Ethical Acculturation of Expatriate Managers in a Cross Cultural Context

Gael M. McDonald (Dean of the Faculty of Business at UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland New Zealand. Previously she was an Associate Professor with Asia Pacific International University based in Hong Kong and teaching on their international M.B.A. programmes within the Pacific Rim.)
Patrick C.K. Pak (Lecturer at the Hong Kong Institute of Education Morrison Campus. Previously he was a lecturer in Management with the Hong Kong Polytechnic.)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Publication date: 1 April 1996


With limited intracultural ethical research in evidence this paper contributes to the theoretical discussion of expatriate ethical acculturation. Of particular interest to this study are the ethical attitudes of subcultural groups, particularly managers, who because of overseas assignment or immigration, are operating outside their usual national location. Research was undertaken to investigate whether ethical divergence or convergence, through acculturation, exists with ex patriate managers, and over what time period. Two locations, Hong Kong and Canada, were chosen for comparative study and the results indicated an interesting dichotomy. Ethical convergence, the adopting of host country ethical values, is evident with Hong Kong Chinese expatriate managers in Canada but did not occur with North American expatriates in Hong Kong. For the expatriate Chinese manager the research findings indicate that Hong Kong Chinese managers now residing in Canada develop a unique set of ethical attitudes that are significantly different from those of local managers in Hong Kong yet also significantly different from the attitudes held by local Canadian managers. A subtle form of ethical convergence is occurring. No significant relationship was found between ethical acculturation and the length of time being an expatriate Hong Kong Chinese manager in Canada except on two issues. For these issues the longer the time spent in Canada the greater the rise in ethical attitudes. A heterogeneous group of expatriate managers in Hong Kong was also evaluated and while predicate similarities existed between expatriates from China and Macau, statistically significant differences in ethical perceptions were found between the general population of expatriate managers (i.e. American, Australasian, British etc.,) and local Hong Kong Chinese managers.


McDonald, G. and Pak, P. (1996), "Ethical Acculturation of Expatriate Managers in a Cross Cultural Context", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 9-30.

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Copyright © 1996, MCB UP Limited

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