Expatriate Interview - Essay Sample

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Expatriates relocating to another country for an international assignment often come face to face with a range of difficulties upon arrival. These problems may pose challenges to the international assignment if the expatriate feels alone and isolated in the host country (Melles, 2002). Adjusting to the new life may bring challenges if familiar things that the expatriate has known are different from the ones in the host country. This paper seeks to explore the cross cultural concerns Mrs. Dunn experienced while working and making a living in China, a cultural setting different from her country of origin. A discussion of the findings derived from the interview will be given on analytical and personal level so as to evaluate the experience of the interviewee.

From the interview, the expatriate mentioned culture shock as one of the challenges that she faced, and noted that it was the most grueling experience she faced after moving to the new location. This is because the Mrs. Dunn had not prepared for the movement and there were no prior preparation and readiness to work and settle in China. She felt isolated, irritated, and homesick because there were challenges in adjusting to the new life and its cultural differences. She underwent these challenges daily because the norms of the people were different from what she grew up with at home. This isolation affected her feelings, had effects on her performance in the international assignment, and created confusion because the people in the host country approached many aspects of life differently.

Mrs. Dunns exposure to entirely different people led to ethnocentrism, aggression, and prejudice. She was criticized because of her belief in the power of a woman which was against the cultural beliefs and practices of the natives. There was a lot of challenges in overcoming how the host culture perceives women because the residents felt that a female expatriate should not be entangled in competition for a position that is culturally dominated by men. This impacted severely on her adaptation because the natives viewed their culture as supreme and attracted contempt. She was affected by the negative social effects associated with ethnocentrism because it prevented her from learning any new knowledge and insights from the host culture hence clouded her from broadening her vision in the new culture. This led her to develop anger, fear, biased judgment, and hatred, hence she found it hard to break the barriers of achieving intercultural understanding.

Another crucial challenge that Mrs. Dunn faced is communication. According to Goodall and Warner (2006), communication is the most common difficulty that most expatriates come in contact with when on assignment in China. This poses a challenge to most expats who find it hard to communicate with the natives because most Chinese do not comprehend English or speak it poorly. Mrs. Dunn found it hard to communicate with the people and hence the cultural exchange and enhanced relationship were limited because of the lack of understanding.

Mrs. Dunn also avoided unfamiliar people and things immediately she arrived in China. She assumed the similarities and instead of focused on the differences between her culture and the host culture. She preferred staying with expatriates from her country or continent which brought familiarity and sharing of common experiences. Mrs. Dunn avoided and resisted people and the things she was not familiar with, and because of this, she could not understand insights of the new culture and even mistook the cultural norms of the host culture. This avoidance had an impact in the way she adapted to the new culture. Her association with expatriates from the same background led to the establishment of a small world which consequently obstructed intercultural contact, perception, and evaluation of the things that were happening around her.

There are a host of unexpected cultural differences that Mrs. Dunn faced. For instance, when it comes to meal times, Chinese use chopsticks which is the opposite of her expectation where meals are taken using a fork or a spoon. As an expatriate, Mrs. Dunn says that she had to learn how to use these chopsticks properly. Also, she found a unique way of how Chinese share food with others where plates are placed at the center of the table and everybody dips in and get a share. This changed her expectation because when one is on the table, there is freedom to help oneself during the entire meal time. It is a sign of honor, though, when the host takes food from the middle of the table and serve a person.

Despite the isolation and avoidance of the new culture, it was inevitable for Mrs. Dunn to adapt. She learned the Chinese culture through an independent approach where she read books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and online sources. She also interacted with the Chinese people and her fellow expatriates. This intercultural learning strategy enabled her to foster individual interactions with their Chinese colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. This is in agreement with Treven (2003) who notes that cross cultural training is an integral piece of training for an expatriate which helps in preparation for work, life, and adjusting to a different cultural environment. She also used an observational approach where she made an observation and interpreted the tenets of Chinese culture. These strategies helped her in adapting to the Chinese culture by providing immediate feedback, behavioral patterns, and the emotional connotations of this culture.

The other way in which Mrs. Dunn adapted to the new culture was how she become enthusiastic and felt at home in the new country despite being far away from home. After being homesick for some time, she eventually let the stress and fear about the host culture disappear and viewed the host country as a home. She did this by observing the locals and the daily life rhythm, asking for help from people she came in contact with daily such as colleagues and neighbors as well as adventuring in order to understand the culture of the country. She eventually stepped out of isolation, met people who knew the culture, and adopted some of the customs, core values and practical insights of the new land that she felt comfortable with.

Despite the initial denial and isolation from the new culture, she made friends, met kind people whom she got along with well, and realized the differences between the host culture and her culture. She started blending in the practices, the way of life, and norms of the new culture, which replaced her initial feelings of culture shock. This resulted in her adopting the behaviors of the host culture and the loss of the urge to criticize this culture. She recognized and respected the diversity in China, therefore, could interact, socialize, and work with people of different ethnicities. With all these, Mrs. Dunn found an easy way in integrating well with the natives despite the earlier isolation and denial.

In conclusion, Mrs. Dunns assimilation to the new culture had a host of challenges that led to her finding difficulty in settling as an expatriate in China but went through the stages of a culture shock with difficulty. She managed to adjust to the new life in China and became enthusiastic about the new life. She went through a negative culture shock because she initially lived in denial and isolation as well being mistreated based on her gender. In light with this, it is imperative to conduct intensive training before an expatriate relocates to a foreign country. This training should be conducted by a professional to cover the essential skills and ways of adapting to the new life. Mrs. Dunn should have been taken through a proficiency test in Mandarin language as this is beneficial to both the expatriate and the local people in improving their communication as well as enhancing relationships.

Interview questions

How do you sum up your first six months as an expat in china?

What was your first impression about the culture when you arrived? Dis this change after one month? How about your impression after three months?

Did you have someone who explained the local culture to you and that you could confide in? Who were they and how did they help you?

What was your level of the local language when you arrived to the country?

How did the Chinese see you?

Can you describe your relationship with your co-workers?

After reaching China, what were the first few days like?

What was the most important thing you learned in the first six months?

How do you describe your living situation in China?

Whom did you socialize with? People from your culture, third-country expatriates or host country nationals?

What are some of the things that surprised you about the way people thought about you?

Which country were you assigned to?

How long have you worked in the country?

Did you receive any form of training before leaving your country?

What are some of the strategies that you used in adapting to the new culture?


Goodall, K., Li, N., & Warner, M. (2006). Expatriate managers in China: The influence of Chinese culture on cross-cultural management. Journal of General Management, 32(2), 57-76.

Melles, R. (2002). 'They speak English so I'll be okay.' Not so fast. Canadian HR Reporter, 15(16), 11-11.

Treven, S. (2003). International training: the training of managers for assignment abroad. Education+ Training, 45(8/9), 550-557.

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