Expat life: experiences of expats living in the Netherlands
Knaap, D.M. van der
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This research has contributed to the field of intercultural communication by providing more insight into expat life. It has explored how expats experience their transition to the Netherlands, which is one of the most attractive countries for expats to work and live in (HSBC, 2017). In particular their experience of culture shock and adjustment are investigated in relation to several topics, like multiculturalism, previous expat experience and intercultural competences. Semi-structured in-depth interviews with eight expats living in the Netherlands were held to explore the influence these and other issues have on their experiences. The results indicate that the experience of the transition to the Netherlands overall is positive. Participants’ previous expat experience, mixed cultural identity, cultural awareness, social network and intercultural competences seem to ease their transition. Due to these factors, one cannot speak of a culture ‘shock’, but rather of a culture learning process. The results are in dispute with the traditional models of culture shock (Oberg, 1960) and adjustment (Searle & Ward, 1990; Ward & Kennedy, 1993), because these models use an essentialist approach of culture and generalize to all groups of travellers. However, the current research has found that multiple types of culture play a role and that situational circumstances, like language and work-related factors, are of importance as well. Support is provided for Dervin’s (2012) approach of culture as plural, dynamic and changeable. The results indicate that the essentialist view of culture does not seem applicable to expats. It is therefore advised to take these new insights into consideration for future research into culture and adjustment.