I have been living in an expat bubble for 20 years: moving every 3 years on average. While I adapt usually very easily, make local friends, learn the language, eat the food, participate in cultural traditions etc, I must admit that I usually ignore all the negative things related to the places I am living in. I don’t get involved in local politics or public debates and avoid sensitive subjects such as religion or xenophobic opinions.
I think it is somehow a survival mode. It takes 6 months to fit in a new place, make friends and setup new habits. Then when I finally have settled both my family and business it is time to leave.
Another type of bubble is being assisted by the companies that send you abroad through relocation companies. While at first sight you think it is a good thing you deserve for leaving your “home”, on a long run, when you stop to be a corporate expat you have great difficulties to deal with the local bureaucracy, finding an affordable house by yourself or looking for local schools. Even during an expatriation some studies actually demonstrated that too much assistance may decrease the chances of expatriation success.
Recent studies show that the profile of an expatriate family is shifting away from the traditional expatriate profile of a male senior-level executive with a “trailing spouse” and family to up to 18% of women expatriates with dads being the trailing spouses taking care of children.
The change in demographics and the way global organizations manage the work-life issues for both expatriates and local employees may affect the concept of “expat bubble” In fact any employee may create their own bubble, refusing to integrate other cultures and have difficulties working in multi-cultural teams.
The danger for global companies is the “ethnocentrism” of the headquarters, thinking that everywhere on the planet people share same opinions and cultural values such as personal development or time perception
If there are no proper HR policies in place the company may lose its competitive edge very rapidly starting by not being able to attract global talent in the future.
Who sets the working norms in a global context will increasingly become an important issue. Ref.Global Work, Global Careers, and Work-Family(2010)
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