Places created together - Social interaction and place attachment of international professional migrants
Hoff, R.M. van den
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This study explores the differences in social interaction and place attachment of international professionals in Houston (USA) and The Hague (The Netherlands). Key factors such as the background of the international professional and the physical location are analyzed to investigate to what extent these factors are affecting their social interaction and their place attachment. The following research question is central to this study: To what extent does the degree of social interaction and place attachment to the host country differ for international professional migrants in the American city of Houston, and the European city of The Hague? In this study, research and literature on social interaction, social capital, place attachment and transnationalization is applied to international professional migrants. This study encompasses 48 qualitative interviews with international professional migrants who have temporarily relocated to Houston and The Hague for professional purposes. The semi-structured interviews in this study present insights on the expatriate experience. The choice for Houston and The Hague was motivated by the differences and similarities of these locations. Both Houston and The Hague are secondary cities in their countries, with international companies’ headquarters in the oil and gas sector and other international organizations. The cities’ layouts and physical environment are very different. The variety of contextual variables in this cross-cultural research allows for analysis of the key factors that can impact social interaction and place attachment of professional migrants. Literature on concepts such as social capital, social interaction, and place attachment frame the empirical research in order to understand how the transnational activities of international professionals affect their experience. Interesting findings are presented with regards to the social interaction and place attachment of international professionals. Social interaction varies particularly between different categories of international professionals within each city. Professionals with families are more likely to establish a larger local social network and interact less with their friends and family back home because of the ongoing local activities of family and children. International professionals in Houston tend to have more social interaction in the neighborhood and as a result of their professional environment than international professionals in The Hague. The extent and frequency of social interactions for international professionals can be mainly contributed to the length of residence, family composition and the built environment. For place attachment, the extent to which international professionals become attached to their local area (street, neighborhood, city) varies with age, family composition, gender, purpose and length of stay Attachment to the home and neighborhood often differs from attachment to the city as an entity. In The Hague, more international professionals indicated that they were attached to the city, while professionals in Houston indicated they were more attached to their local area such as their street or neighborhood. For both cities, the built environment plays an important role in the perceptions of international professionals of places to become attached to, but social attachment seems to be the primary determinant for place attachment. The places that international professional migrants experience are a result of interactions with locals, the support of friends and family back home and the setting in which these interactions take place. Future research should not only concern the experience of professional migrants, but the places that are created together as a result of it. Future research could also further explore the impact of new technologies their social interaction. Another suggestion for future research is focusing on the differences between international individuals with different types of professions with regards to their social interaction and place attachment.