FACES OF EXPATRIATION – CHINA
Ramone Turnquest is CEO & Creative Director for Haus of Regal V. Real, a luxury bag company based in China. He is the former Creative Director of Exiles Boutique and has served as the producer and coordinator of numerous fashion shows including the Islands of the World Fashion Week in the Bahamas, Barbados Fashion Week, and London Fashion Week 2011. Most recently he was accredited by the Scottish Registry of Tartan for being one of the first black Caribbean designers to register their design with the Scottish Registry of Tartans. Ramone has an extensive background in law and finance, obtaining his LLB from the University of Westminster London.
What other countries have you worked/ lived in?
I was born in the Bahamas and moved around a lot as a child. At the age of 18, I took a big step by moving to the U.K to complete my A levels and University education, upon completion of my studies I began my career in finance.
Describe your work. How is your work accepted abroad?
I work in two areas fashion: creative directing and investment consulting. I’ve always been a people person, so I’ve never had an issue meeting new people and making friends. My work consists heavily of networking and self-promotion which I do through social media. I own a fashion brand called Haus of Regal V. Real which focuses mainly on silk made clothing and bags made primarily of cork, leather, straw, and bamboo. My bags are sort of a brand new concept to the Chinese as they are not familiar with this combination, but they are quickly warming up to my brand and me.
What challenges do you face professionally? Culturally?
Professionally I faced no major challenges; I was fully qualified with the exception of being fully versed in Mandarin. Fortunately, with most firms, this was not an issue. I actually found that I stood out and was seen as unique with less professional competition here in Shanghai. In fact, I was the only black individual working in both of the firms I was employed with here. Culturally I did find some difficulty in regards to finding my favourite foods. None of the familiar snacks or brands I found in the U.K. could be found in grocery stores here, but on the plus side, all of my fellow work colleagues were British so they got all my jokes, watched the same T.V. shows and we could discuss news issues going on in the U.K and Europe.
What are three things you would advise anyone considering moving abroad?
I advise any individual to do their research. If it’s a country that speaks a different language, then please make an effort to learn a few words and phrases beforehand. Lastly, make friends with the locals; having a native friend makes everything so much easier.
Are there any resources that would assist foreigners in acclimating?
Upon arriving in Shanghai my firm and colleagues were more than helpful in getting me fully acclimated; introducing me to local English services and websites to assist me with apartment hunting and need to know day by day information to help me navigate my way around the city and culture.
Financial perspectives vary from culture to culture. What differences have you seen? Saving and investing may be a challenge abroad for some. What resources are available? What recommendations do you have to offer? How difficult is it for a foreigner to open/start a business in China?
I have found here that people are very keen on saving, they are more prepared for the future; something that is embedded in individuals here from a young age. With some individuals, it is quite difficult at first to save because your main goal is to become fully emerged in the culture, so you find yourself spending a lot of money on travel and tours around the country in order to learn more about the people and the culture. Once you’ve gotten all of that out of your system you tend to want to use the advantage of cheaper living to begin to save your money for the various interests you may have back in your home country. A lot of individuals come here to raise funds to pay off outstanding bills or establish good credit needed for mortgages. There are many foreign financial firms here to assist foreigners with saving money for any given particular interest, and I recommend that any individual living abroad sit down for a free consultation. In regards to opening a business here in China, it is a very tricky process as the laws here are constantly changing. My only suggestion to avoid wasting time and money is to reach out to another foreigner who has a business here already and learn more about the process and consult an English speaking company registration firm here to assist.
What continuing education opportunities are there for expats where you reside?
There are many educational opportunities available for expats here from language programs, to postgrad and MBA programs, which is literally a fraction of the cost compared to the price of the universities in America and Europe.
What are your thoughts of the current political climate?
China is an industrializing nation growing economically, socially, and politically. Although China is currently the second-largest economy in the world after the United States, its history dates back thousands of years. Currently, China’s political situation is one that is in inevitable transition due to the social pressures and influences from Western nations such as the United States. Evolving from the ancient dynasties to “Mao-era communism” and finally to a form of communism with some aspects of capitalism, it has affected the lives of millions of people, in and out of the country. Today, China’s political stance as a communist state plays a large part in citizen’s lives like the moderating of media such as the internet. But the most notable of the adverse effects of China’s political stance would be the restrictions of self-expression in the citizens, and the enormous wealth and development gap between the urban and rural areas of China. Though China is growing steadily economically, socially its current political situation is what is holding China back from a great spring forward.
What plans do you have to return to the US? Home?
I do plan to return to the U.S within the next 5-10years. As I now have a business here, I have to work on building my brand and saving. I plan to purchase a home in the U.S and U.K and reside between both countries promoting my businesses.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned abroad?
The biggest lesson I have learned abroad is patience and understanding. When you live abroad, and you’re used to things being a certain way; upon discovering that things aren’t as you expected, you tend to get quite frustrated and feel the urge to give up, pack it up and go home. The goal is to stick it out discover yourself, learn more and have a more open mindset to keep your eyes on the prize and achieve what you came to achieve while living in a strange land.