The Psychology of Expatriation and its Risk

panicbuttonRelocating to a foreign country for work can be both an exciting and frightening thought to many expatriates. In fact, many companies struggle with which employee to send due to the high rate of employee failure in adapting to overseas jobs. The reason for this failure is various psychological effects, or even risk, of expatriation that turn into major hurdles for the employee to adapt to their new international post.

Here are some examples of where expatriates could have trouble adapting to their new position in their new locale.

Cross – Sociocultural Adjustment

This is a major issue for many expatriates who are bringing additional family members with them on their employment. An employer is making a major risk when bringing a family overseas because there is always a chance that the spouse or children will not adapt well, which will force the employee to return home or have an altered negative perspective of their new locale.

In fact, many statistics state that a failed spouse or children in international job opportunities is one of the principal reasons for expatriates to want to return home in under one year of being assigned abroad.

Role in Organization

Many employees are accustomed to the status and prestige that they possessed in their home office. In fact, when many employees go abroad they may be receiving a promotion, but they will have to earn respect all over again of their new colleagues.

This can be quite a challenge for the employee because they will have to do this in an entirely different corporate culture. This is an enormous drawback for those who are accustomed to power and respect in their home office.


Many employees who are going to work in developing countries may have a difficult time adapting to the technology that is available for them to do their job. This overall work environment may prove trying and challenging to them because they are used to different amenities being readily available. Having limited resources to do one’s job can cause employers to have a low employee retention rate in their overseas offices.

Interpersonal Relationships at Work

Many expatriates do not make a great effort to join in at their new office place. Additionally, many expatriates complain about favouritism to the staff that is native to the specific locale that they are assigned. This can be an enormous drawback for an expatriate employee because they may get fed up with the domestic employees being treated better than they are.

Organizational Culture and Function

One aspect of moving to an overseas job position is the language barrier. This can be a major problem for the expatriate employee because, in many cultures, they are resented for speaking in English. Many of the domestic employees do not work in English and also resent that the expatriate is taking one of their countrymen’s jobs and being paid more money for doing so. This creates a problematic organizational culture at times where employees do not want to make the expatriate feel welcome in their new position.

Career Development

Many employees who take jobs overseas view this as a disruption in their career development. They worry that there will not be a job waiting for them when they get back to their home office from their overseas opportunity. Expatriates take an enormous risk and if they feel that their risk is not paying off, they tend to want to return to their home countries.


It could be extremely stressful for an immigrant to perform complex tasks in order to obtain citizenship or even to wait for a long period of time. A non-citizen inhabitant is not even a second class citizen. This is something to keep in mind before deciding on the best country to move into.


It is often very perplexing to deal with finances in a new country. If you moved to a new country, you would normally try to calculate the costs of everything in your domestic currency in order to make decisions, but this is not always the case. In some countries, certain things cost more, or less, than they did in your origin country. Additionally, some countries may be more expensive or less expensive across the board, depending on the average salary. We can help you deal with one particular concern when you move to a new country: international money transfers.

Concluding Words

Even though relocating to an exciting new locale is a coveted notion for many employees, it is important that their firms weigh carefully the employee’s personality and whether they are suitable to go overseas. If the employer conducts a proper analysis, it will protect the employee from the many psychological risks that transpire from expatriation.

Jacquelyn Vadnais

Jacquelyn Vadnais is a global traveler, blogger, writer, author, and entrepreneur with a JD/MBA/LL.M degree. To date, she has visited 50 countries, lived in 8, and hopes to see a great deal more of the world.

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