Last week I attended the European Academy of Management conference in ‘cold but beautiful’ Reykjavik. This year was the 10th year that the Expatriate Management Track was part of EURAM, and it was again filled with many interesting presentations. Here are three highlights.
Breaking out of the expat bubble
David Guttormsen from BI Norwegian Business School examined the concept of expatriate failure, asking Scandinavian expatriates in Hong Kong what, in their opinion, constituted ‘expatriate failure’ . There has been a lot of discussion about this concept in the literature, especially on how organisations have defined this in the past (e.g. early return from the assignment, which is not a very accurate criterion). One thing that I found very interesting was that 60% of the interviewed expatriates found it a failure not to be exposed to multicultural environments. This highlights the importance of breaking out of the expat bubble and connecting not only with other expatriates but also with host country nationals.
Research on the expatriate family
Several papers focused on the expatriate family which is one of the most important factors that influence the success of the expatriate assignment. Julia Goede from the University of Hamburg reviewed methodological issues with the research focusing on this topic  and one of the conclusions she drew was that much research on spouses does not actually ask the spouses themselves. Another conclusion is that there is still very little research on the children; they should not be forgotten. A final aspect to take into account when researching the expatriate family is that the contemporary family is much more diverse than in the past, and that research should take different configurations (e.g. gay couples) into account.
Expatriate IBTs: an extreme form of global work
Yvonne McNulty from Singapore University of Social Sciences drew attention to the specific group of expatriate international business travelers  . These are people who are sent abroad on an international assignment but because they take up a regional role, they also have to travel much when they are abroad. For example, an expatriate might be stationed in Singapore but have a regional role for South-East Asia – or even Asia-Pacific – so that he or she has to travel extensively. This means that while living abroad, the expatriate is also away for many days of the year, making life more difficult for the spouse who has to keep family life running.
 David S. A. Guttormsen, Anne Marie Francesco & Malcolm K. Chapman: “Revisiting the Expatriate Failure Concept: A Qualitative Study of Scandinavian Expatriates in Hong Kong.”
 Julia Goede & Dirk Holtbruegge: ”Methodological issues in family expatriation studies and future directions.”
 Yvonne McNulty: “ Expatriate International Business Travel: An Extreme Form of Global Work.”