Reflexivity as a Facilitator to Adjusting to a New Culture: American Expatriates in Japan
Globalization and cultural diversity within the United States have increased the need for U.S. workers to interact with individuals from many different cultures. The failure rate of American expatriates is considerably higher than that of their European and Asian counterparts and represents significant financial and human capital losses to U.S. organizations (Tung, 1987). This is attributable to ineffective intercultural skills, as apposed to lack of technical skills (Brislin, 1981; Feldman, 1976; Tung, 1981). Cultural differences between the U.S. and Japan may pose considerable challenges to the adjustment of U.S. expatriates in Japan. This paper examines how U.S. expatriates employ reflexivity, that is, self-analysis and adjustment, to manage cultural differences in Japan on a daily basis. The research set out to identify how expatriates make sense of experiences in their daily routines in the host country environment and their learning process. The goal was to make explicit the tacit knowledge that expatriates gain in the course of adapting to their assignments abroad. The study addresses the following questions: What process do they employ to make sense of the cultural novelty and ambiguity they encounter? How do they examine long-held cultural frames of reference that may not be valid in the host country?
Keywords: Cross-cultural context, Learning, Reflexivity
Dr. Milagros Mateu
University Program Manager, Office of Education Higher Education Division , National Aeronautics and Space Administration