1st Edition

Breaking out of the Expat Bubble How to Make Intercultural Connections and Friends

By Marian van Bakel Copyright 2024
    258 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    258 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Moving abroad means having to settle into a new host country. This book enables expats and those who support them to create intercultural connections and friendships both within and outside the workplace.

    Having left behind a large part of their social network, expats need to make local friends to really settle in. This book shows you how this works, and that breaking out of the expat bubble and making local friends helps you adjust and settle in the new place you call home. Organisations and societies should also support expats if they would like to retain this international talent. It is important to create the conditions for expats to build a social network, for example by connecting them with a local buddy. Learn more in this book about the advantages of such contact and how to set up and manage a buddy system to the benefit of both your expats and your organisation or community. The book is illustrated by many quotes from almost 20 years of research and features 11 real-world experiences of expats around the world. It also includes practical recommendations for expats, organisations and societies.

    An invaluable resource on creating more intercultural connections and friendships in the workplace and the local community, this book will be well placed in the hand luggage of expats – especially those who go without much organisational support – as well as on the desks of managers and HR professionals who would like to better support expats on this great adventure.

    Foreword. Preface. Introduction. Part I: Building a new social network abroad. Chapter 1: A dive into the deep end of the social pool. Chapter 2: How do expats make new friends abroad. Chapter 3: Developing competences for making intercultural friends. Part II: Connecting with locals. Chapter 4: The benefits of expat contact with locals. Chapter 5: Connecting with locals in the workplace. Chapter 6: Intercultural mentoring. Part III: How to bridge the gap. Chapter 7: The value of buddy systems. Chapter 8: The importance of the quality of the contact. Chapter 9: How to set up a buddy system. Chapter 10:  Recommendations for expats, organisations, and societies



    Marian van Bakel is Associate Professor at the University of Southern Denmark, where she conducts research in international human resource management, with an emphasis on expatriate management. She is passionate about bridging the gap between theory and practice to make sure practitioners benefit from her research. She is from the Netherlands and lived in France and the United Kingdom. She has been living in Denmark for 10 years now.

    Without question, Breaking out of the Expat Bubble is a book whose time has come. Multi-national corporations and organizations are operating in a rapidly changing world. Never before in history has there been so much intercultural mixing and interchange as there is today for those who work internationally. In earlier years, many expats only interacted with local citizens during the work hours, often in some managerial role. During the off hours, however, most retreated to the clubs, restaurants, or living situations they shared with fellow expats. Together they formed another world separate from the one most locals around them lived in. It was the accepted—and easiest?—thing to do.
       In this ground breaking book, Marian van Bakel emphasizes a different approach and explains why this is important for both the individual and the organization. She begins by acknowledging the reality that cross-cultural interactions are not always easy or comfortable, giving real life examples of specific intercultural difficulties expats often face, in particular with regard to making new friends abroad. She goes on to give concrete, practical ways on how to turn that challenge into an opportunity to become more culturally competent.
        This book makes clear why local relationships are a major key for success for any expat. They are key to the emotional well being of each expat in their new place. They are also part of a key strategy for increasing the likelihood of success for the organization as business models effective in one place may need to be adjusted in another. Expats who have been mentored by locals are often the most able to do that. Because this book was written for both the expats who go and those who support them, there are riches to uncover for all who are involved in any aspect of international, cross-cultural living.

    Ruth E. Van Reken, Co-author, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed., Co-founder, Families in Global Transition

    "This book is a tremendous resource for those planning for or who are in the early stages of an extended international experience, which can greatly benefit their lives. The book has a very engaging style and many examples and quotes of current expats, yet also is based on compelling state-of-the-art research. Sponsoring organizations and communities that value the attraction and retention of international human talent also will find this book of great value." 

    Charles M. Vance, Professor Emeritus, Loyola Marymount University, and coauthor of Smart Talent Management and Managing a Global Workforce 

    In Breaking out of the Expat Bubble, Marian van Bakel shows that expats who have contact with locals flourish better in a host country than expats without such contacts. She discusses in detail what expats, locals and organisations can do to establish and consolidate contacts between the first two. The author  presents the extensive scientific literature in this field in layman's terms with expats’ experiences with locals and anecdotes about her own expat life. This all makes it a very readable book that is a must for expats, HR departments of organisations, locals who want to guide expats and anybody else who frequently deals with expats (teachers, estate agents, municipality officials).

    Marinel Gerritsen, Professor Emeritus Intercultural Business Communication, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

    "This is a well-researched, thoughtful and instructive book that will be of substantial value to anyone living outside their own country. It is, at the same time, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable reading. The book is not exactly a 'survival guide' for people trying to cope with being in a new country but following the ideas that are clearly laid out here will certainly make adjustment a whole lot quicker and easier. This is one of those books that will in a small way and for some people make life a lot better."

    Chris Brewster, Professor of International Human Resource Management at Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK

    "This volume brings together a whole array of relevant topics and serves as a helpful guide to everyone who decided (or still considering) to move abroad for their work, describing the challenges of making new connections, especially with locals in the destination country.  The author – Marian Van Bakel – does a good job appealing to a broad readership, including expatriates, academics, educators, consultants, and university students.  This volume is undoubtedly a valuable and essential read not only for those moving abroad and their potential employers, but also for anyone interested in building their social networks in the new country, as well as developing deep understanding of the various cross-cultural interactions and practices seen in different societies around the world."

    Vlad Vaiman, Associate Dean and Professor at the School of Management of California Lutheran University

    Breaking out of the Expat Bubble focuses on the social side of living abroad, showing how internationals can make friends in the new host country. Social relationships act as a lifeline, especially when one moves to a new place. Fellow expats can certainly help, but it is by having a mix of social contacts that internationals find the confidence to shape a meaningful life in the local country. Local connections provide a sense of belonging, both in local society and within their work environments. The book makes a lot of interesting academic research accessible and offers many good recommendations which are directly usable for institutions and companies, for example about how to set up a buddy system. The writing is both professional and personal which makes it a pleasure to read this book. I would certainly recommend this book to all who would like to make a difference in the life of internationals. It is crucial that we nurture diverse social networks for internationals, making sure they stay connected, engaged and strong.

    Signe Biering, executive coach

    “There has been more than half a century's worth of research on global mobility and expatriation, but despite the vast body of knowledge that has accumulated, important research gaps and open questions still remain. One is how to make social connections when moving abroad. The author, Marian Van Bakel, in this eminently readable and engaging book not only provides a process model that is valuable from a research perspective but offers useful recommendations for building a strong social network while on international assignment.”

    Günter K. Stahl, Professor of International Management at WU Vienna, Austria

    Marian van Bakel’s new release attracted my attention immediately as one who has lived as an expat in three European countries and worked extensively as a consultant and trainer on assignments in another fifty. “Breaking out of the bubble” is an excellent way to describe the multifaceted challenge that many new expats face, including making new friends. Now a very useful handbook has arrived!
       The book is an interesting read, because it is replete with stories, resulting from discussions and interviews that the author has had with a variety of expats and their experiences in different countries, making it possible to understand how making friends may be easier or more difficult given the culture and social structure. The stories shared also provide insights into what worked, and what did not work in various contexts, for different kinds of expats, students, workers, the self-expatriated, and others. This involves detailing challenges to expect and provides important exercises in personal reflection and self-management as well as useful insights into appropriate steps to take to connect with others in various cultural contexts.
       The book is enjoyable to read with the many stories that focus on the actual experiences of the many different interviewees, who have been challenged to see both their cultural proclivities and come to better understand the values and behaviors of the cultures they have been immersed in. Enjoy!

    Dr. George F. Simons, diversophy® Founder & Editor in Chief