Expat Files : Keith Fowler (Pt 1)

Keith Fowler has 40 years experience in radio,  television, press and new media.

If we listed every role he has had, and every station he has been with, the intro would be longer than the article. However, he has worked with Austereo in Australia, and has spent many years overseas working in Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and India.

For nearly four years Keith has worked with Adrep China Advertising Services as General Manager Radio Operations guiding the MY FM brand, which now has 8 stations across China.

Suffice to say that ‘Chooky’ is a legend of the biz. Today he writes about being paid for having a hobby.

We generally don’t break articles into 3-parts, but on this case we will because a: Chooky’s article is bloody long, and b: it’s brilliant and too good to edit down. Enjoy part 1:

Keith Fowler

I started writing this article while travelling on the Very Fast Train from Shanghai to Beijing.

1200 km’s in just over four hours.

I was surrounded by people working, texting, gaming, phoning, surfing, relaxing watching movies, using all manner of mobile devices, predominantly mobile phones, but IPads and Samsung Galaxy’s, some authentic, some not so ☺, but all functioning.

The train was streaming live Chinese TV on wall screens.

As we hurtled thru’ the country side at speeds up to 320 km/hr I watched Yangtze River delta farmers planting rice in the same way they have for thousands of years.

MY FM has just launched a partnership with a station in the north of China. Our first client is Porsche and our second is likely to be a local corner restaurant  run by a family of three (Mum Dad and son or daughter) that seats 16 people and is open from 7am until 11pm seven days a week.

This generally is the paradox and the extremes that typify Asia, cutting edge crashing into low tech and elite level sophistication rubbing shoulders with the traditional.

Working in a foreign country is a wonderfully rewarding experience both professionally and personally, but you do have to embrace it.

You can’t work 9 -5 and at the end of the day bolt back home, to a comfort zone, of cupboards, stocked with Vegemite, Four and Twenty Pies, Golden Circle Beetroot and Violet Crumbles and relax watching international tv ,surfing familiar websites and living on facebook .

Knowing the location of every Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Starbucks, is probably a fair sign that you are not connecting with the culture, the audience or your team at the level you need to.

Back in 1999 when I left Australia to become the Group Program Consultant at AMP Radio Networks in Malaysia, I had erroneously and short sightedly figured I would take holidays every three months and do the job in 12 week slices.

“Hey Australia was only 5 hours by air and Asian airfares are ridiculously cheap” I thought.

It rapidly became very apparent that this approach was impractical and more importantly would ultimately short change me and my employer.

The first six months was a sensory and data overload. An experience repeated with each new country I have worked in.

The expat experience actually forces you to get deeply immersed and totally involved, 361 degrees and 25/7 .

Being in an unfamiliar country surrounded by new sights and sounds and smells COERCES you to pay attention to everything.

No family network, no connections, no lifelong friends, frees you up to submerge yourself in every facet of your “gig overseas”

So what have I learnt?

In part 2 of ‘The Expat Files’ with Keith Fowler, Chooky will list the lessons he has learnt from his time overseas. You can read part 2 here, and you can drop Chooky an email here

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