quickly.
I was very apprehensive when I arrived; Hong Kong is a very full-on city when you aren’t used to it, and the frenzied pace is like nowhere else. Luckily I found it very easy to make friends here; every expat remembers what it is like to be new in town, and so people are very welcoming.
Now that I’ve been in Hong Kong for a few years I’m very relieved that I took the opportunity when it arose because I think that roles for expats are becoming harder and harder to get, if you don’t speak Mandarin and/or Cantonese.
Why do you prefer Hong Kong to New Zealand at this time in your life?
There are many reasons but I think the key ones would be career, friendships and travel opportunities.
Working in Hong Kong has given me the opportunity to expand my legal knowledge and experience across a range of APAC jurisdictions, and I am getting exposure to deals and legal matters that I wouldn’t have in New Zealand.
Salary levels, bonuses and opportunities for progression are also much more favourable than in New Zealand. Hong Kong is relatively expensive, particularly rental costs, but my husband and I are in a much better financial position since taking up our roles here.
We’ve been able to buy property in New Zealand with the savings we’ve accrued whilst working in Hong Kong, which would have taken us much longer if we had stayed in NZ.
A large proportion of our Kiwi friends are also living overseas and so if we were to move home now, a lot of them still wouldn’t be there. Once people start moving back home from their time overseas, it might encourage us to come home sooner.
Do you see yourself staying in Hong Kong for a while, and do you think you’ll ever head back to New Zealand?
Yes we’ll be here for a while. My husband is running his own business here now in partnership with another Kiwi, and I am very happy and enjoying my job so from a career perspective we are very invested here.
If we have children one day that may change our perspective; I would like my kids to grow up as Kiwi kids, and to be able to see their grandparents more easily.
Is there anything in Hong Kong that could eventually make you want to leave E.g. a change in the government, new laws, certain events happening?
Like anywhere, Hong Kong has its own political issues; we were here during the pro-democracy protests in 2014 which was an interesting time, and differing views over the “One country, two systems” policy continue to pose challenges to the political landscape here.
But Hong Kong continues to be an extremely safe place to live and so while we keep an eye on the political scene, I don’t anticipate that this would prompt us to leave.
Air pollution is something we are conscious of, right now we just accept it as part of living in Asia but it’s not great. I think if we have children we would rather they grow up in the fresh air of New Zealand.
Finally, what would you say to a New Zealander who was considering moving to Hong Kong? Any advice?
Try to find work before you arrive! Hong Kong is expensive if you don’t have an income and you will chew through your savings very quickly just on living costs if you aren’t able to find work quickly.
Be prepared to change your way of thinking, especially in business, and be aware of cultural sensitivities. It is easy to move to Asia and try to recreate your usual westernised way of living, and fall into the habit of just doing the usual expat activities.
But you will get a lot more out of the experience if you embrace the culture and different ways of doing things, both in business and in your personal life and experiences.
You may also like to check our part one of the series: Louise Chamberlain, who works at a healthcare consulting firm in Doha, Qatar.