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Working effectively and living contentedly in a foreign country: what human capital do expatriates require and develop?

Reimara Valk (Department of Management, American University in Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 3 May 2021

Issue publication date: 10 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to explore the human capital (HC) expatriates require and develop during an international assignment (IA) to work effectively and live contentedly in a host country.


Qualitative research entailing interviews with 78 expatriates and repatriates across the globe, investigating the competencies they developed and the HC they gained during their IAs.


Five interrelated competence clusters were derived: cultural competence (CC); interpersonal competence; intrapersonal competence; global business competence; global leadership competence, each containing competencies crucial for expatriate success.

Research limitations/implications

This study relied on self-reports by expatriates and repatriates. Future research should also include senior/line managers and chief human resource officers from a range of organizations across the world to gather their assessments on the competencies and HC of expatriates and repatriates.

Practical implications

Line/HR managers can use the designed “Expatriate/Repatriate Human Capital model” to assess an individual's overall readiness and capacity to perform effectively in a foreign country and culture and consecutively identify and select the right candidates to undertake IAs.


This paper contributes to the literature by presenting a HC model called the “Expatriate and Repatriate Human Capital Model; the body of competence”. The model identifies and defines the competencies/knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs) required for intercultural effectiveness and expatriate success and serves as a tool for the selection, training, development and performance evaluation of expatriates and repatriates, in order to aid the accomplishment of individual and organizational objectives.



Valk, R. (2021), "Working effectively and living contentedly in a foreign country: what human capital do expatriates require and develop?", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 241-263.



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