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  • 1. Do Expatriates Experience Culture Shockin UK? Case Studies of Six Expatriates in UK
  • 2. Executive SummaryIn an ever shrinking world, international human resource management is becoming a very importantpart of overall human resource management. More and more managers are being sent to othercountries by large multinational corporations, however in spite of the phenomenon of global village,expatriates tend to experience culture shock and problems in adjustment in new cultural environment.There is a presence of large piece of literature which explores culture shock experience in Westernexpatriates in non-western cultures and society; however there is little or no research on expatriatesliving in the UK. This may be so because of relatively smaller number of expatriates working in the UK.This report has carried out qualitative case studies of six expatriates working in the UK and tied to find ifthey have experienced culture shock and what have been the causes, in addition it has also tried findwhether training, and organisational support have played an important role in helping them to adjust ina new and alien environment.
  • 3. Table of ContentsChapter 1: Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 5International Human Resource Management .............................................................................................. 5Culture Shock and Expatriate Employees ..................................................................................................... 6 Purpose of Study ....................................................................................................................................... 8Research Objectives ...................................................................................................................................... 9 Research Questions .................................................................................................................................. 9 Research Hypotheses ................................................................................................................................ 9Significance of the Study ............................................................................................................................. 10 Chapter 2: Literature Review .............................................................................................................. 11Culture Shock .............................................................................................................................................. 11 Stages of Cultural Shock.......................................................................................................................... 13Expatriates and Culture Shock .................................................................................................................... 15Factors Impacting Expatriate Culture Shock ............................................................................................... 16 The Effect of Training .............................................................................................................................. 16 Pre-departure Visit.............................................................................................................................. 16 Pre-Departure Cross-Cultural Training (CCT) ...................................................................................... 17 Post-arrival orientation ....................................................................................................................... 17 Demographic Factors .............................................................................................................................. 17 Family Status ....................................................................................................................................... 18 Gender ................................................................................................................................................ 18 Age ...................................................................................................................................................... 18 Previous International Experience ...................................................................................................... 19 Personality of the Expatriate .................................................................................................................. 19 Cultural Flexibility ............................................................................................................................... 19 Ethnocentricity .................................................................................................................................... 20 Stress ................................................................................................................................................... 20 Interpersonal Skills ........................................................................................................................ 20
  • 4. Willingness to Communicate .............................................................................................................. 21 Organisational Support ........................................................................................................................... 22 Chapter 3: Methodology ..................................................................................................................... 24Research Question ...................................................................................................................................... 24Research Methodology: Case Study ........................................................................................................... 25Limitations .................................................................................................................................................. 26Chapter 4: Interviews .................................................................................................................................. 27 Background ............................................................................................................................................. 27Interviews.................................................................................................................................................... 27 Chapter 5: Discussion .......................................................................................................................... 36Demographics ............................................................................................................................................. 37Culture Shock .............................................................................................................................................. 38Training ....................................................................................................................................................... 38Organisational Support ............................................................................................................................... 39 Chapter 6: Conclusion ......................................................................................................................... 39Overview of Report ..................................................................................................................................... 40Findings ....................................................................................................................................................... 40Limitations .................................................................................................................................................. 41Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................... 42Appendix 1 .................................................................................................................................................. 43References .................................................................................................................................................. 43Appendix 2 .................................................................................................................................................. 49Questions .................................................................................................................................................... 49
  • 5. Chapter 1: IntroductionInternational Human Resource ManagementIncreasing international businesses and globalization has led to an increase in expatiation andtransfer of employees from their native countries to different host countries for internationalassignments. This extraordinary level of competition both locally and internationally,organisations are now starting to understand that international business is a very important issuefor managers, however for finding and developing international human resources. For this adistinct international HR policy strategy is required to deal with human resource issues (Dowlinget al., 1994, 59). Most of the research currently available on expatriate management is related toNorth American Multinational, and that mostly experiences of western managers in other hostnations. There is almost no real research done on expatriates working in the UK. Whenresearching this topic it became obvious that there are no statistics reading expatriates working inUK although there are many people, from Europe, North America, Asia and Africa who arepresently working as expatriates in UK. Adler (1997, 103) has observed that a majority of studiesin international human resource management has been carried out in America and is from theAmerican viewpoint.It is also a fact that financial and human price underperformance of expatriates or their failure isa much more serious issue internationally then in a local situation. This underperformance orfailure of employees may be because of cultural and social disparity between the host nation andthe native country. There is also proof that organizations who consider international employees
  • 6. international expatriation as a simple issue are mistaken – the issues are very complex and thefailure of business may be because of failure to perform by expatriates in a different country(Forster, 2000, 129).Research also shows that country specific factors are very important. For instance Germany andJapan have a large number of expatriates working in their countries, while the number ofexpatriates in America is very low (Harzing, 1999, 24).Culture Shock and Expatriate EmployeesCultural shock is a complex occurrence ensuing from several causes or stressors which takeplace when an individual comes into contact with another culture. Culture shock is an emotionaluncertainty due to confusion or not understanding the signs in another culture. It takes placebecause things like lack of understanding, little or no prior experience of the new society andpersonal inflexibility. When one lives in a new culture it can lead him or her to go through dailyquestioning of previously held philosophy and ideas that may lead to confusion and anxiety. Itcan occur almost immediately when a person enters a new country or may occur a few monthslater. It may start with feeling generally unwell, lack of sleep, homesickness, isolation andanxiety. This is also accompanied by dissatisfaction with the host country, the university orliving conditions. The term Culture Shock was first defined by Oberg when he referred to thestress and anxiety experienced by American expatriates when they went abroad.1 In anotherstudy conducted by Mumford, (1998, 151; 2000, 78) the most significant determinant of cultureshock was the Culture distance or the degree of distance between host and native culture. The1 Oberg (1954)
  • 7. other determinant was the level of ethnic and racial prejudice and discrimination demonstratedby the local population and the fluency of the local language in the host country, age andpersonality of the individual (Bhugra and Jones, 2001, 220; Ryan and Twibell, 2000, 428).Culture shock happens in immigrants like international students, expatriates who move to a newcountry because of work assignments. The nature of societies like the UK and The US which aremulticultural societies can lead to cultural conflict between the new entrant and the host countryand create conflict and stress in the dealings of the new entrant (Winkelman, 1994). Thereactions from culture shock can lead to psychological problems and social isolation and whenthese things hinder a person in his or her academic or work-related performance. In amulticultural environment like the UK many individuals go through cultural shock in aliencultural or sub-cultural environment (Merta, Stringham, & Ponterotto, 1988, 242-245). Thesituation aggravating cultural shock and the person’s response rely on a range of issue, togetherwith earlier experience with other societies and cross-cultural adjustment (Furnham & Bochner,1986).In today’s’ global environment, corporations seek individuals who have international exposureto lead the organisation. This experience can be gained from working in international projectsand cross-border groups, however expatriates are preferred as they have broader exposure and atruly international perspective, and this is the reason that even today in the age of informationtechnology expatriates are preferred. Today many organisations consider the social andpsychological impact of cultural differences when assigning international assignments toindividuals. Researchers have discovered that 16% to 40% of the employees leave theirinternational assignments early because of poor performance and their failure to adjustsuccessfully in another cultural and social environment (Black, 1988, 283). In addition those who
  • 8. continue usually demonstrate low levels of work efficiency. Culture shock occurs in expatriatesbecause of disparity between the cultural values of the host nation and the expatriates. Theinability of expatriates to deal with culture shock and their failure to adjust can cost in terms offinancial expenses, lack of effective management and low rate of efficiency. According toMendenhall and Oddou, (1985, 44) this failure can cost an organisation between $65,000 and$300,000.Purpose of StudyThis study is conducted to understand whether expatriates working in UK experience cultureshock. Culture shock is a kind of stress as will be discussed in the next chapter, which expatriatesexperience when they enter a new cultural environment. The disparities between differentcultures, traditions and values lead people to experience this phenomenon. Most of the existingresearch related to expatriates working in different multinational organisations has beenconducted on Western expatriates who have been relocated to other countries in the world andmajority of the studies are about American expatriates. On the other hand there are very fewstudies related culture shock experienced by non-westerners in Western countries.Purpose of this study is to find out whether expatriates working in the UK are experiencingculture shock and what the factors which impact culture shock are. This is a very small study,limited by inexperience of the researcher; however it strives to identify culture shock asexperienced by different individuals from different cultural background in a cosmopolitan citylike London.This study is a qualitative research based on unstructured interviews of 6 individuals hailingfrom different parts of the world. Two participants are from Europe (Finland and Romania), one
  • 9. is from Nigeria, one from India and one each from China and Korea. All the participants workfor different multinational corporationsResearch ObjectivesFollowing are some of the research objectives of this study:To find out if the participants have experienced culture shockTo identify the cultural disparities responsible for culture shock as perceived by the participantsTo analyse the four main factors which effect the degree of cultural shock experienced by theparticipants has any influence on themTo pinpoint the coping techniques of these participantsResearch QuestionsFollowing are the research questions of the study:Have the participants experienced culture shock in the UK?What were the main cultural differences which resulted in culture shock?Whether different factors related to demographics, training, and organisational support haveeffected them and how?How have they coped with culture shock?Research Hypotheses1Ho: Expatriates in UK experience culture Shock
  • 10. 2Ho: specific cultural differences result in culture shock3Ho: demographic, training and organisational support determine the degree and intensity ofculture shockSignificance of the StudyThis study is important because it seeks to explore an area of international human resourceswhich has been understudied, there is almost no existing statistics which this researcher couldfind about number of expatriates working in UK and their percentages based on their nativecountries. This study although small and qualitative aims to provide detailed information aboutthe experiences of the participants and how they perceive the culture shock and what was thedifference between the two cultures, in addition they also identify their coping techniques. Thiswould be a small step forward in understand the reactions of non western individuals in awestern country.
  • 11. Chapter 2: Literature ReviewThis chapter is a review of existing literature related to culture shock and the factors whish effectthe degree of culture shock experienced by individuals.Culture Shock Culture can be explained as a collection of lifestyle, values, ethical and moral standard,belief systems, language, style of interaction and thinking patterns which are developed by asocial order to make sure that this prevails in certain physical and human conditions (Pusch,1979, 15). Culture can be divided into implicit and explicit elements (Hofstede et al., 1990,310). Implicit elements include the basic assumptions, the basic belief system and the coreculture, while explicit elements are represented by behaviour patterns, traditional customs andthe language. National cultures are formed on the basis of geographic location, whileorganizational culture has a different set of variables like the structure of an organization, andmanagement practices lead to a pattern of behaviour which represents this unit (Hofstede, 1994,87). According to Fernandez (1988), culture shock "includes all those beliefs and expectations about how people should speak and act; the social structure and organization; the relationship and rules that govern kinship systems; ones ethnicity; ones socioeconomic status; and the
  • 12. ideals, customs, and learned behaviour that have become second nature to a person (158)." According to the culture shock rationalization, the time when persons encounterunfamiliar surroundings, they start having a sense of uncertainty and vulnerability (Sue, 1981,45). These unconstructive feelings develop when the foreign students realise that their pastadaptive behaviours and skills are now ineffective in dealing with the new socio-culturalenvironment. Furthermore, due to temporary nature of stay, the students have a short time frameto adjust swiftly to the altered principles and philosophy to which they are not used to in theirnative country. Therefore they tend to experience more psychological turmoil as they face thechanged environment and a different set of values. The phrase culture shock was originally introduced by anthropologist Kalervo Oberg inthe late 1950s. Oberg (1960, 178) described it as a "sickness" experienced by persons setting in anew cultural setting. According to him, culture shock stemmed from the loss of familiar culturalsymbols and representations, leading to individuals to experience apprehension, disturbance, andvulnerability. Since the time of Oberg this term has undergone many changes, it has beenconstantly changed and renamed in research. For instance, culture shock has been defineddifferently by different people and academicians, Befus, (1988, 397) and Searle & Ward, (1990,454) believe it to be cross-cultural adjustment other think it is culture learning (Paige, 1990,172), stress of f cultural adjustment (Anderson, 1994, 312). Despite its numerous explanations,academics appear to concur that culture shock means the manifold needs for change thatindividuals go through at different levels which include behavioural, cognitive, psychological,
  • 13. collective, and physiological levels, when they move to other cultural surroundings (Searle &Ward, 1990, 459).Stages of Cultural ShockFerraro, (1990), Kohls, (1984) and Preston (1985) have defined 4 different stages of cultureshock. The phases can be both sequential and cyclical in nature. As with each new encounter theperson may go through the whole process repeatedly. However when a person becomesbicultural the adaption may become bicultural.Honeymoon phaseIn this first stage, the fresh entrant may experience exhilarated and delighted by all of the newthings experienced. It is categorised by curiosity, enthusiasm, elatedness, restlessness, optimisticoutlook, and respect about the new society. The variations are thrilling and appealing. Eventhough there may be concern and tension, these are taken in a positive manner.Cultural shock phaseWhen the honeymoon stage passes the next phase the culture shock phase depends on personalqualities, groundwork, and many other issues (Furnham & Bochner, 1986, 179). This phase startsright off just after the arrival of the individual or it may set in late but it usually appears in a fewweeks or a month. During this stage the individual may face a number of crises and problems inthe daily routine. Things start going wrong, and the individual may face some problematicsituations and may encounter some difficult times and predicaments in daily life. Minor andinconsequential things might start seem significant and important and cultural and social
  • 14. differences may become more annoying and frustrating. The person may feel preoccupied withhygiene food and living conditions. There is a lot of stress as the individual may feel risingdissatisfaction, irritation, intolerance, and anxiety. Life becomes chaotic as feeling ofvulnerability, bewilderedness, ostracising by the locals settles in. The perception that one is notin control may be evident and may lead to depression, loneliness, resentment, or aggression andthe person may become very emotional, wary, and obsessed and the feelings of being robbed arealso one of the characteristics (Rhinesmith, 1985, 74). In such a condition the individual tends tocriticise and one tends to find reasons to dislike the new culture. In this situation the individuallooks at more familiar environment and people so that the person may have a sense of protectionfrom the foreign culture.Adjustment and gradual recovery phase this stage is when the individual starts to understand the new social order and culture of the hostcountry. The person starts to learn about the ways to adjust effectively in the new environment.The resolution of culture means learning how to adapt in an acceptable manner to new socialconditions. The person develops some problem solving skills, to deal with the differences anddemonstrates a positive view of the constructive behaviour. The individual start accepting thenew culture as its makes some sense to him or her and pessimistic reactions are minimised, as theperson learns that the problem is there because he or she refuses to understand recognize, andadjust in the new environment. In this phase although the problems don’t stop but the individuallearns to deal with them in a positive manner.Adaptation phase
  • 15. The fourth stage is attained when one can successfully adapt at managing problems and adjust tothe new culture. The adaptation options are different and may vary from one person to anotherand one condition to another. The individual realises that the new culture has both negative andpositive characteristics. And the individual starts perceiving him or herself in an acceptable role.A successful adaption would ultimately lead to a bicultural identity it will also integrate the newculture with the old culture thus the self concept of a person changes with this change. And theperson gets over the culture shock through adaptation.Expatriates and Culture ShockBasically expatriate culture shock is based in uncertainty. When an expatriate goes to anothercountry with a new culture and traditions there are certain doubts about the individual’sbehaviour which might be considered unacceptable. With time the expatriates realize thatbehaviours which might be acceptable in their own country are not acceptable in the host country(Black & Gregersen, 1991, 475). According to Black et al., (1991) when an individual leaves hisown country and enters new alien environment old habits are effected and a kind ofpsychological insecurity crops up. This may lead the person to desire to minimize the differencesand uncertainty in the new setting. According to Black & Gregersen, (1991, p. 462) cultureshock from the perspective of expatriates is: "stress induced by all the behavioural expectationdifferences and the accompanying uncertainty with which the individual must cope"Culture shock can be explained as the emotions that expatriates might feel on entering the whenentering another country with a different culture and even a different language in many cases.Culture shock experienced by expatriates can be either immediate, which may cause devastation
  • 16. and fatigue. On the other hand culture shock can impact very slowly developing as the persongradually becomes aware of the differences. Expatriates experience different levels offrustrations and experiences which build up and finally results in an explosion of anger andhomesickness (Harrison, 1994, 20; Winkelman, 1994, 125).Factors Impacting Expatriate Culture ShockThe Effect of TrainingThe emergence of culture shock after the honeymoon period might impact the employee. In thisperiod any training by the company may have an important influence in helping the expatriatecope with the shock (Harrison, 1994, 27). However the nature of training and orientationprovided to the employees varies from one organisation to the other.Pre-departure VisitIn many organizations there is a pre-departure visit, which is for the expatriates and theirspouses to orient themselves with the new environment (Solomon, 1994, 55). This allows theemployees and his or her family to experience firsthand what it would be like for them in thenew country. According to Black & Gregersen, (1991, 474) the visit could help in loweringuncertainties about the country and lead to reducing the culture shock. But visits have to be asrealistic as possible rather than tourist visits of a new country, because the expatriates canperceive life in the country as unrealistic. These misperceptions can be harmful and intensifyculture shock in future as the eventual reality is very different from the perceived reality(Harrison, 1994, 30).
  • 17. Pre-Departure Cross-Cultural Training (CCT)Pre-departure cross-cultural training (CCT) is another kind of training which is formulated tolower uncertainty linked to the new environment. The purpose of this training is to familiarizethe expatriate with the culture of the host country and how to interact with people there (Black &Medenhall, 1990, 126-127). Depending on the host country and how different the two culturesare, expatriates who don’t undergo this training may remain unfamiliar with the expectedbehaviour and as a result experience culture shock.Post-arrival orientationAfter entering the host country an expatriate will go through a post-arrival orientation trainingwhich aims to minimize the problems associated with cultural adjustment. This also includeshost country social support; this helps the expatriate in essential necessities like finding a schoolfor children etc. (Mendenhall &Wiley, 1994, 619; Taboada, 1998, 43).Some managers are not very enthusiastic about training as not is it very costly, it is also thoughtto be ineffective. (Harrison, 1994, Black et al., 1999) since the results of the training are notquantifiable. However in a large study conducted by Black and Mendenhall (1990, 127) it wasfound that pre-departure training helped expatriates in cross-cultural adjustment.Demographic FactorsStudies have shown that demographic qualities are related t the level of culture shockexperienced by the expatriates. Review of literature shows that following are demographicfactors effecting culture shock.
  • 18. Family StatusThis is considered to be the most important demographic variable related to expatriate cultureshock. There is widespread acceptance among researchers that family status is arguably the mostimportant demographic variable with regard to expatriate culture shock (Black, 1988, 289; Black& Stephens, 1989, 540; Black & Gregersen, 1991, 475; Shaffer & Harrison, 2001, 252;Takeuchi, et al., 2002, 664). The expatriate’s experience is greatly influenced by their familyand its reaction, Shaffer and Harrison (2001) found that it was easier for smaller children toadjust to school as compared to older children. A large number of expatriate turnover and failureis related to expatriate’s family (Harvey, 1985, 88). Despite the fact that family plays a veryimportant part in the life of an expatriate, most of the training does not include family ofexpatriates (Black & Stephens, 1989, 538).GenderThere is little or no research on age of gender playing a role in culture shock. In case of gender,almost all --90 percent to 97 percent of expatriate employees are men (Shaffer & Harrison, 2001,250; Takeuchi et al, 2002, 663-664). Some cultures are male dominated or masculine societies,like Arab countries, Far East and Latin America. In these kinds of cultures female expatriatesmay feel more intense culture shock. But in other studies it was found that the cultural bias wasthere only for local female population, while expatriate women are considered foreignersworking there (Adler1984, 91; Adler and Izraeli 1988, 65).Age
  • 19. Age may or may not have an impact on culture shock; there are though virtually no studieswhich discuss age as a demographic factor. Birdseye & Hill, (1995, 809) conducted a studywhich shows that it is relatively easier for older expatriates to deal with culture shock than ayounger expatriate.Previous International Experienceresearchers agree that previous international experience of an expatriate may help them dealwith culture shock and culture shock may be reduced Black et al. (1999, 57) state that peoplewith prior experience usually know what to expect when they relocate to a new country. The usetheir knowledge to adjust, therefore culture shock may be lower and culture adjustment for theseexpatriates is easier (Black et al., 1991, 313).Personality of the ExpatriateExisting studies show that some fundamental personality qualities and capabilities thatindividuals have can lead to an amplified or reduced possibility that individuals will benegatively influenced by culture shock (Black, 1990; Harrison, 1994). Main qualities are:Cultural FlexibilityThe degree of cultural flexibility determines the amount of time that a person would take toadjust to a new environment. A person who is receptive to new customs and cultural traditionsand behaviours is able to through his or her flexibility to substitute the missing traditions orbehaviours which might be missing in the host country. This substitution is part of overcomingculture shock. Lack of flexibility on the other hand can lead to an intensification of cultureshock (Black, 1990, 124; Harrison, 1994, 19; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985, 42).
  • 20. EthnocentricityIt is believed that ethnocentricity has a very significant impact on culture shock and culturaladjustment. Ethnocentricity is the concept that one’s culture is better than culture of othersocieties and people (Wortzel & Wortzel, 1985, 117). Research indicates that ethnocentricexpatriates are more prone to experiencing severe culture shock and even experience failurecompared to individuals who show a more tolerant attitude (Caligiuri & Di Santo, 2001, 32-33;Church, 1982, 558). Ethnocentric individuals tend to ignore or make little effort to understandthe culture and concepts of the host country, According to Black (1990,131) since they considerthemselves and their culture superior they make little effort to understand the other culture andalso fail to change and adjust with the environment.StressResearchers think that response of an individual to stress can determine if he or she can adjust tothe culture shock. It is accreted that culture shock is a kind of stress that leads to depression,anger and frustration. Researchers believe that going to another country with different culturalnorms and tradition can lead to stress in the expatriate (Black, 1988, 284; 1990, 128). Ratiu(1983) suggests that those expatriates who deal with the culture shock successful used areas ofstability, where they retreated when the environment became too stressful for them. Instead ofbeing overwhelmed by the isolation, they busied themselves into things like hobbies, religionand other activities which reduced stress to a great degree. And they were able to deal with theirstress in an effective manner. The researcher further states that those who used their stabilityzone retreats got over their culture shock and finally made cultural adjustment.Interpersonal Skills
  • 21. Other researchers show that a general cause of culture shock was related to interpersonal conflictbetween expatriates and local people (Hammer, 77; 1987; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985, 41).Capacity to manage interpersonal struggle in a "concerted style", with a spotlight on sharedacceptance, was associated to reduced culture shock and faster adjustment and, consequently,contributed to expat achievement. According to Mendenhall & Oddou, (1985, 41) is the cause ofculture shock is interpersonal conflict then good communication and PR skills can be anadvantage. They further found that those who had good personal skills in their home country infamily environment tended to overcome culture shock and adjusted quickly and better thanothers, in addition their skill of making long-term friendship allowed them to overcome cultureshock . These individuals permeate many of the cultural impediments as well as steer clear ofcultural lapses with the help of their local friends (Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985).Willingness to CommunicateLanguage skills and the ability to talk and communicate in the local language of the host countryis a personal quality which can impact the success or failure of the expatriate, language skills canhelp these individuals overcome the hurdles of cultural shock and help them make cross culturaladjustment (Black, 1990, 136-137). Conversely failure to successfully talk with locals is likely toaugment culture shock and, consequently, hinder adjustment (Black, 1990, 136-137).Mendenhall and Oddou (1985, 46) have found that the willingness of an expatriate tocommunicate in the native language usually is more successful then the degree of fluency of thelanguage. The expatriates enthusiasm and wish to interact as opposed their aptitude tocommunicate, was found to be the more significant factor in control culture shock and make aneffective change.
  • 22. Organisational SupportResearch studies also indicate that expatriate culture shock is impacted by the level to which theexpatriate identifies and experiences organizational support once they leave their native country(Punnett, 1997, 244). Expatriates usually reach this conclusion based on the steps taken by theirorganisation to the new international transfers. Black and Gregersen (1992, 68) believe thatgreater the perceived organisational support the better is the commitment on part of the expatemployee to contribute to the international assignment. They argue that the higher the level ofcommitment on part of the organisation the chances that individuals would make an effort toalter their behaviour which in turn can reduce culture shock and allow employees to make thetransition more easily.Punnett (1997) has found that more support an expat receives in the host country from his or herorganisation, the individual is able to overcome culture shock and make cross-culturaladjustment more rapidly. In addition support in form of social assistance from the organisationmakes the transition easier, this is further supported by Black et al. (1991, 310).Job related skills are the most important factor when employees are being chosen for aninternational assignment; it is also found that this ability help expats with all the job related skillsare usually very helpful in getting over culture shock and making the cross-cultural transition.(Black et al., 1999, 86)Blacks (1990) contention after studying Japanese expats in US is that individual with bettertechnical and managerial abilities are better able to deal with cultural differences and culturalvariations. . One of the three things necessary for successful adjustment is the job. Takeuchi et al.(2002, 661) has confirmed these findings, they have further suggested that a failure to adjust to
  • 23. work by the expatriate overflew and negatively influenced the expatriates broad change whichcould increase culture shock.
  • 24. Chapter 3: MethodologyResearch QuestionPrevious two chapters have discussed the phenomenon of culture shock as it has appeared inexisting literature. This research seeks to find out whether expatriates experience culture shockwhen they enter UK, what in their view are the cultural differences or other issues which lead toculture shock and whether training, demographics and organisational support has made anydifference. This chapter details how the researcher has gone about carrying out primary research.Research questions need in-depth answers where the feelings of the respondents can be assessedas it allows the respondent the freedom to respond in the way they think is correct, thereforequalitative research is the more obvious choice. The reason for choosing qualitative research is toallow the respondents the freedom to answer the question in his or her own way and does notlimit their answers to simple yes or no and there are no restrictions because of a structuredquestionnaire. Qualitative research focuses on observations and experience to explore truth andendeavours to portray individuals in natural work situations. The research hypotheses are:1Ho: Expatriates in UK experience culture Shock2Ho: specific cultural differences result in culture shock3Ho: demographic, training and organisational support determine the degree and intensity ofculture shock
  • 25. Research Methodology: Case StudyInternational human resource management is a very important field in a rapidly shrinking world.As more and more organisations become global, employees are increasingly being sent onassignments to different countries in the world. This study will use case study method tounderstand the incidence of culture shock in expatriates working in multinational organisationsin UK and what are the factors which they believe were important in their experiencing cultureshock. Case studies of six individuals will try to answer the research questions.Six individuals who presently work in multinational firms were approached and they agreed totake part in this research, though all of them were insistent on keeping confidential their namesand names of the organisations they work for. The questions were related to three specific areas:Whether they experienced culture shock—what were their symptomsWhat were the main issues which increased their culture shock? Whether they were related todifferences in cultural traditionsWhat were the demographics of the group?If any training was provided and was there any organisational support?The interviews are standard open-ended interviews this is the most inflexible of all theinterviews. The interviewer has to follow a strict script. There is no flexibility in the wording orthe order of the questions. This is though still a qualitative interview as the responses are open-ended. This technique is the most structured and efficient of the interviewing techniques, it isuseful as it reduces the bias especially in the case of less experienced or less knowledgeable ofinterviewers. For this particular research a list of questions all open-ended except for
  • 26. demographic details like age, gender, nationality and marital state all other questions are open-ended.The subject of the research was such that qualitative in-depth interviews were the mostappropriate ways and therefore close-ended questions would not have been helpful. The idea wasto understand what the respondents thought and felt. And this would not have been possiblethrough a structured questionnaire. The qualitative research was carried out in form ofinterviews, which though open ended were standardised this was done because of theresearcher’s lack of experience.LimitationsCritics of the case study method believe that the study of a small number of cases can offer nogrounds for establishing reliability or generality of findings. Others feel that the strong exposureto study of the case biases the conclusion. Some dismiss case study research as useful only as anexamining tool. Yet researchers carry on to use the case study research method with success incautiously planned and crafted studies of real-life situations, issues, and troubles. Reports on casestudies from many disciplines are extensively accessible in the literature.
  • 27. Chapter 4: InterviewsBackgroundUK does have an expatriate population which enters the country because of organisationaltransfers and international assignments; however the proportion of expatriates as compared toGermany or Japan is relatively smaller. In addition this researcher could find virtually noinformation regarding statistical details about expatriates in UK. Culture shock is a worldwidephenomenon and has been discussed in great detail; however the experiences of people comingfrom diverse environment are not discussed in the literature.For this small study there are six subjects hailing from different parts of the world. There are twoEuropeans—one from Finland and the other from Romania, there is Nigerian, and Indian aChinese and a Korean. All of the respondents have been working from different multinationalcorporations and have been lining in UK for at least a year. All of them are mid-level managersand all except two have no prior international transfer exposure. All the respondents are male.InterviewsThe interviews for the case studies were conducted over a period of 3 days. Five were conductedin face-to-face, one-on-one meetings while one was carried out over phone. All the respondentswere frank and forthcoming when they responded to the pre-set, open-ended questions. The face-to face meetings were carried out at a public place to make the respondents feel for comfortable.The interviews can be categorised into 3 major sections: Culture shock, Training and whether ithas been helpful, Organisational support and if it has or has not helped in adjusting into the new
  • 28. environments. The researcher jotted down notes to their detailed answers and following is aformal version of all the six conversations that took place.Interview 1: HansDemographic DetailsHans2 is from Finland and has been living in London for the past two years. He is 33 years oldand married for the past five years with two young children. He is working as a marketingmanager for a mobile phone company and expects to be repatriated to another country in a year’stime. Coming to London was his first inte4rnational assignment.Culture ShockHans admits that he and his family went through a phase of adjustment problems before hisfamily including him was able to settle down in UK. He says that although there are no majorcultural differences, however he and his family felt very isolated in the beginning and at onepoint even considered going back because of social isolation and language differences. He says itwas difficult for him to communicate effectively in English and felt that his work was sufferingbecause of this.The language problem and lack of social interaction made him and his wife feel very isolated andthis came out in bouts of anger and stress which even affected his marital relationship. Inaddition his work also suffered. He says it was time which eventually made him and his familyadjust.Training2 All names have been changed to keep their anonymity
  • 29. Hans says he received pre-transfer intensive training and post transfer orientation; however therewas no visit before the transfer. He says that the training did not really help him though the postarrival orientation was more helpful as it was more specific.Organisational SupportThe organisation he works for believes in providing employees strong organisational supportespecially to expatriates He says that he adjusted into his new environment because of strongorganisational support both at work and the social support provided by the companyInterview 2: AlexDemographic DetailsAlex is from Romania and his real name is Alexandru. He has been living in London for overtwo- and a half years. He is 28 and is associated with a Pharmaceutical company as an internalanalyst. Alex expects to live here for at least five years. This is his first international assignmentand he is single.Culture ShockAlex says that initially he faced many cultural and social problems. He says that it is not veryeasy to adjust in a new country because not only is the society different but culture, tradition andespecially language is quite different. He says because of language problems he had difficulty incommunicating and adjusting because it affected not only his work but his day to day existence.He recalls time when he became a complete introvert and increased the isolation he was feeling.He felt very depressed and lonely.
  • 30. He says that he realised that he was not only ruining his chances for development of career buthis mental stability was also at stake, so he made serious efforts to find other Romanians andtook up English language classed to aggressively deal with culture shock. Once his languageskills improved he was able to interact socially with the local population too.TrainingAlex says that he did not receive any formal training, he just received a brief pre-departuretraining and when he arrived he got another very short orientation—both-- he believes, did notprepare him. He says that he had assumed that both Romania and UK are European countries;therefore there will not be any major problems, however he says he was in for a shock.Organisational SupportAlex says that his organisation did not provide him with sufficient backing or support. Most ofthe steps he took were on his own, however the organisation did encourage and support him intaking up English language classes, in fact it was sponsored by the company.Interview 3: SunilDemographic DetailsSunil is originally from India, and has been working in the same Fast Moving Consumer Goods(FMCG) Company for the past 12 years in the field of production. He is 45 years old and this ishis third assignment, though first outside Asia and Middle-East, he was previously sent to SriLanka and UAE. He is married with four children ranging between 8 and 17.Culture Shock
  • 31. Sunil believes that his previous experiences had prepared him somewhat for the new westernenvironment. He though admits that there was a certain kind of culture shock as his socio-economic position which was much higher in Dubai and India dropped. In addition his children,especially the older ones had problems adjusting to the new environment; this was despite thefact that his family is fluent in English. The issue was the social environment. He says hesuffered more because of his children’s problems.Sunil thinks that the stress levels increased here because of family pressure and also because ofthe socio-economic pressures felt by him. He says that he did not really do much except forengaging his family in religious activities and the local Indian population provided a lot of socialand moral support.TrainingSunil says he received both pre-departure and post-arrival training and he even visited UK on anorientation visit. He says that training is helpful but only while coping with the on-job tasks.Family, social and cultural issues were not part of the training therefore it is successful onlypartially. The training made him deal with work related disparities, especially the way work isdone and the communication system in Asian and Middle Eastern societies and in WesternOrganisational SupportThe organisation, Sunil says has provided him with a lot of support and has helped him inlocating schools for his children and accommodations. He says that his organisation is willing tosupport him more but the cultural issues were solved by the local Indian community.Interview 4: Ahmed
  • 32. Demographic DetailsAhmed is a Nigerian and he is associated with a petro-chemical organisation as a technicalassociate. He is 26 and youngest of all the respondents. He is married but his wife is still back inNigeria and expected to be here in a month’s time, he has no children. He has been living in UKfor about 18 months and this is his first assignment.Culture ShockAhmed says that coming to UK and living here has been the most difficult thing he has everdone. Not only does he feel that the western culture is very different from his culturalbackground which he says is a blend of African traditions and Islamic value system. He says thatin the beginning he found it very difficult to deal with the large disparity between the twocountries, and he felt not only lost and isolated, but he felt depressed and with each passing dayfound it difficult to make the adjustment. He says that language was not a problem however; lackof social support and the western cultural values made him feel lonely and frustrated. This wasfurther aggravated by the physical distance between his wife and himself. He feels that if shewas in UK at the time of arrival it would have been different.He says the Muslim community provided him great social support and as a result of depressionhe became more religiously inclined and eventually managed to deal with culture shock.TrainingAhmed says that he received no formal training; rather the organisation he works for arranged aninterview with the HR manager in the pre-arrival phase. But on arrival he received someintensive training regarding work environment and this eased his work-related worries. In his
  • 33. view training helped him to the extent of the work environment. The major social and culturalissues he dealt with were on his own. He says though that he would have failed if the post arrivaltraining had not been as rigorous as it was.Organisational SupportAhmed says he did not receive organisational support to deal with cultural and social issues, Hisorganisation did not provide him with any organisational support to deal with the cultural andsocial issues that he encountered in his day-to-day life. Therefore the culture shock that heexperienced was very severe.Interview 5: KimDemographic DetailsKim is a Korean living in UK for four years now and this is his second assignment, though firstin a western country. He was previously sent to Malaysia for a period of 5 years. He is 48 andmarried with three children between the ages of 3 and 12. He works for electronics multinationalas a marketing manager. He expects to stay in UK for at least two more years.Culture ShockKim says that he and his family experienced many problems associated with internationaltransfer. He says that this assignment was much more different from the Malaysian experiencebecause the Malaysian culture is similar to Korean culture in its values and traditions. InMalaysia he says he and his family learnt the local Malay language and very basic English.Coming to UK was a shock in many ways, first because both he and his family did not speakEnglish well- and secondly because there was a distinct difference in cultural attitude and
  • 34. behaviours. Kim says that he not only felt very frustrated and lonely but also inadequate when itcame to communicating with people.He says that he was on the verge of exploding, when gradually with a lot of support from hiswife and his organisation he was able to adjust.TrainingThe training that he received included a visit a formal pre-departure and post arrival training, butthe human resource department failed to pinpoint the differences in behaviours and attitudes,which came as a real shock to him. He says that the training did not prepare him for the feelingof insolence that he felt because Western managers in UK tended to talk very directly and whichoffended him and made him question his ability.Organisational SupportKim believes that the social support provided to him by other Korean expatriates and their helpin adjusting to the British society was very helpful. He says he dealt with cultural adjustmentvery gradually. The support of the organisation also translated into enrolling his whole familyinto English language classes.Interview 6: WongDemographic Details
  • 35. Wong is a Chinese and has been in UK for a year now. He works for a multinational investmentcompany to analyse the Stock market first hand, he has been sent to UK for a period of 3 years.He is 37 years old and single.Culture ShockWong identifies language as the major issue which acted as a hurdle to his adjustment in UK. Inaddition he says that since his family is back in china he has felt and is still feeling lonely,isolated and depressed. He says that social contact and interaction is very important for someoneto settle down. He feels that because of the language barrier he is unable to communicateeffectively this has been extremely frustrating as this problem persists not only at work but alsoin his daily life. He says he feels depressed and lonely and also angry because of his inability tocommunicate properly. In the beginning he experienced lot of stress and after seeking help hehas been able to deal with the problems.TrainingWong says that he received a lot of coaching in English language in a very short time, in additionhe got some informal training, in the post arrival period he also went through an orientation buthe says that the initial training was not very helpful and he struggled on his own to deal with theproblems.Organisational SupportThe organisation he said has provided some support but most of the time he has had to fend onhis own. He personally enrolled himself into a communications class, in addition he was notgiven much help with fining the right accommodation or the places he could buy oriental food.
  • 36. He believes that the aggravated level of shock and his struggle to adapt have been because of anykind of social support from the organisation.Chapter 5: Discussion
  • 37. This chapter analyses the details of chapter 4 in detail to determine what the outcomes are. Sixparticipants have very candidly answered the questions related to their cultural adjustment andthe phenomenon of culture shock. Secondly they have also highlighted the role of theorganisation they work for and discussed whether it has helped in any way in their culturaladjustment. The open ended questions allowed the respondents to give details about theiradjustment process. The following sections analyse the interviews.The first three questions were related to the cultural and social differences that the respondentsencountered when they first arrived in UK. The three questions were framed in such a way thatasked the respondents to pinpoint the issues which made them experience these problems.DemographicsThe six respondents are from different places. Two are from Europe, however one is Romanian,while the other is a Finn. There is a Nigeria, an Indian a Korean and a Chinese. All of them aremiddle level managers in big corporations. There are two single men, while one is married but helives alone in the UK waiting for his wife to join him, while the other three—the Indian, theKorean and the Finn are married with Children. Hans the Finn has small children therefore theiradjustment was not a big issues compared to the problems faced by Sunil and Kim who haveadolescent children who found it difficult to adjust to the new environment. This findingsupports prior research (Shaffer and Harrison, 2001, Takeuchi et al., 2002). In addition both Kimand Sunil in their mid forties are much more comfortable with their adjustment and since theyalso have prior experience of living in other countries, they are relatively more experienced inbeing prepared about what to expect.
  • 38. Culture ShockAll the participants of this study experienced culture shock in one way or the other. Except ofSunil and Ahmed all of the other respondents mention new language as a major barrier whichprevented them and their families to adjust more quickly. For Hans, Alex, Wong and Kimlanguage led to their feeling isolated and lonely they also felt socially alienated. In additionlanguage skills they assert also hampered effective communication not only in their personallives but also in their private lives. For Sunil the issue of his children settling down was a majorhindrance to adjustment and caused a great deal of anxiety and stress. Feelings that theparticipants mention are Stress, confusion, anger, depression, loneliness and isolation. Whichrange from mild to very strong for Wong who even after a year in UK feels very lonely. ForAhmed on the other hand social and cultural values are very different in the western societywhich increases stress, for Sunil a downward shift in socio-economic status was also a factor.Coping techniques mentioned by the respondents varies, for Hans it was just time which finallymade him adjust as growing familiarity and gradual language fluency helped. For Alex languageclasses in addition to his own efforts were helpful. For Sunil it was the religious activities and thestrong social support from the Indian community in UK. For Ahmed it was religion and theMuslim community support. For Kim his family and Organisation’s support was a great help.Wong has been unable to cope with the cultural stresses and even after a year is feeling verydepressed.TrainingWith reference to training there is a general consensus between the participants that training ofany kind either formal, informal, pre-arrival, post departure does not really prepare an individual
  • 39. for the cultural and social changes that an individual’s might face. In fact many were quitecritical of it. They believed that training had to become more focused and it should pinpoint theissues which really matter like social and cultural differences, how to interact with locals in analien society. The overall perception of the respondents was that even though training washelpful but most of the time it was mostly ineffective because of unknown variables andorganisations used a standard training format without really focussing on things like what may beacceptable in one society may not be in the other, in addition communication was verysignificant but it was most of the time ignored or overlooked. The general agreement points tothe fact as discussed in chapter two that the high costs of training may not be justified unlesstraining is really focused.Organisational SupportIn this study for organisational support half the members believed that they had received verystrong organisational support and they think that it has helped them in overcoming culture shock.The other three who did not receive much organisational support believe that if they had beengiven support it would have been relatively easier for them to overcome many of the problemsthat they faced. In fact some of them seemed quite bitter. Therefore from this study it appearsthat organisational support is very essential in helping expatriates to adjust in shorter time andcan lead to lower rates of expatriate failures and much quicker adjustments.Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • 40. Overview of ReportThe study set out to find out whether expatriate living in UK experience culture shock and whatwere the major factors leading to culture shock and how in any way demographics, training andorganisational support affected their socio-cultural experiences. This study used the case studymethod and analysed six individuals who were interviewed in unstructured interviews, thoughquestions were pre-set but open-ended. The study first did a literature review of existingliterature and a thorough search showed that most of the prior studies were done on westernersand hardly any study was found on people from other cultures and society. Therefore it isbelieved that this report in some way will be able to contribute by analysing a different set ofindividuals, including two Europeans. The research hypotheses were:1Ho: Expatriates in UK experience culture Shock2Ho: specific cultural differences result in culture shock3Ho: demographic, training and organisational support determine the degree and intensity ofculture shockFindingsFollowing are the findings:All individuals faced culture shock in one form or other and of different intensity.Demographic issues especially family status and prior experience.
  • 41. There were several reasons which made them suffer from culture shock, but the most importantwas the issue of language skill and the inability to communicate and interact socially with thelocal people. In addition cultural differences like accepted norms also played a major role.Social support, religious activity, personal effort, and some cases organisational support played amajor role in helping the respondents cope with the problems and made them adjust in the newenvironment.Training was thought to be only partly helpful as the organisations addressed broad concernsrather than focusing on individual problems, therefore there was not much difference betweenmore or less training.Organisational support was a very important action which was desired by all individuals andrespondents admitted that it helped them in coping with culture shock.From the above findings it appears that first two hypotheses are validated while the lasthypothesis is also validated except in the case of training as the results of training are notquantifiable. Culture shock occurs whenever there are cultural differences and problems whichprevent social integration into the society result in stress and depression and other feelings asdiscussed in detail earlier, and expatriates tend to experience these adjustment problems anddelays.LimitationsThis report has several limitations associated with it:Since the report was based on case studies of six individuals, there are many variables and issueswhich have not been taken into account or ignored.
  • 42. Limited resources and means to conduct the research have also set restrictions on how further theresearch can be conducted.Since the research was qualitative the bias of the researcher is present.This research is not exhaustive.The researcher is a student and therefore has little or no expertise in conducting the research.ConclusionThis study has attempted to understand the phenomenon of culture shock and its incidence in awestern society where the number of expatriates is much smaller than in other countries. FromHuman resource perspective this study has shown the importance of organisational support foran individual as compared to training which received mixed result. Although very small thisstudy has also confirmed previous studies which have underlined the importance ofdemographics. Because of a dearth in primary research on expatriates in British society there wasno way to compare the results with existing data. There is a need to explore this research further.
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  • 49. Appendix 2QuestionsAge:Gender:FamilyStatus:Native country:Industry:Approximate time of stay: 1. In your opinion were there any social and cultural issues which led to your adjustment problems? What were they? 2. How did you feel because of these problems? 3. How did you overcome these issues and problems? 4. Did you receive any type of training or orientation in the pre arrival and post arrival period? Identify the training. 5. How helpful was this training in helping you to adjust to new cultural environment? 6. Did you receive any kind of organisational support? What was the nature of the support? 7. Was this support helpful in decreasing the problems associated with cultural adjustment?

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