Expatriate adjustment is a complex and multidimensional process that can be perceived in different areas such as adjustment to work(e.g. new role, responsibilities, working conditions, job performance, fulfilling expectations); adjustment to the general living conditions (e.g. food, housing, facilities, transportation, health care) ;and adjustment to social interactions (e.g language, making new friends, new mentality, social customs). Some researchers define psychological adjustment of expats in terms of life satisfaction and psychological comfort perceived in the reduced stress levels, uncertainties and coping with demands from the new aspects of life or as the psychological well-being of the expat. Others look more into the psychological and social competence and performance under the challenging circumstances.
Parting from family members, friends and the familiar network forces expats to build new relationships and networks in the new country. Expatriates need to have the ability and the desire to socialize and communicate with the host country nationals and other expats. The higher the belief that one has in one’s own relational capacities, the easier and more confident one will be in relating to others. Additional variables that influence the ability to successfully form social relationships are self-esteem, emotional stability, sense of control and self-efficacy. High scores on these variables have been linked in precedent expatriates researches with sociability, the experiencing of more positive events, greater motivation, high job satisfaction and performance. Expatriates, who exhibit more cultural flexibility, openness and acceptance of a distinctly different culture, traditions and behavior as of the same value, not better or less than another, have better adjustment abilities and job performance. Having an extrovert personality can also contributes to easier interactions with others and better adjustment but that is only the case if the culture of the host country promotes extraversion. When being outgoing and exhibiting greater interest and motivation in cultivating social relationships is reciprocated, it is rewarded with support, companionship and the availability of resources that ease coping with difficult and new situations.
Support from social relationships can come in the form of assistance or information that helps to better understand the customs, culture, mentality and new situations in the host country. It therefore improves the coping abilities of the expat, the perception of control over the new environment and the adjusting abilities. It can be in the form of emotional support in which the social interactions allow the expression of emotions, thoughts, needs and desires. Social support thus promotes the fulfillment of psychological and emotional needs. Relationships can also provide confirmation that strengthens the beliefs in own capability to adjust and to cope with stressful situations. Receiving social support can confirm the belief that one is liked , valued, cared for or is not alone. It is also linked with fewer reported feelings of inferiority or inadequacy and loneliness. Beside support, relationships also provide us with a sense of belonging, meaning, purpose and nourish a person’s spiritual life.
Expats often feel more comfortable relating to other expatriates, who have had similar experiences, have faced similar challenges and uncertainties in the new culture or share a similar language. Asking for information from other expatriates also seems to be easier. It may be due to the belief that the willingness of other expatriates to help will be higher. There is also less discomfort in asking questions that may seem as silly and fewer fears of offending or trespassing unspoken cultural rules or customs. By sharing their own knowledge and experiences with the new comers, fellow expats also help in adjusting expectations and/or creating more realistic expectations with respect to living and working in the host country. It gives a more balanced perspective, as well as, it can reduce disappointments, irritability, angst, frustrations and more.
Interactions with the local population is also very important as it is a great source of modeling behavior and by providing feedback it rises awareness to cultural norms. These relationships facilitate adjustment to intercultural differences and help cope with unforeseeable events in the new culture. It increases the understanding of the mentality thus it also provides deeper insights, reduces insecurities and anxieties and improves the communications abilities of the expat. These relationships also reduce potential conflicts and miscommunications with others. The bigger the network that can provide support, advice and guidance, the easier the adjustment will be. The more frequent and intensive the new relationships become, the higher the sense of comfort, satisfaction and belongingness will be felt.
The extent to which expats feel supported, valued for their role and contribution by the employer and in the working environment also determines the level of exhibited psychological adjustment to the expatriate assignments. Furthermore, support and resources received from co-workers minimize work and non- work related uncertainties, stress and improve expatriates’ experiences. The building and maintaining of relationships with other expats and individuals from the host country thus greatly influence the psychological adjustment and the level of success of adjusting to living in the host country.
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