Being a Swedish Expatriate in Spain : A Study of Cultural Collisions

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från Linköpings universitet/Företagsekonomi; Linköpings universitet/Företagsekonomi


Background Expatriate failure can be a devastating consequence for both an enterprise and the expatriate himself. An expatriate is a person who resides outside his native country for working purposes. Moving to a foreign country implies many challenges and problems. One of the challenges is the new culture. Culture shock and problems with the acculturation process can jeopardize the international assignment: adaptation problem for expatriates is one of the reasons for expatriate failure. Nevertheless, culture shocks can be provided against by preparing the expatriate for the new culture. Knowledge about the other culture will increase the expatriate’s cultural competence, and hence facilitate the adaptation process, which will provide against expatriate failure.

Purpose The thrust of this Bachelor Thesis was to analyze which important cultural differences a Swedish expatriate can encounter in Spain on an international assignment. The aim was to establish a check-list for future Swedish expatriates who are going to Spain, in order increase their cultural competence. We approached the cultural differences from a Swedish expatriate’s point of view.

Methodology A qualitative study was conducted. The empirical data was collected through five semi-structured interviews with Swedish expatriates that are, or have been, working in Spain. All the interviewees work at companies who operate within the high-tech business trade. A frame of reference was elaborated in order to interpret and analyze the results obtained from the empirical data.

Conclusions We found relevant cultural differences for Swedish expatriates going to Spain within four cultural aspects.

  • Organization: organizations in Spain are more hierarchical and the manager more authoritarian compared to Sweden. The purpose of meetings is to inform or make decisions, rather than discuss and decide by consensus. Long working days are normal, and efficiency is not highly prioritized. Small talk before meetings is used more extensively than in Sweden.
  • Time: Spaniards perceive time as fluid, which leads to less rigid agendas and schedules. Punctuality is a minor issue since time is approximate.
  • Communication: The culture is expressive. Spaniards are emotional in their way of communicating, which is classified as an expressive culture. Moreover, frequent interruptions are seen as commitment to, and engagement in, the conversation. Indirect language is preferred over the direct, the context is more important than the words used.
  • Social life: Spaniards prefer to meet up outside. The Spaniard’s private zone is bigger and includes more persons, compared to the Swede’s. Furthermore, respect is only shown people the Spaniard knows and cares about.












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