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According to the Meriam Webster Dictionary expatriation is to 'leave one's country to live elsewhere'. This seems like a very simplistic definition of the word when used in today's business world. Thus this paper will use the word expatriation as 'the process by which companies send employees to work in a country different to the native country of the employee'.
Having established the definition of the word expatriate that will be used in this paper, next a look at the company and the employee that will be used in this paper will be taken. After having established which parties are involved in the analysis this paper will use the different theories and frameworks available to analyze the expatriation experience. Succeeding the analysis, the paper will conclude with recommendations on how the expatriation could have been improved.
Looking at the aforementioned quote from Black and Gregersen it can be seen how important expatriation is to a company. It bears significant cost to send an employee abroad as the company not only has to pay a salary but also often the initial relocation costs, support costs while in the foreign country (such costs can be international school for children, housing & car, and insurance) and in the end relocation costs. Furthermore these costs are often quite high because they apply to the whole family; Black and Gregersen estimate that the average expatriation costs per year for a US employee send to another country is between $300,000 and $1,000,000 (Black and Gregersen, 1999). Even though companies 'invest' this much money into the relocation of employees Black and Gregersen found that many companies have received less then anticipated returns on the expatriation expenditures. (Black and Gregersen, 1999). Not only is the expatriation a financial risk but it could also jeopardize the employer-employee relationship severely. Black and Gregersen found that 10% to 20% of expatriates return early and dissatisfied from their expatriation. However the most significant problem seems to be that in the 750 firms analyzed by Black and Gregersen 25% of the expatriates left the firm and then often for a competitor (Black and Gregersen, 1999).
Having established the definition of expatriation and the importance of proper expatriation management in order for the expatriation to be beneficial financially and from a human resource management the following section will present the expatriate, which this paper uses to analyses expatriation as a process.
Mr. Friedrich was born in Germany in the early 1960's in the city Bonn. After his high school 'Abitur' education he attended Bonn University to study Geography. After being a German teacher in France for three years he started to work for 'Allgemeine Kredit', a German B2B insurance. Climbing quickly the job ladder in Germany he moved seven times in Germany to attend to various positions in the organization. When the French insurance company Coface started to take over Allgemeine Kredit in 1996 Mr. Friedrich due to his knowledge of both the French and German language helped in the transition. After the deal Mr. Friedrich worked for Coface Deutschland for three years in Germany. The expatriation request actually did not come from the companies side but from the side of the employee, Mr. Friedrich. Mr. Friedrich asked the HR department of Coface headquarters in Paris, France in 1999 if there were any expatriate jobs available. The current job opening was as Director of Coface Japan and Korea and the HR department in line with executives of Coface France found that Mr. Friedrich would fit the expatriate profile needed for that position. In the summer of 2001 Mr. Friedrich and his family, his wife and two kids aged 11 and 7, expatriated to Japan. From 1 year prior to the expatriation Mr. Friedrich received training and Japanese language classes while his children were sent to an international school to learn English. He said that he was very satisfied with the preparation that was given by Coface for his international assignment in Japan. During his stay as Director of Coface the expatriation package was very generous and allowed him and the family to return to his native country for the winter and summer vacation. He believes that an essential part of a successful expatriation is the support during the expatriation. This is due to the fact that an expatriate would not be able to concentrate on work if he would be distracted by other factors, which are directly caused by the expatriation. For example he says that if he did not have international medical insurance provided by the company or help in making sure the legal documents for the host country were up to date, he might have had to spend considerable amount of time on those things, which could cause frustration.
Our Interview partner, a German manager, expatriated to Japan to pursue his position as Director for a French Business to Business Insurance Company. On one side there is Germany as his European country of origin and on the other side the adopted Asian country Japan. There are different theoretical approaches concerning this intercultural issue.
In Trompenaars model (2010), he determined seven dimensions to describe cultural differences. In his opinion the Japanese culture is characterized by particularism, where relationship is more important than rules and individual circumstances. On the contrary Germany has a more universalism culture and morality is seen "as a matter of standard laws and rules" (2010: 113). These countries use rules to determine what is right and contracts are the basis and the most significant part for doing business.
According to Trompenaars framework, Japan is considered as a communitarianism country. In this aspect interest and benefits for the whole group are more important than the freedom of the individualism. In the dimension that concerns dealing with emotions, both countries are similar and follow the neutral position. The Japanese and the German culture tend to be reserved and take business very seriously. Furthermore, Tropenaars characterized the Japanese culture as ascribing. "They ascribe high status to those entrusted with" (2010: 146).
Salacuse (2004) claims that Japanese tend to negotiate for a win-win outcome. They see bargaining as a problem solving process and not as a confrontation. In the case of our interview partner he experienced this intercultural difference and regarding this he had to adapt his management skills to the host country. In his opinion Japanese tend to be less controversial which confirms Salacuses statements. Hans-Joachim Friedrich reported that this characteristic was clearly recognizable during his stay abroad and due to that he had to rethink is negotiation strategies.
Salacuse describes the Japanese culture as very formal that emphasizes appropriate formalities. Similar to that, Germans put importance on the correct title, avoids personal questions and conversations about private life while doing business. In addition, Japanese tend to communicate in an indirect way that is characterized by signs, gestures and interpreting. They hide their feelings and "Japanese, whose goal is to create a relationship rather than simply sign a contract, need to invest time in the negotiating process" (2004: 3). In the eye of our interview partner the Japanese culture relies on implicit, harmonious relations. He confirms that building relationship is the most important key aspect for his host country. They are looking for a harmonious approach and it takes time to settle a deal. Furthermore he experienced the indirect and hesitant way of communication, which results in an extending negotiating process compared to a quicker and direct style in his home country.
Concerning negotiation, Salcuse (2004: 5) experienced that Japanese "view deal making as a bottom up", an inductive process and a "building up" approach, where one party starts with a minimum deal that can be expanded. Another attribute according to Salcuse (2004: 5) is that Japanese negotiate frequently in groups where a consensus of the whole group is essential. It is often obscure who the leader and decision maker of this group is. Furthermore they have the reputation to be risk averse. Our Interview partner mentioned that he experienced similar pattern of behaviour and he often had to negotiate with a group of Japanese business people. Though, he did not clarify a certain universal approach concerning this aspect.
Another framework generated by Hofstede (2001) who developed five dimensions that demonstrate cultural differences. There is the "Power Distance Index", "Individualism", "Masulanity", "Uncertainity Avoidance Index" and "Long Term Orientation". According to Hofstede's model an intercultural comparison between these countries would create an outcome as follows:
The Long Term Orientation dimension shows the biggest difference between Japan and Germany. The results of these dimensions where generated on Geert Hofstede's official website which compares two countries based on his five dimensions.
Japan scored 80 out of hundred whereas Germany has a score of 31 in the aspect of Long Term Orientation. This Dimension shows the preference of the culture in achieving long term or short term goals. "Business in long term orientated, cultures are accustomed to working toward building up strong positions; they do not expect immediate results"(2001:361). Our interview partner informed us about the patience you have to establish while doing business with Japanese managers. This endurance is necessary to create a strong relationship with the foreign business partners. In Germany short term results are essential and manager are judged by it. Hans-Joachim Friedrich confirmed this in his interview and indicated that this is a further adaptation he had to pay attention during his expatriation.
In Hofstede's five dimension model both countries generate a high masculinity score whereby Japan reaches with a score of 95 almost the maximum. Cultures with a marked masculinity tend to emphasize the male over the female gender. Soares et al (2007: 280) expound that the dominant values in masculine countries are achievement and success.
A further dimension where cultural differences are notable is Individualism. Hofstede's studies reveal that Germany (67) scores fundamentally higher than Japan (46). Salacuse et al. explain this dimension as follows: "In individualistic societies, individuals look after themselves and their immediate family only whereas in collectivistic cultures, individuals belong to groups that look after them in exchange for loyalty."(2007: 280). This clarification shows similarities with the experiences of our interview partner Hans-Joachim Friedrich. He made obvious that his Japanese business partners seek for a harmonious relation within the whole group. Due to that he had to dilute his individual way of approaching in order to incorporate the entire team. This German characteristic possessed Hans-Joachim Friedrich as well and he strongly noticed this intercultural difference during his expatriation. Nevertheless he adapted to the foreign country in many ways to pursue his position as Director for the Japanese branch as effectively as possible.
1. Personal reaction/opinion
This interview demonstrates perfectly that if you are well prepared and self-motivated, going abroad would not be an issue but a life experience. Mr Friedrich is the person we interviewed, and he was apparently very prepared and determined for the international challenge in Japan. Indeed, before going he had in mind that it was not going to be that easy to adapt, even though he had an intensive and excellent preparation.
The preparation he received was particularly effective, because he mentioned that he had no experienced any special culture shocks when he arrived to Japan. We think one of the key successes of the preparation was the smooth transition toward Japanese culture, which included some training, language courses and a family trip for house-searching. Actually, the family trip step should be compulsory when relocating someone with his/her entire family to a new country. It is the best way for the family members to have a concrete idea of what is waiting for them in the new environment. Besides the preparation, the way of thinking of Mr Friedrich made a huge difference concerning the successful experience. We learned from this interview that some special skills such as "be open-minded" and "Be used to diversity" are the right skills to succeed in cross-cultural management environment.
Luckily his experience in Japan was positive and rewarding, even if we perfectly know that it is not always the case for expats. However, Mr Friedrich encountered some problems in the management style and approach which is absolutely normal.
The most interesting point he made was concerning the difficulty of repatriation. He declared: "to fit again into the HQ organisation poses the real difficulty". It is exactly the same comment that the guest speaker Veronique Rostas made during her intervention in our class. This element needs to be taken carefully into consideration, as some expats once back home think they do not fit anymore within their own society, which causes a real problem. We realised, this important step has to be taken seriously because in some cases he can even lead to a loose of national identity of the person who could have turned "native" to the new culture after a complete immersion. We are now convinced that the return is as important to manage as the departure of an expat.
From a general point of view, we felt Mr Friedrich was very organized and did a very good job. Indeed, every time he would face any kind of problem, he would directly talk to someone with more experience than him such as other expats to find out any answers to his problems. He was completely right, because when you are trap in any delicate situation in intercultural management context, you should never wait too long to react and find a way to figure it out. If you do not do so, the risk of the situation getting worst is considerably high and it would get every time more difficult to find the right solution.
He also declared he was in touch at least once a week with the HQ back to Germany in order to settle all issues. This point is necessary when sending someone abroad, so the expat does not feel alone and completely left from the home company, which could affect his performances or even worst, makes him want to quit the mission. Unfortunately, we pointed out that today, there are too many companies that still do not understand this matter and are doomed to failure when sending employees abroad.
Mr Friedrich also understood the Japanase culture where he was relocating and naturally he compared it to his own culture. According to him Germans are explicit and honest people and Japanese relies on implicit, harmonious relations and avoiding conflicts.
Understanding the culture is an important point even though it seems obvious. W have seen that no all managers are able to understand the new culture they live in. In that case it would be a massive failure for the home company as it would be a waste of time for both parts.
One important advice regarding to Mr Friedrich's interview is: "As much as you should try to understand and value the host country's position, never give up your own personality and way of doing things just to fit in, but rather try to reconcile both factors. Look at the positive sides of that culture and try to tolerate the negative ones without loosing patience".
To sum up, we benefited greatly from this interview, as it was a positive experience for the concerned expat and he shared some important advices with us, which allow us now to be able to analyse even deeper what makes you succeed in an international career.
2. Explanation of the problems
The main problems encountered were concerning the management style adaptation. He asserted that he had to change his way of working by becoming more flexible and adapt to some extent his way of thinking to the local culture in order to make Japanese employees feel more comfortable and make them collaborate actively on the decision making process in a less problematic way. This huge difference of style is due to the fact that German and Japanese cultures are completely different. Both cultures needed to do some efforts, so they could reach a point where they adapted to each other without one dominating the other. In that case, Mr Friedrich had a bit more efforts to do as he was the one coming to Japan and he could not wait for Japanese people to adapt to his German way in their own country. This is something imaginable that you should not expect in intercultural management.
The other issue he faced was a major problem in identifying "real" cultural divergences from just pretended cultural issues. In this case, he refers to stereotypes in might had in mind and the way he had to stop his own pattern to allow himself to listen and understand more efficiently Japanese business partners or colleagues. This problem is absolutely normal when working with a culture totally different from the one you are from. This is a perfect example of adaptation to another culture.
This issue might also refers to Japanese people trying to take advantage of the situation by playing on cultures differences during negotiations or business instructions and saying that they do not understand the situation. This is a clever move from the Japanese, as it express indirectly their dissatisfaction but still in a "polite" way. By doing so, it is easier to influence the other party in case of disagreement. In the case of Mr Friedrich working in Japan, it is easy to imagine some contexts where this matter might have occured, such as when giving instructions to Japanese employees, during negotiations with other potential clients or simply during conferences.
This common fact definitely needs to be detected and valued correctly from the expat's point of view, in order to not miss opportunities in any kind of situation. Thus, might affect the entire experience if not dominated.
Identify any of the various intercultural conflicts you detect in the case study and discuss the differences in terms of norms, beliefs, values, relationship to time, space, power, communication styles, management styles, corporate culture, etc.
researchers had agreed that when it come to a comparison between Japan and Germany there were a lot of intercultural conflicts they also had focused on the difference between both sides rather than the similarities. According to our case study and other researches there is a significant different between the Japanese culture, business and management and western countries in general and Germany in specific. Reserchers also a greed on the uniqueness of the Japanese culture. In this part we try to identify different intercultural conflict between Japan and western countries focus on German Cultural and how it differ from the Japanese cultural. Chen 2006; Miike 2003, 2007 had argued that intercultural conflicts collectivism, high context culture and indirect communication styles are described, Japanese culture do not always include similarities with Western cultures they have perceived this inclination as a reflection of 'Western bias'. Increasingly, managers must deal with multiple ethnic groups with very different cultures. Thanks to globalization, we are likely to work with Japanese, French, Chinese, German and all sorts of other nationalities. It is important to recognize that people from different cultures have are different in a variety of ways, including different ways of looking at things, different ways of dressing and different ways of expressing personality/goodness in this case study we tried to focus on the cultural conflict between Japanese cultural and the German cultural.
There are many obvious cultural differences between Germany and Japan: eating different food and with knife and fork instead of chopsticks, driving on the other side of the road, and the styles of traditional architecture, music and clothing, such as the German Lederhosen/Dirndl and Japanese Kimono, do not have much in common as well. That is why we want to write about differences concerning the invisible aspects of these cultures: the values, the virtues, and hence the ways of thinking - at least as far as we could observe them and was told by Our presenter in the Japanese cultrual..
Our presenter argued that when he arrived to Japan, he had heard that the Japanese values were the same as the traditional German ones, which are mainly: punctuality and discipline.
Indeed, it seems to be very important to Japanese to keep appointments and plans. If it really occurs that a Japanese person is late or cannot make it at all, he or she is expected to deeply apologize for it. In Germany this is taken much more laxly, which results in people being less and less on time these days. The same goes, for example, for trains: While in Germany everybody complains about the trains being late (which at least shows that Germans still care about it), in Japan you can expect them to be perfectly on time. This importance of punctuality makes life comfortable in a way that you can carry out your plans much more smoothly than in Germany. In other words: Due to this punctuality shared by everyone the Japanese life works. That is why a Japanese called punctuality the Japanese society's "foundation".
As everything is working so perfectly, everyone is expected to "work" in the same way everybody and everything else does, i.e. the Japanese society also asks for discipline. Discipline means, for example, behaving well in public, such as not bothering other people by shouting, as it happens in other countries such as Germany. Moreover, although in Germany you are supposed to throw away your garbage into the garbage cans, you can still see empty bottles, cans or other trash lying on the pavements, in parks etc. In contrast to that, Japanese people are disciplined enough to take their garbage with them and dispose of them properly, and therefore the streets remain clean.
Furthermore, "discipline" means doing your work properly. For example, Japanese traffic policemen show you with dedication that your ride is safe, even if there is not a single approaching car or so in sight. Or if in Japan a server makes a mistake with your order, he/she will not only apologize and immediately correct the mistake but will as well offer a so-called "service" like a free drink or dessert, which is the case even in cheap restaurants.
In Germany we just say that the "customer is king" yet in Japan they are even compared to gods and they are truly treated like that! And with thinking of your customers as gods, you have to give your best, work in a highly disciplined manner in order to please them. However, "discipline" also has the negative connotation of being too strict or even drilled, hence the expression "to discipline someone". In fact I was reported by some older Japanese that their education was of that kind, but I see at Kwansei Gakuin that today's students are encouraged to make their own minds by doing research by themselves, so you can understand the word "discipline" in its very best sense.
In summary we can say that although Germans and Japanese share the same values, they are much more obeyed in Japan, which is what Germans should take as an example.