9 Expat Rules For Living in Asia

Thinking of moving to Asia? Here’s 9 basic rules that you should master before you go.

*Disclaimer: This is proposed as a light-hearted, fun article and is not intended to offend anyone.

Take pictures of food

It’s accepted—no, the norm—to take pictures of your steaming bowl of noodles. There may be nothing particularly special about them but as soon as the waiter places the food on your table you need to whip out your smartphone and get snapping. Why? No one knows. In the case of many expats, taking pictures of food can act as a handy reminder of what they actually ate before they embarked on yet another Jägermeister fuelled soirée.

Wear protection

The sun is intense in many Asian cities and if you don’t slap on that factor 30 or slaver on the moisturizer it won’t be long until you start to resemble a Neapolitan-mastiff. If all else fails just jump on a short flight to Bangkok and run your luck with a backstreet facelift for the bargain price of 50 baht.

Bring your own deodorant

Unless au naturale is your thing and you actually like smelling like the restrooms of Central Park Southwest you should consider bringing some strong deodorant from home. Many Asian countries don’t sell deodorant and even those that do don’t always offer brands that actually work. Just how sure are you that it won’t let you down?

Learn to sing

Karoke is THE thing in many Asian cities and you will be expected to pick up a microphone and sing along to the Canto-pop or J-pop like a local. Always bear in mind that in many Asian cities an invitation is not really a request, it’s an obligation: “sing monkey sing!”

Accept that it takes several workers to complete a small task

Don’t be surprised if you contact your building services to request that a cupboard door is fixed and 4 or 5 people turn up to do it. Be even less surprised when they start chattering away in a foreign language with extremely worried expressions on their faces before actually completing the straightforward job in a matter of minutes. It’s just the way it is here.


No self-respecting expatriate in Asia will let a month pass by without attending some type of champagne-fuelled extravagant brunch. Also known as The afternoon Killer, the expat brunch is an institution in many Asian cities. Just remember your smartphone.

Don’t act like an idiot

Yes, Asia is an amazing place, especially if you’re young, free and single. Enjoy yourself by all means but don’t act like a complete and utter idiot just because you’re in an exciting environment. You’d be surprised about how many expats forget this simple rule.


Ok, you won’t grow literally, but one long haul flight from the west and you will emerge taller. Forget all those years of being the smallest person in the room; you will suddenly tower over everyone else (for people who have spent their lives looking up at other people these can actually be quite strange.) It’s great for people who suffer from Napoleon syndrome.

Learn the language or look like a chimp

If you don’t make a concerted effort to learn the language and mix with the locals you will inevitably fall into many situations where you emerge looking like you have an IQ no higher than turnip. Try and familiarize yourself with the cultural practices and traditions in your host country and even if you don’t fully master the local lingo you will at least win a little bit of respect.

Author: ExpatInfoDesk