Breaking out of the Expat Bubble: Bridging the gap between internationals and locals

Name of applicant

Marian van Bakel


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 703,000



Type of grant

Monograph Fellowships


When moving abroad, expatriates need to build up a new social network in the new location, but this is not always easy. Many expatriates stay within the expatriate bubble and shy away from making contact with locals since these contacts usually are more stressful and filled with uncertainty. One way to break out of this expat bubble is to connect expats with a buddy or local host. This project will advance research on expatriate-local interactions, building on prior research into the effect of buddy programmes and social initiatives around expats in the workplace. Another important aim is to disseminate the gathered knowledge about contacts between expats and locals to practitioners to the benefit of workplaces and societies – both in Denmark and elsewhere in the world.


The Danish workplace is becoming more and more international. Denmark is facing a tight labour market where organisations increasingly look abroad to recruit their new employees. These foreign employees need to be integrated into the Danish workplace as well as society as a whole – a challenge that many other countries are facing as well. At the same time, Denmark is one of the countries in which it is the most difficult to settle in and find friends. My work on expatriate-local interactions will help organisations as well as expatriates themselves to make these essential connections, so that they are able to benefit from them.


The field of expatriate management has been very expatriate-centric, at the neglect of other stakeholders such as host country nationals. Many calls for more research have resulted in a growing body of knowledge about expatriate-local interactions, yet an overarching conceptual framework has been missing. I will develop a conceptual model of the antecedents and outcomes of expatriate-local interactions which could guide future research and resolve sometimes ambiguous and contradictory research findings. Furthermore, I will gather the knowledge about expatriate-local interactions to inform practitioners as well as expatriates themselves so that they can break out of the expat bubble and benefit from these connections.

Back to listing page