Factors associated with expatriate adjustment

An expatriate’s adjustment to the new culture refers to their progress in becoming fully effective in the host society by meeting requirements of daily life and engaging in and maintaining positive interpersonal relations with the members of the host society (Black et al., 1991).

Characteristics of the expatriate

  • • Good interpersonal skills (Hechanova et al., 2003).
  • • Good command of the native language (Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005).
  • • Willingness and ability to adjust to a different cross-cultural context (Selmer, 2004).
  • • Willingness to communicate with host nationals (Takeuchi et al., 2002).
  • • Positive attitudes towards learning the new culture, while maintaining the cultural characteristics of their home country (Le., integrating the best of both worlds: home and host country cultural characteristics) (Tung, 1998).
  • • Gender of the expatriate. Female expatriates were found to have better adjustment in their social interactions with locals than male expatriates (Hechanova et al., 2003). Although females constitute a small portion of expatriates, they are reported to have high success rates (e.g., Caligiuri and Cascio, 1999). Indeed females are deemed to be more appropriate for overseas assignments because of their coping skills with coping-mediated stress, boundary-spanning ability and interpersonal sensitivity (Selmer and Leung, 2003). Moreover, they are reported to have an advantage over their male colleagues for receiving positive attitudes from the business community in the host country, largely due to the fact that they are trusted and respected by host-country nationals and better remembered by business associates (e.g., Caligiuri, Joshi and Lazarova, 1999). Males and females did not differ in their level of willingness to accept international assignments; but females are found to accept posts in hardship places (Hofbauer and Fischlmayr, 2004; Haines and Saba, 1999; Tung, 2004). (see Video 9.2.)
  • • Learning orientation of expatriates (Palthe, 2004).
  • • High self-efficacy (Hechanova et al., 2003; Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005; Palthe, 2004).
  • • Effective coping strategies focusing on solving the problem rather than getting rid of the symptoms of discomfort (e.g., Stahl and Caligiuri, 2005; Selmer, 2002).
  • • Personality characteristics, including extroversion, agreeableness and emotional stability (Caligiuri, 2000).
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