A common practice of multinational companies is to temporarily transfer employees to international locations in order to exchange technology, launch new ventures, and facilitate communication within the company. To do this, multinational companies must make a number of decisions regarding their expatriate programs. Even though international companies would rather stay focused on the professional performance of their employees without having to "meddle" in personal and family affairs, recent research has shown that the adaptation of the accompanying spouse is one of the most critical factors in expatriate assignment success or failure. By studying the available literature on expatriate spouse adaptation, coupled with conducting my own exploratory research with American expatriate spouses currently living in France, I was led to the conclusion that adequate, pre-departure preparation is indispensable to an expatriate spouse's successful cross-cultural adaptation. To improve the efficacy of pre-departure training, I propose providing expatriate spouses with personal trainers who will teach them to adopt a new mindset for the purpose of conducting cultural analysis. This mindset involves assuming the role of anthropologist—just as an actor would assume a role in a play. The benefits of this approach are twofold: firstly, imagining oneself as an anthropologist provides excellent motivation to get out and explore a new culture rather than avoiding it and hiding out in the safe haven of one's own home; secondly, having a new, temporary identity will help create the emotional distance necessary to minimize reactionary, negative feelings and allow for progressive, cross-cultural understanding. While being sensitive to prospective expatriate spouses' personal goals, personal trainers should provide concrete methods to help mitigate culture shock's related stresses, as well as helping expatriate spouses develop appropriate coping skills to assist them in dealing with the unsettling experience of living in another culture. By implementing improvements in relocation programs, such as the solution I propose, multinational companies can maintain an acceptable return on investment for their relocation programs while affording expatriate employees and their respective families an enriching and life-changing intercultural experience.
College and Department
Humanities; French and Italian
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Williams, Angela Marsha, "The French Expatriate Assignment: Helping Accompanying Spouses to Adapt by Assuming the Role of Anthropologist" (2004). All Theses and Dissertations. 213.
expatriates, cultural adaptation, France, French culture, relocation programs, anthropologist, cultural analysis, accompanying spouse, trailing spouse, multinational companies, cross-cultural trainers, pre-departure preparation