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The categorization of expatriates and the support offered by host country nationals

Shirley C. Sonesh (Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)
Angelo S. DeNisi (Freeman School of Business, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




Although several authors have suggested that host country nationals (HCNs) play an important role in the management of expatriates (e.g. Toh and DeNisi, 2003; Farh et al., 2010), research has also suggested that this relationship is not always good, and the flow of critical information to expatriates can be limited. This is especially true when HCNs categorize the expatriates as “out-group” members. The purpose of this paper is to examine potential determinants of categorization decisions as well as potential outcomes related to expatriate socialization.


The paper employs a dyadic survey approach to determine the antecedents to expatriate categorization and HCN socialization behaviors from the perspective of both the expatriate and HCN.


The results of survey data from 65 expatriate-HCN dyads indicated that expatriate ethnocentrism and the salience of the expatriates’ nationality were important predictors of categorization, but that categorization was related to only one dimension of socialization. However, affect was found to play a role in predicting socialization behaviors.

Research limitations/implications

There is potential selection bias since expatriates chose HCNs as respondents, but results suggested this was not a serious problem. Other limitations include a relatively small sample size and the fact that a number of contextual issues such as national stereotypes and MNC strategy, are not controlled for.

Practical implications

Implications of these findings for the successful management of expatriate assignments include sending over expatriates with the right relational skills, and those low in ethnocentrism, rather than just the right technical skills.


The present study was one of the first to empirically test the potential role of categorization in the process of socialization.



Sonesh, S.C. and DeNisi, A.S. (2016), "The categorization of expatriates and the support offered by host country nationals", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 18-43.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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