Andrew Mullen is one individual to have garnered a solid understanding of the local sector. Having graduated with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree from the University of Central Lancashire in England, he moved out to Hong Kong with the Press Association news agency’s sports division six years ago before becoming a freelance sports writer and then a Communications Executive at Asian marketing agency World Sport Group.
In his current role, Mullen has worked in China, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Macau, Vietnam, Australia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Korea Republic, Philippines and India, giving him a broad perspective of the Asian sports industry.
“For anyone who has moved or is considering moving, they must have ambition and the need to seek out new challenges, and this should not stop when you arrive at your new destination,” Mullen said.
“The language barrier will always present itself in Asia, but this does not have to be a major problem,” Mullen added. “Learning the local language will obviously be very beneficial, but if you have to travel, learning a few words for each country will go a long way and will always be appreciated.
“Wherever you are you will always find someone who speaks English and they will become a valuable asset, or you will always be able to provide a common ground to break down any initial language barriers.
“I once travelled to a football tournament in a small border town in Tajikistan and while I did not speak any of the local language and they spoke little English, a few mentions of Wayne Rooney and Steve Gerrard soon brought a few laughs, and through sport we managed establish some sort of communication.
“You will find that anyone who speaks even just a few words of English will want to learn from you, and any help is always appreciated. These contacts become invaluable at the time or in the future. The sporting community in Asia, despite its size, is somewhat small and you will meet the same people again and again. While it may take a few years in some cases, relationships will develop.”
Mullen believes his time in the Asian sports industry has helped him to open his “eyes to the world”, but he would urge those seeking to make a similar move to carry out thorough research of local customs and, perhaps more pressingly, immigration procedures.
“Turning up in Uzbekistan for the first time without the right paperwork is not an experience I would recommend,” he said. “Also check if you need to register with the local police, although your hotel will normally do this.
“All of this is basic for any traveller, but when travelling for work you cannot afford any problems or delays. You will need a visa for a lot of countries, and most can be easily obtained either at an embassy or consulate or an arrival at your destination. All airlines should also check you have the right paperwork before departing as you are their responsibility until you have cleared immigration.
“Knowing local customs can avoid any problems especially with the various religions in Asia. Also, researching in advance local traditional food and delicacies is also essential to be able to enjoy your trip outside of work. You will find a lot of people you meet will have recommendations or will be more than happy to show you around.”
According to Davis, living costs, as well as salaries, must be investigated before anyone makes a move to Asia.
“Compensation expectations will have to be adjusted downward if someone wants to work in the emerging markets of Asia,” he said. “However, the cost of living is sometimes lower, which can help ease the financial transition.”
For Mullen, the key is to embrace the local culture – both in and out of work – to ensure a work-related spell in Asia is an enjoyable and productive one.
“Even if your stay in the overseas location will only be a temporary one and not a long-term commitment, you must fully immerse yourself in the culture and your surroundings,” he said. “You need to live life as you would if you were at home – both in work and socially.”