The aim of this research is to explore the experience of expatriates about cultural differences between home and host countries through a narrative inquiry. There is not enough information in the literature about expatriates’ experiences and how they see the role of cultural differences, cultural distance and cultural competences in adapting to international assignments. Therefore, main research question was how expatriates working in a large multinational pharmaceutical company perceive the role of cultural differences and cultural competencies in their adjustment and performance. A total of 12 expatriates from different home countries on assignment in different host countries participated in the research. A semi-structured, in-depth interview was used for data collection. Data analysis resulted in four major themes – preparation for the assignment, managing cultural differences, adaptation of leadership style, and adaptation to everyday life. The results showed that for a more successful adaptation and effectiveness, a better, longer-term and more comprehensive preparation is needed. Knowledge of cultural differences has proven to be important for work adjustment, but even more for everyday life adjustment and family well-being. Motivation for learning about host country and willingness to understand host culture stood out as key determinants for successful adjustment.


expatriates, expatriates’ family, cultural differences, qualitative research, narrative inquiry

Author Bio(s)

Iskra was appointed Executive Vice-President (EVP), Vaccines & Immune Therapies Unit at AstraZeneca in November 2021, and is responsible for leading all COVID-19 therapy area activities, including R&D, commercial, medical, as well as AstraZeneca’s global infectious disease teams. Prior to this role, Iskra was EVP for the Europe & Canada region and has been a member of AstraZeneca’s Senior Executive Team (SET) since 2017. Having trained as a Doctor of Dental Medicine at the Medical University of Zagreb, Croatia, Iskra joined AstraZeneca in 2001. During this time, Iskra has held a variety of in-market, regional sales and marketing and general management roles, including Head of Specialty Care, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. In 2012 she joined AstraZeneca Russia as Marketing Director, before being appointed General Manager in 2014. Subsequently, in 2016 Iskra was made Area Vice-President for Russia and Eurasia, before her appointment as EVP, Europe in April 2017, and the later expansion of this role to Europe & Canada in 2019. Iskra has an International Executive MBA in Business and Leadership from the IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia. Please direct correspondence to iskra.reic@icloud.com.


The author report there are no competing interests to declare.

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