Publication Date

1999

Abstract

In the last ten years, as the business environment in the U.S. has become more internationally focused, the research regarding expatriated businesspeople (expats) has grown exponentially. Academics, corporate research departments, cross-cultural training organizations, relocation companies and others have done studies and reports on the selection, preparation, adaptation, effectiveness and repatriation of expats. In a review of the literature regarding the adjustment and success of corporate expatriates, one of the most often mentioned contributing factors is the preparation, support and success of the accompanying spouse and family members. Yet, a growing number of U.S. expats, currently approximately 18%, are single (divorced or never married). Moreover, in a report on Changing Expatriate Demographics issued by Runzheimer International, in April, 1999 it is predicted that over the next five (5) years, single expats will comprise 49% of the U.S. corporate expatriate population. Currently very little research specifically addresses the question of unaccompanied assignee selection, training or adjustment. Research was undertaken to answer the question of what issues or concerns, specific to single U.S. corporate expatriates relocating to Asia should be addressed in pre-departure cross-cultural training. A common thread that links these issues is the assignee's perception of his/her roles in life prior to the assignment, during the assignment and upon return to the U.S. The wide range of possible roles a single person may be playing in relation to family and friends is as important to selection, adjustment and repatriation as are the roles of spouse and parent for the married expatriate. This study incorporates role theory to examine the stages of the expatriate assignment process. The cultural dimension of individualism/collectivism is also incorporated to examine the impact of the single American expatriate's presumed individualistic orientation upon: his/her adjustment to the more collectivist cultures in Asia, the roles he/she assumes during the assignment, role expectations of these individuals while in the host culture, and the repatriation process. Data was collected via a questionnaire and the results were analyzed in relation to role theory and individualism/collectivism. This questionnaire was issued via e-mail to individuals on assignment in Asia. It was also sent to expatriate-related organizations for distribution among their membership. The questions on this instrument related to the respondents' roles as they related to self-selection for assignment, adjustment during assignment and repatriation. Key findings include the need to clarify expectations prior to the assignment in terms of the amount and type of social interaction necessary for and available to the single assignee. The difference in the experience of the international assignment for families versus unaccompanied assignees is also clarified. Additionally, the need for a greater emphasis on repatriation preparation during cross-cultural training and while on assignment was identified.

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