David S. GUTTORMSEN (University of Leeds),Institutions of Scandinavian Expatriatism in Hong Kong: A Dynamic Perspective on Interaction and Adjustment, English/48 pages, September 2009.

Scandinavian countries, firms, organisations, and expatriates have a widespread
presence in Hong Kong across corporate and non-corporate sectors. Expatriates tend
to be an organisation’s most expensive employee, hence crucial to achieve successful
outcomes of their international assignments. In the disciplines of International
Business, International Human Resource Management, and Cross-Cultural
Management, research on culture and expatriates tend to be conducted within a
positivist rooted quantitative research paradigm. This study investigates Scandinavian
expatriatism as a holistic phenomenon by employing a social constructionist,
interpretivist, ethnographic approach. This paper is part of a larger MPhil research
project and presents elements of the total universe of data in particular relating to how
Scandinavians experience adjusting to Hong Kong society and culture, and how they
perceive their intercultural encounters. The purpose of this article is to present a
preliminary analysis and findings from a five-month ethnographic field study utilising
in-depth interviews, participant observations, informal conversations, collection of
written material, and cross-tabulating of descriptive statistics as the research
techniques. 51 in-depth interviews were conducted with Scandinavian expatriates, and
11 interviews with local Hong Kong Chinese. The study draws upon social theory and
social anthropology, and incorporates in particular how people construct social reality,
meaning, perceptions, practices, and institutions. The ‘cyclic’ research process
commences the research endeavour with the research (i.e. field study) and proceeds
with an ongoing inductive, iterative-hermeneutical analysis process where data is
juxtaposed with existing theories. Preliminary analysis and findings show how space,
meaning, identity, culture, and adjustment should be derived from actual interaction
between Scandinavians and local Hong Kong Chinese people. Further social analysis
suggests the importance of understanding such interaction and adjustment experiences
within its context-specific environment and pre-existing cultural structures in society.
It is argued that an ideographic, meaning-based approach is the most relevant way of
studying culture, and that an ethnographic research strategy has the potential to
challenge the dominant positivist research paradigm in business-schools. The research
justifies a broad approach to what constitutes an ‘expatriate’. Further, the study
contributes to the ‘western’ biased research agenda by relying on Scandinavian
expatriates and organisations, in addition to predominantly small and medium-sized
enterprises. This article argues strongly that we should make more use of ideographic
and ethnographic research, which use real lives the starting point for academic inquiry
and for building theory in a bottom-up fashion.

Key words: Expatriates, Scandinavia, Hong Kong, interaction, adjustment, space,
cultural research, ethnography, social constructionism