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Breaking out of the expatriate bubble in Denmark: insights from the challenge of making connections with local Danes

Marian van Bakel (Department of Business and Management, Syddansk Universitet – Campus Slagelse, Slagelse, Denmark)
Charles M. Vance (Department of Management, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 1 February 2023

Issue publication date: 14 March 2023




The social context of expatriation is crucial for expatriate success, including for building local host country national (HCN) social network support that can facilitate effective adjustment through information exchange. However, expatriates have particular difficulties in breaking out of the expatriate bubble and building social ties with HCNs in certain countries, especially in Scandinavia. This paper focuses on the case of Denmark and explains why many expatriates find it difficult to make social connections with Danes.


This study involves a meta-ethnography of literature on Danish culture, as well as semistructured interviews with a total of 16 expatriates in Denmark.


Three main cultural elements are identified as crucial for explaining the difficulty expatriates face in connecting with Danes, namely homogeneity, the value placed on equality and the public–private divide. The homogeneity and inward-looking mentality make it more difficult for outsiders to break into the social circle. Outsiders have to earn the trust that is difficult to obtain, reflecting Denmark's high score on GLOBE's institutional collectivism.

Practical implications

In light of the challenges that many expatriates face in creating a new social network abroad, organizations can support them in several ways. The authors discuss context-specific strategies for making new social connections in Denmark, which may be usefully applied in other countries.


This study focuses on the context of expatriate social network formation and shows that cultural differences in socializing affect the ease with which expatriates can make connections with HCNs, who can have a positive impact on expatriate adjustment and performance success.



van Bakel, M. and Vance, C.M. (2023), "Breaking out of the expatriate bubble in Denmark: insights from the challenge of making connections with local Danes", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 21-42.



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