Hard numbers for expatriate failures in China would be hard to come by. I based my statement on what Harvard Business Review (June 2010) writes “HR professionals continue to rank China as one of the most challenging destinations for expatriates. Hard numbers are lacking, but anecdotal evidence suggests that under performance and early departures add up to a failure rate there that is twice that for expats in other countries for relocation services“.

In any case, I would think that the larger the cultural gap is between a home and host country – the larger the challenge and therefore also the higher the risk of an expat assignment failure. This would then work the other way as you say with Chinese moving to a Western country and are drawn to Chinatown or other areas with high Chinese population.

If providing an environment that allows an expatriate to feel ‘at home’ in order to function during his or her assignment, could this perhaps will prevent failures? Could it be that some personalities are less suited to adapt to a new culture? And if so, how is that measured? And how is the adaptability weighed and compared to the technical skills that the expatriate would bring to the overseas organization?

Its pretty important that proper “indoctrination” into the challenges ahead is given to the outgoing expat in relocation services (and perhaps their families) well before departure to China including cultural, business, living conditions etc etc. We used to say in the old days , even in HK, that wives would take 6 months to either fall in love or hate with the location !

And, there`s a need to choose people with a “flexible” approach to life and work in order to have the best chance of long term success in relocation services.
Chinese expats in UK, for example,for the first time, certainly experience issues too as other commentators have said. It can be a lonely experience at first and coupled with the tendency to hire only local Chinese people who may not be best fitted to the job ,leads to a relatively high failure rate of small scale private sector enterprises here.

What is the definition of failure in this…. cultural, economic or both… and is failure the correct terminology?…. take into account the logistics of modern society and people have greater choice than ever before to move. A key component in respect to relocation services in China will be children’s education. International schools in China are expensive and if you look at the number of school and number of foreign children who go there in comparison to the number of ex pats in China you will find that a low % of children go to there schools (say 20%). So the equation may = ex-pats with children are priced out of the market. Therefore ex-pats with no family (wife / children) are equated in to the China market. This may change the experience levels to some degree of the foreign workforce. In short living in China is economically tough with Children and rent without full company support.

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