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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Expatriate Effectiveness and Cultural Intelligence Among Multiculturals and Monoculturals Abroad

  • Author(s): Nguyen, Angela-MinhTu Dinh
  • Advisor(s): Benet-Martinez, Veronica
  • et al.

With globalization, there is an increasing need for employees who can successfully work abroad. Unfortunately, international assignments are failing, with expatriates returning home prematurely. Multicultural individuals may be ideal candidates for these cross-cultural assignments; however, there is a dearth of research on both multicultural students and employees abroad, and no research testing the propositions that these multicultural individuals would be culturally intelligent and high-functioning expatriates.

In this dissertation, I investigated the expatriate effectiveness and cultural intelligence of multicultural and monocultural individuals using on-line longitudinal data from 57 study-abroad students (possible future expatriates). I found that cultural intelligence predicted greater expatriate adjustment and that it increases after the study-abroad experience. Furthermore, multicultural individuals were better psychologically adjusted than monocultural individuals while abroad. I also examined differences in expatriate effectiveness and cultural intelligence based on bicultural individuals' cultural integration (acculturation) and bicultural identity integration (BII), with the finding that cultural integration predicted better academic performance abroad. Exploratory analyses with transnational individuals revealed that they had poorer psychological adjustment and lower academic performance while abroad, and lower cultural intelligence after studying abroad (despite similar levels of cultural intelligence before studying abroad) compared to other multicultural individuals.

This dissertation was able to replicate previous findings on cultural intelligence and expatriate effectiveness and to extend those findings to study-abroad students and multicultural individuals. More research is needed to further understand the cultural intelligence of multicultural individuals, and the ways in which cultural intelligence might relate to BII. The findings regarding transnationalism suggest that the process of adapting to living and working in another country may be different when that country is the country of one's heritage. This dissertation contributes to the understanding of multicultural individuals' global mobility and provides a foundation on which to conduct further research on expatriate effectiveness, cultural intelligence, multiculturalism, and transnationalism. Finally, based on these findings, multinational corporations may want to select multicultural individuals for expatriation, and provide training to maximize the benefits of having multicultural expatriates by helping them to integrate their cultures and to minimize potential drawbacks by helping transnational multicultural expatriates develop realistic expectations of their heritage country.

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