An Analysis of Language Competence and Cultural Distance on Asian Expatriate Adjustment to Overseas Assignments

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)33_Other conference paperpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPresented - Aug 2018


Title2018 SIETAR Japan World Congress
Period8 - 11 August 2018


Due to the shift of economic growth to Asia, this geographic region is increasingly sending large number of expatriates to foreign postings from multinational corporations (MNCs). In the last decade researchers have started focusing on how Asian expatriates from mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan adjust to their overseas assignments. Although past research has led to insightful theories regarding impacts of culture and language on Western-focused expatriate adjustment, little research has specifically examined the effect of language and culture on Asian expatriate adjustment. 
Previous theory development and research has suggested that expatriates, working under an unfamiliar behavioral and wider cultural distance, would encounter serious challenges in understanding and communicating with local behaviors. These difficulties would inhibit effective organizational communication and eventually impede their job performance. In addition, although the importance of language has been acknowledged in intercultural business communication, it has been weakly integrated in cross-cultural competence literature. To bridge the gap, the study aims to ascertain how the language competence and cultural distance affect Asian expatriates to their overseas adjustments. 
The research design was set in Chinese and Japanese multinational corporations. In total, 40 Chinese and Japanese expatriates were interviewed. The choice of qualitative data collection method through the use of semi-structured interviews is important, allowing the researcher to understanding nuances and the phenomenon from the individual perspective of those who are involved in it. To guide the analysis, two research questions are put forth. Findings show that the language and culture-related challenges were different for Asian expatriates and that cultural competence was comparatively less critical for efficient intercultural communication. Results also reveal that linguistically proficient expatriates may have to comply with local behavioral values and norms and be subject to harsher criticism when engaging in culturally incongruent behavior. 

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