Adjustment” of the independent expatriate – a case study of Doug
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the idea of expatriate adjustment through naturally occurring data. Specifically, through an investigation of three e-mails sent to the author by a friend, Doug, the paper explores the notion that adjustment is a fluid concept and that through qualitative research methods it is possible to appreciate the expatriate experience in the context of an expatriate’s “whole life” of experiences. This is in contrast to positivist approaches to the study of adjustment which offer limited snapshots of adjustment at particular moments in time. Design/methodology/approach – The paper investigates three e-mails sent by Doug to the author. The e-mails constitute a form of naturally occurring data, and through forms of narrative analysis the e-mails are able to be examined to throw light on the process of expatriate adjustment. Findings – The paper highlights ways in which qualitative research methods generally, and specifically when used in relation to expatriates, enable a fuller understanding of the processes of “adjustment” that expatriates experience and its relationship to their life as a “work in progress”. This type of research approach and analysis complements the more positivist study of expatriates. In some aspects it supports research findings on adjustment, but it serves to humanize the independent expatriate and their experience. Research limitations/implications – The research is a case study of only a single subject. The paper suggests the potential for using naturally occurring data in the study of expatriates and independent expatriates in particular. Practical implications – Stories of the experiences of expatriation offer insightful and “real” access to the lived experience of the expatriate. In this sense, they can be much more powerful than other forms of cross-cultural training. Originality/value – The paper highlights the importance of naturally occurring data and the need to consider “whole lives” in the past and present, of research “participants”.
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