From dilemmatic struggle to legitimized indifference: Expatriates’ host country language learning and its impact on the expatriate-HCE relationship

Ling Eleanor Zhang, Anne-Wil Harzing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We address the lack of knowledge concerning the role of host country languages in multinational corporations based on an inductive qualitative study involving 70 interviews with Nordic expatriates and host country employees (HCE) in China. Building on the strongly discrepant views of expatriates and HCEs, we demonstrate how expatriates’ willingness to learn and use the host country language lead to different types of expatriate-HCE relationships, ranging from harmonious to distant or segregated. In doing so, we emphasize the subtle and fragile connection between expatriates’ attitude towards HCEs’ mother tongue and trust formation in addition to the construction of superiority-inferiority relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774–786
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of World Business
Issue number5
Early online date16 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016

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