mandag 7. april 2008

良禽擇木而棲

Talking to my colleague/roommate (I rented out one of my rooms to him) yesterday while we drive to Hemsedal for 3 hours. Our topic was about him going to quit and relocate at the end of the month.

良禽擇木而棲 was spoken of a lot in ancient history how capable people serve for different kings/lords to better use their talents. Nowadays we use that in the context of corporate world. How people with talent work for companies where their talents are put into better use. For this post, we talk about how we are looking for the right place to be, not just the right company to work for, but also the best country to live, not just for ourselves, but for our family as well.

My colleague/roommate is married with a 9 month old daughter, having worked in India, Dubai, Singapore before coming to Norway. After 9 months of living here, he has realized the cost of living in Norway is too high to bear. Main reason is because the tax is heavy and the food costs are too high. Thus the high salary disappears quick after the mandatory living costs. It was extra heavy for him because his family is still living in Singapore so he has to support them.

After talking to him I realize for people like us there are just a few elements we consider when we pick the place to live.

- Job market, no job = no money, no money no talk
- Tax, not just income tax, but sales tax as well.
- Housing cost (Cost to rent, and cost to buy)
- Food cost
- Transportation cost
- Entertainment cost, (shopping, travel, etc)
- Welfare (Health care, unemployment, pension)

Noticed how culture and language is not an issue to consider, because English works fine everywhere and we are confident that learning a language is just a matter of time.

From my understanding and experience I have compiled the description of living conditions for the places I have lived in.

Hong Kong (open to correction, afterall I have only been to HK once in the past 18 years)

- Job market: It is only good if you are well educated, have connection and/or work in professional fields (doctor, accountant etc.) In the right job and in the right field there are basically no limit of how much you can make.
- Tax: It is minimal, so most of the money you make ends up in your pocket.
- Housing: It is quite expensive, median house price is 10+ years more than the median income.
- Food: It is very cheap. A wide choice of dinner for under 100 HKD a person.
- Transportation: Cheap and public transportation widely available. Expensive for car owners though
- Entertainment: Cheap if you want to buy something or go out for Karaoke, gets more expensive if you want to travel to anywhere besides China.
- Welfare, as far as I know, it is minimal, "Fruit money" at 700 HKD a month, minimal cost to see the public doctors. (Any addition/corrections here are welcome)

Basically Hong Kong is a true capitalist society where you make as much as you can with your ability and minimum tax is taken away from you to provide minimum welfare. Because of the high gini index, essential living costs are relatively low.

USA
- Job Market: USA is big enough for everyone who strive to be successful, although it is hard for foreigner without a green card to get the job and salary they want. Salary range as low as $5.75 an hour minimum wage to ..... there is no limit.
- Tax is pretty high. 33% income tax is normal for a young worker without a family to support and now house mortgage to pay for. Sales tax range from 4% to 8%, varies from state to state. (California has the highest sales tax rate)
- Housing: Before the housing bubble bursts, median house prices in California is at about 10 years of median salary (Don't forget houses in USA is bigger than apartments in Hong Kong). Low or zero percent downpayment has made it more affordable to people than it should.
- Food, McDonalds dollar menu keeps it cheap. A wide choice of dinner for under 100 HKD a person.
- Transportation: In California, either you drive or you are as good as a crippled. Car prices and petrol prices are among the cheapest in the world. Although the reason oil price hike has made many drivers suffer.
- Entertainment: Cheap, and that include shopping and travelling within the border/Mexico. With the US dollar dropping, it costs more to travel to other continents.
- Welfare: 12 years free education. They have cheap medical plans (Medicare) but has restrictions. We the young people was taught to ignore social security (pensjon) because it won't be there when we retire due to bankrupcy. As of today, i don't know how much they get. Don't think because you pay a lot of tax you get a lot of welfare, the money are used on wars instead of domestic welfare.

Basically USA is very similar to Hong Kong, you work your way up except tax is higher. Expenses are relatively cheap to your income except for housing. If you have a way to get the green card, you can make a decent living there without problem.

Norway
- Job Market: Doesn't matter what you do, you make mostly the same salary at the beginning, 20 years later is what the difference lies. Rarely to see workers making more than 2-3 million HKD a year without being a co-owner of something.
- Tax: High, 36% income tax for single worker without mortgage to pay. Plus 25% sales tax.
- Housing: Even in the middle of the housing bubble, median house price is still just about 6 years of median salary. High downpayment requirement (15 to 20%) is the only thing keeping all people from affording a house.
- Food: Very expensive, main reason is the 25% sales tax, but also because salary is high. Operating cost for restaurants are high.
- Transportation: In Oslo, public transportation is quite ok, although buses and metro comes every 15 to 30 minutes. In other places a car is mandatory and petrol prices is not cheap despite Norway is one of the top 10 oil export country.
- Entertainment: Very expensive for the same reason. However, travelling is cheap as long as it is within Europe. Many cheap tickets options available.
- Welfare: This is where the tax money goes. Every citizen gets minimum 7500 HKD a month for pensjon. Citizens gets money for having child plus money for each of them (about 2000 HKD each child each month) until they become 18. Children under 7 goes to doctor for free. 40 weeks of paid labor leave for father and mother combined. Basically free to go to public universities for Masters degree and above (except for buying books and registration fees of 1000 HKD each semester). Each person needs to pay max 2500 HKD on medical expenses, anything above that is free.

Basically Norway has a socialist economy with the low salary range, high tax and very good welfare (money are mainly from tax money, but also because of oil sale). It's a very good place for people who just want enough to live and not asking for a lot more.

The above is not meant to be a research paper so all the data is based on my experience and observation. Pretty much just to want to initiate a discussion for those who has something to see and for people who lives in other places to share their situation.

4 kommentarer:

eric sa...

如果有小朋友的話,為了將來上大學,美國或挪威會是不錯的選擇。加拿大都唔錯架(賣下廣告先,哈哈)
小弟三至五年後,也要面對去留問題。唉。

Desertfox sa...

There isn't enough competition in Norway, USA is a good place for University education and above only.

So you are studying in Canada right now? Think about the possible depression when you pick your place to live. Don't be afraid to try out new places.

eric sa...

It is faster for me to write in English...yeah I am studying in Canada right now, but I will be in UK really soon (June/July) for a 3-5 year contract position. After that, I am not sure if I want to stay in UK, or go back to Canada, or even back to Hong Kong. Since I haven't been back to HK for quite some time, I am not sure if I will be able to adjust to the HK way of living. I was back last year summer time, and I think I was too laid back or too slow or whatnot compared to the HK people (i.e. I have become a 加燦). At the same time, it is a bit depressing to live in Canada, especially in winter time.
So yeah, I am not sure where I want to be, and as I get older I really need to think about where I am going to "settle down".

Angel Asura 天使阿修羅 sa...

Hey guys, just try new places but not HK! HK may be good for short term or vacation, but in the long run, it's not entirely a good place!

As a woman believes in "escapism", just try out other corner of the world ...

Great to have overseas blog-friends:)