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“Third‐culture kids”: Future business expatriates?

Jan Selmer (Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China)
Hon Lam (Royal Holloway, University of London, London, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



The quest of globalizing business firms to find enough candidates with the requisite skills for foreign assignments may be met by former “third‐culture kids”. These are individuals who as adolescents have lived in a foreign country for a period of time. The cultural exposure, during their highly impressionable adolescence, may have made them absorb cultural and behavioral norms developing a cultural frame of references different from, but assembled by the cultures they have been exposed to; establishing a third culture. Testing this generally held belief empirically, characteristics of a group of British expatriate adolescents in Hong Kong were compared with those of local Hong Kong adolescents and local British adolescents residing in Britain. Controlling for the effects of age and gender, results showed that the British expatriate adolescents had distinct characteristics in terms of their perceptions of being international as well as their international mobility preferences and consequences. These findings support the claims and anecdotal evidence of the development of third‐cultureness. The potentially far‐reaching implications of these results for globalizing firms are discussed at length.



Selmer, J. and Lam, H. (2004), "“Third‐culture kids”: Future business expatriates?", Personnel Review, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 430-445.



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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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