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Developing a high quality intercultural relationship: expatriates and their local host

Marian van Bakel (Department of Leadership and Corporate Strategy, University of Southern Denmark, Slagelse, Denmark)
Jan Pieter van Oudenhoven (Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands)
Marinel Gerritsen (Department of Communication and Information Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, the Netherlands)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The qualitative study examines the development of purposely created interpersonal relationships in an intercultural context. Contact with a local host is a way of helping expatriates deal with the challenges of an international assignment. Since the quality of contact with the host is pivotal to benefit most from this experience, the purpose of this paper is to examine which factors influence contact quality.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a case study analysis of 33 expatriates and ten accompanying partners who were put in touch with a local host, with whom they undertook a broad range of activities during a period of nine months.

Findings

Nine factors influenced the development of the contact (similarities, motivation, benefits, anxiety, expectations, busy schedules, suboptimal timing, communication breakdown, and cultural differences). Key factors were similarities, motivation, and benefits.

Research limitations/implications

While some of the factors (e.g. similarities) are predictable according to the Social Penetration Theory, four factors were uniquely applicable to purposely created relationships such as contact with a local host: motivation, expectations, anxiety, and suboptimal timing.

Practical implications

The study provides suggestions that could stimulate the contact with a local host, making the intervention more valuable for organisations who wish to support their expatriates in this way.

Originality/value

This longitudinal study is one of the first to examine in detail the process of development of purposely created interpersonal relationships in an intercultural context. Furthermore, the study is new because it also examines unsuccessful relationships.

Keywords

Citation

van Bakel, M., van Oudenhoven, J.P. and Gerritsen, M. (2015), "Developing a high quality intercultural relationship: expatriates and their local host", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 25-45. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-04-2014-0009

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited