M. van Engen
- Presumed cultural similarity paradox: expatriate adjustment and performance across the border or over the globe
- Journal of Global Mobility: The Home of Expatriate Management Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 1 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
Purpose - To introduce the presumed cultural similarity paradox as a possible explanation for the findings that adjusting to a culturally similar country is just as difficult as adjusting to a culturally dissimilar country. We provide a conceptual framework, enabling further understanding and research into this phenomenon.
Design/methodology/approach - Expatriates moving to a country that shares common characteristics may presume more cultural similarity and easier adjustment than is actually the case. During their stay abroad, expatriates may find that these expectations are not met. While the smaller cultural distance may facilitate adjustment, the undermet expectations inhibit adjustment and performance.
Findings - A first preliminary test compared Dutch expatriates in Belgium (culturally similar) and in China (culturally dissimilar). The expectations of cultural similarity and adjustment difficulty of the expatriates in Belgium were significantly more undermet than those of the expatriates in China and this had a negative influence on affective adjustment. The larger cultural distance of China was negatively related to intercultural adjustment. Better adjustment, both affective and intercultural, led to better job performance.
Research limitations/implications - Future research should try to replicate and extend our findings to other cultural contexts.
Practical implications - Expatriates and their employers must consider and prepare for the increased chance of undermet expectations and the negative consequences this can have on adjustment and job performance, when moving to a culturally similar country.
Social implications - Expatriates and their employers must consider and prepare for the increased chance of undermet expectations and the negative consequences this can have on adjustment and job performance, when moving to a culturally similar country.
Originality/value - This paper conceptualizes and provide a theoretical framework that should allow future research to empirically test the psychological process that occurs in this paradox, accommodate the contrasting effects of cultural distance and met expectations of cultural similarity and investigate which characteristics of countries lead expatriates to presume more cultural similarity than is the case.
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