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Coping with authoritarianism in international relocation: A case of cross-cultural adjustment research in context – Cuba

Frank Fitzpatrick (British Council, London, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 16 January 2019

Issue publication date: 21 February 2019




As the rate of growth in trade of developing and developed economies converges, international business is increasingly taking place in a growing assortment of political and ideological contexts with variable levels of tolerance for plural dissidence. This can create substantial challenges and risks for crosscultural adjustment and increases the potential for assignment failure. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of an authoritarian regime on the process of adjustment amongst expatriate sojourners and draw out lessons for future research and policies for relocation in similar authoritarian contexts.


This was a qualitative research study over three years making use of participant observation methods as a result of researcher immersion in the local context.


This study finds that “culture” is an insufficient category for explaining difficulties in cross-cultural adjustment and demonstrates that adjustment difficulties under authoritarianism are heightened in the proximate sociocultural context, with geo-political and ideological dynamics creating more challenging conditions of life. Increased levels of social control act to heighten psychological vulnerability amongst sojourners, resulting in coping behaviours that seek a greater degree of psychological alleviation and companionship through more resource-intensive supportive networks and a tendency toward enclavism, thus inhibiting sociocultural adjustment to the host society.

Research limitations/implications

Research needs to recognise more fully the diverse nature of contexts in cross-cultural adjustment. Future research should explore different types of contexts and assess what sort of challenges may arise in relation to the process of psychological and sociocultural adjustment and the adjustive resources required to overcome them.

Practical implications

The paper contributes to the understanding of the psychological and sociocultural challenges of international relocation in an authoritarian context and serves as valuable insight for relocation planning in similar conditions, which are an ever-increasing feature of international business.


This paper gives a unique insight into international relocation in Cuba and draws out the areas of concern for cross-cultural adjustment under authoritarian conditions, an ever-increasing feature of international business. It serves as an example of how context-based research can inform cross-cultural theory and practice within an evolving landscape of doing business globally.



Fitzpatrick, F. (2019), "Coping with authoritarianism in international relocation: A case of cross-cultural adjustment research in context – Cuba", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 2-19.



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