Title

Double Edge Experiences of Expatriate Acculturation: Navigating Through Personal Multiculturalism

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to bring to light the double edges faced by individuals who have international and multicultural experiences. The implication is that these individuals encounter acculturation challenges, and also gain from their multiculturality. The authors adopt Berry’s (2011) integration and multiculturalism framework to analyze the experiences and challenges that multi-culturals face. This paper suggests ways to glean the silver lining within organizations to help manage and master multicultural experiences in the workplace to benefit both individuals and organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors used empirical materials from expatriates who have worked across multiple cultural contexts. Based on these the authors present three examples to illustrate how expatriates and multicultural individuals place themselves in situations where they experience contact and challenges associated with adopting multiple cultures. The authors then analyze these examples to show how the experiences involve psychological-level integration challenges for Multi- and n-culturals.

Findings

The three multicultural expatriate examples suggest that individuals with international and multicultural experiences who are successful at managing their experiences develop cognitive and behavioral complexity. However, these individuals also face continuous acculturation including cognitive and ethno-cultural identity conflicts such as, rejection from multiple cultural perspectives because they continually cross-multiple cultural microcosms. Suggestions are presented to help maintain one’s sense of self-worth and minimizing ethno-cultural conflicts.

Research limitations/implications

Notwithstanding the value of analyzing the examples of expatriate acculturation experiences, the limitation to the examples is that it is limited to the experience of three individuals. However, the examples were effective in raising points to discuss relevant challenges and/or the double-edged reality faced by boundary spanners, multi-, and n-culturals.

Practical implications

The paper presents possible ways multi- and n-culturals navigate through their multiculturalism, including suggestions to help individuals who struggle with their multiculturalism through mentoring.

Social implications

The paper highlights the challenges of acculturation and suggests ways that individuals can overcome these challenges. It further suggests how organizations can take advantage of such individuals by utilizing existing personnel within the organization.

Originality/value

The paper is one of the few that acknowledge multiculturalism is highly challenging even for successful multi-culturals and n-culturals. Currently the literature is scant concerning how individuals can manage and master multicultural experiences in the workplace. The paper suggests a number of useful strategies for individuals and organizations to manage the challenges.