Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 17, June 2008

Martina Maletzky

Expatriate Power – a counteractive factor of intercultural Learning?


Due to the advancement of globalization, overseas assignments are becoming increasingly necessary for the coordination of international subsidiaries or to guarantee the transfer of knowledge, among other things. However many of these assignments are unsuccessful in that either the business expatriates return earlier as planned or they do not perform as well as expected. Multiple reasons for the failure of such assignments have been identified, most of which are related to the ability of an individual to adapt to the host culture and culture learning. In this article it will be argued that power may affect the quality and nature of an expatriate's culture learning and thus may undermine the chance to adapt adequately. The article presents first results of a case study regarding German expatriates of five organizations in Mexico. The data displays evidence that power may restrict sanctions of host country nationals (HCNs) of an expatriate’s culturally inappropriate behaviour. This tendency appears to be reinforced by the high value placed on power distance and an emphasis on hierarchical structures within an organization.

Keywords: overseas assignment, cultural learning, power

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