New Paradigms of Intercultural Research in the International Business Discipline: a Self/Other Analysis of Norwegian Expatriates in Hong Kong, South-Korea, and Australia

Organisation Studies

Speaker:David Guttormsen
Date: Wednesday 22 October 2014
Time: 2pm
Location: Streatham Court B

Further details

This paper examines how the application of Self/Other theories as identity-formation can enhance understanding of expatriates’ intercultural interaction. Subsequently, this investigation illustrates how cultural research in the International Business (IB) discipline can profit from engaging with Social Anthropological and Sociological theories as a means to alleviate the static, essentialist, reductionist, and hypothetico-deductive nature of the mainstream Hofstedeian research paradigm. Various approaches to Self/Other constellations have been examined across diverse theoretical orientations and disciplinary domains for nearly a century. Drawing upon a broader social theoretical perspective can therefore also assist in gaining a deeper understanding of identity-formation and interaction at the individual level where expatriates’ ‘intercultural encounters’ and faced challenges are actually taking place. However, this intellectual avenue remains diminutive within the field of IB research. Arguably, the outcome of expatriates’ international assignments significantly depends on the degree of successful cross-cultural adjustment to local culture. Thus, it becomes imperative for international managers, expatriate relocation services, and practitioners to comprehend the dynamics, contexts, and perceptions regarding expatriates’ interactions across cultural, national, linguistic, and ethnic boundaries. 20 in-depth interviews were conducted with Norwegian expatriates in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Australia – in addition to 40 interviews with corporate elites concerning Self/Other theorising – this paper argues that such enterprise can be achieved more effectively when the ontological lens is moved beyond the broad-stroke cultural dimension approach, which assumes fixed “national cultures”. This enduring approach still dominates both cultural training and global mobility programmes delivered by host firms as well as the IB academic literature.


This paper is structured in six main parts. The paper first critiques the Hofstedeian research tradition by demonstrating its short-comings due to the philosophical underpinnings of aforesaid approach. Subsequently, the paper proposes how the cultural research praxis can be advanced through elucidating Self/Other theories as an alternative conceptual perspective regarding cultural issues faced by expatriates. In the third section, key lessons derived from the analysis of Norwegian organisational and self-initiated expatriates, which serves as the vehicle for theoretical development, are presented. This is followed by a rationale for moving towards conceptual boundary-markers and Otherness as integral to identity-formation. The paper moves on to discuss managerial implications, including the potential to develop intercultural experience into a strategic resource as intercultural capital, which can benefit both international business practitioners and their organisations alike. The final section highlights the contributions of the research and proposes fruitful avenues of research to be explored.