It may sound like a cliché, but the world today has become a much smaller place. Many companies now have a multi-national base. Even those companies that have not branched into international partnerships often utilize the resources and services of international companies on a weekly or daily basis. Given the growth of multi-national companies (MNCs) it is not surprising that expatriate assignments and international travel have increased as well.
What is an expatriate? Research typically defines an expatriate as someone who is traveling to a foreign country to complete a business assignment lasting 3 to 5 years. Many times the expatriate brings his/her family with them and a new household is set up in the foreign location.
As you might imagine, expatriate assignments are quite expensive for companies to fund. The cost of a failed assignment where the expatriate either returns home before completing the assignment or does not perform acceptably while on assignment ranges from $500,000 to over 1 million dollars (depends on the position and location).
Given the cost of the assignments and the increasing numbers of MNCs employers today are interested in hiring job candidates that already have a successful expatriate assignment under their belts. This type of experience tells a company that you are likely to be successful on another similar assignment if needed, you are familiar with cultural differences, and you are capable of flexibility.
Expatriate assignments, despite their appeal, are not always easy. Not only are you away from your home, your friends, and in some cases your spouse, the food, the customs, and the expectations are all different from what you are accustomed. It is these difficulties and the cost of failure that has spurred research on how to predict expatriate adjustment to new cultures and success on foreign assignments.
For more information on cross-cultural research findings, please visit the Reports section.