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Despite over 50 years of expatriation research, the implications of expatriation for identity remains an under-researched topic in mainstream international human resource management (IHRM) literature. Expatriation can cause disruption to expatriates' familiar sociocultural environment, which can often pose challenges to their self-concept and identity. The study underpinned by identity and social identity theories explores the perceptions of Spanish self-initiated expatriate (SIE) nurses living in Germany and other Spanish nurses who repatriated from Germany to understand the influence of expatriation on their self-concept and identity.Design/methodology/approachSemi-structured interviews were conducted with Spanish SIE nurses in Germany (n = 20) and others who had repatriated from Germany (n = 10). Data analysis was assisted by NVivo software.FindingsThe study identified that low proficiency in the host country language (HCL) and the problematic workplace interactions that ensued, challenged the participants' self-conceptions as competent professionals and prompted their reliance on social networks of fellow Spaniards for social validation.Research limitations/implicationsAlthough focused on a specific context, the study not only enhances practical understanding of Spanish SIE nurses in Germany but also offers valuable insights to organisations working with SIEs. It adds to extant knowledge on language and identity in the expatriation context and discusses the implications for global HRM related to underutilisation of SIEs' knowledge and skills within organisations.Originality/valueThe study contributes to theory building on the under-researched link between expatriation and identity, while adding to the growing literature on SIEs.
Journal of Global Mobility: The Home of Expatriate Management Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 10, 2021
Keywords: SIEs; Repatriates; Host country language; Self-concept; Identity; Nurses
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