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Finnish Expatriates’ Adaptation to a Multicultural Environment

Saarentalo-Vuorimäki Johanna

Among the 4,500 Finns in Belgium at the moment, the majority live in the Brussels area, working in the institutions of the European Union, in Finland’s permanent representation to the EU, and in the regional offices of various organizations and Finnish industrial companies. The multicultural environment in Brussels, with almost half of the population being of foreign origin, stands in striking contrast to the almost monocultural Finland (4% immigrants). This study examined the adaptation of the Finnish expatriates and their spouses to Brussels’ multicultural environment, the relationships between the different components of adaptation and values, and the role of empathy in the process of adaptation. The interview sample consisted of 52 participants. The study used a mixed-methods design and combined in-depth interviews with quantitative data on value priorities and aspects of empathy. As a group, the expatriates stood out by their high regard for self-direction and work values and low regard for conformity and security when compared to similar highly educated samples in Finland. They also scored low on personal distress. Five main dimensions that describe the process of adapting to the multicultural environment were identified from the interviews. These dimensions included broadmindedness and flexibility, which were mentioned in all interviews, as well as extraversion, self-efficacy and adventurousness. Positive adaptation was predicted by high regard for universalism and low regard for conformity, and by low personal distress and strong tendency to the perspective of other people. “(the current work) … provides a deeper understanding of the experience and processes through which expatriates are adapted into their host society” Professor Lilach Sagiv, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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  • Publisher Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta (Helsingin yliopisto)
    Release-year 2015
    Page-count 208
    Language English
    Series Publications of the Department of Political and Economic Studies
    Appearance B5,pehmeäkantinen
    ISBN 9789521091438
    ISSN 1798-9132