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Host country language proficiency and identity: Spanish self-initiated expatriate nurses in Germany

Juan Miguel Rosa González (Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Michelle Barker (Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Dhara Shah (Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 29 April 2021

Issue publication date: 10 May 2021

205

Abstract

Purpose

Despite over 50 years of expatriation research, the implications of expatriation for identity remains an under-researched topic in mainstream international human resource management (IHRM) literature. Expatriation can cause disruption to expatriates' familiar sociocultural environment, which can often pose challenges to their self-concept and identity. The study underpinned by identity and social identity theories explores the perceptions of Spanish self-initiated expatriate (SIE) nurses living in Germany and other Spanish nurses who repatriated from Germany to understand the influence of expatriation on their self-concept and identity.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with Spanish SIE nurses in Germany (n = 20) and others who had repatriated from Germany (n = 10). Data analysis was assisted by NVivo software.

Findings

The study identified that low proficiency in the host country language (HCL) and the problematic workplace interactions that ensued, challenged the participants' self-conceptions as competent professionals and prompted their reliance on social networks of fellow Spaniards for social validation.

Research limitations/implications

Although focused on a specific context, the study not only enhances practical understanding of Spanish SIE nurses in Germany but also offers valuable insights to organisations working with SIEs. It adds to extant knowledge on language and identity in the expatriation context and discusses the implications for global HRM related to underutilisation of SIEs' knowledge and skills within organisations.

Originality/value

The study contributes to theory building on the under-researched link between expatriation and identity, while adding to the growing literature on SIEs.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to sincerely thank the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.

Funding for travel and accommodation expenses related to this research was provided by Griffith University.

Citation

Rosa González, J.M., Barker, M. and Shah, D. (2021), "Host country language proficiency and identity: Spanish self-initiated expatriate nurses in Germany", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 217-240. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-11-2020-0074

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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