“JUST ONE OF THOSE DUTCH DAYS”--AMERICAN EXPATRIATE SPOUSES IN THE NETHERLANDS: TOWARD AN EXPATRIATE FRAME MANAGEMENT THEORY OF ACCULTURATION

Open Access
Author:
Jones-Corley, Jennifer A.
Graduate Program:
Speech Communication
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 14, 2002
Committee Members:
  • Michael L Hecht, Committee Chair
  • Judith Ann Kolb, Committee Member
  • Michelle E Day, Committee Member
  • Dennis Stephen Gouran, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • acculturation
  • frame management
  • frames
  • cultural adaptation
  • The Netherlands
  • expatriate spouse
Abstract:
The spouses of expatriate employees are frequently cited as the number one reason for early return or failure of expatriate assignments. However, little is known about these spouses’ (almost exclusively women) experiences and the challenges they face. This study provides insight into these experiences and challenges by developing an Expatriate Frame Management Theory of Acculturation. The theory is grounded in the experiences of 37 American expatriate spouses (all women) living in The Netherlands. In-depth interviews and on-site observations enabled the women to explore their experiences of expatriation in The Netherlands. This study was an inductive approach to determining the key domains of expatriate experience and how these domains influence the acculturation of the women. Three key, first-order domains of experience for the expatriate spouse emerged: Cultural Challenges, Coping Strategies, and Identity. Each domain encompassed subcategories and concepts deriving from the narratives of the expatriate spouses. As these domains emerged, an on-going second-order analysis led to the identification of the core variable, Frame Management. This core variable formed the foundation of Expatriate Frame Management Theory. Expatriate Frame Management Theory captures important dimensions of the process of acculturation. The theory builds from three central constructs derived from the first-order domains: frame incongruencies, frame management strategies, and personal adaptation. Frame incongruencies are misalignments among the expatriate spouses’ frames and those enacted by the host country nationals. These incongruencies create uncertainty and dissonance for the spouse which, if salient, she will want to alleviate. This may spark the need for her to alter, or manage frames so she can achieve a sense of fit, or personal adaptation, in the new culture. Thus, this study offers both a typology of expatriate issues and a process theory of how expatriate spouses manage these issues through the management of their frames.