Last week I attended the PhD defence of Joost Bücker of Radboud University Nijmegen, whose thesis was about cultural intelligence and global management competencies (1). In the Netherlands it is customary to include propositions for discussion in your book. One of them was:
“Interaction with locals stimulates the development of cultural intelligence”
As my own PhD thesis focused on the role locals can play in the success of expatriate assignments, I am always happy when new research finds extra evidence of this importance. The contribution that locals can make to the success of expatriate assignments is still an underexplored area in (International) Human Resource Management (2). As expats are very important and costly employees for multinational corporations, it is essential to pay attention to the local contacts that they inevitably have when working abroad. They are often crucial for success.
Getting in touch with locals
Of course, to be able to benefit from the contact, you have to get in touch with locals. Many shy away from this contact, as Bücker also states in his propositions:
“Erasmus students hinder their development of cultural intelligence through forming an international ‘ghetto’.”
This also goes for expats, many of whom seem to flock together in expat associations or in compounds. For this reason, I have tried to stimulate contacts with locals in my PhD research “In Touch with the Dutch” through putting expats in touch with a local host. My study examined the impact of this contact on the success of the expatriate assignment. You can find more information about the study on the page In Touch with the Dutch.
Has contact with locals helped you? How difficult did you find it to get in touch with them? What strategy would you recommend in your country of residence? I am curious to hear your experiences!
(1) Bücker, J. (2013). Interacting with ‘strangers’. The Cultural Intelligence Scale: A Tool for Measuring Global Management Competencies? PhD dissertation, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
(2) Toh, S. M., & DeNisi, A. S. (2007). Host country nationals as socializing agents: A social identity approach. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28, 281–301.