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Abstract

This Masters thesis examines the factors that affect the adjustment of expatriate families and the

influence of the accompanying family on the perceived outcome of expatriate assignments. Due to

increased competition and the need to rely on the knowledge of its human capital, companies are

sending expatriates abroad to complete international assignments. In many cases, the family

accompanies the expatriate manager abroad, which entails that the entire family needs to adjust to

the new living situation. The accompanying family is often portrayed as negative as the inability of

family members to adjust to the new living situation is the most commonly stated reason for

assignment failure. Thus, this research aims to study the factors that might make the transition to

the new environment smoother and discover how the accompanying family affects the perceived

outcome of the assignment.

The literature strongly emphasizes the role of the sending company to select, train and support

the best expatriates by assessing the possible candidate and his or her family situation. Companies

should carefully select the best employee to send abroad and provide cross-cultural training for the

entire family prior to departure. The literature draws attention to the accompanying spouses

challenging role in adjusting to his or her new role as a stay-at-home spouse and suggests

companies to assist expatriate spouses in developing a meaningful life abroad. It is suggested that

by making sure that the entire family gets adjusted through proper training and support the entire

adjustment will be successfully completed.

The research method is an interview-based international business research, which focuses on

providing a dynamic and holistic view of the topic. The empirical part of this study was conducted

through interviewing six different Finnish expatriate families from four different companies.

The empirical findings convey that expatriate managers themselves view the company of their

families as important during their international assignment. The accompanying family contributes

to that there is a balance between work and spare time for the expatriate manager and integrates

the expatriate to the new environment.

The key finding of this thesis was that the attitudes, expectations and motivations of the entire
family strongly affect their ability to adjust to a new environment. Although the literature

emphasized the role of the sending company in the success or failure of the assignments, the

empirical findings conveyed that expatriate families do not expect the sending company to help

them with everything. However, the importance of a supportive expatriate community, proper

housing and the external environment was highlighted as key enablers of the families successful

completion of the assignment.

Keywords expatriate, expatriate family, expatriate assignment, expatriate failure, expatriate

success, adjustment