Research Reports



Current Surveys and Research Reports



What to Wear: Mishaps in the Presentations of Identity Across Cultures

Our latest research study, “What to Wear Where: Mishaps in the Presentation of Identity Across Cultures,” is now available. In it, we explore an important mode of non-verbal communication: our physical appearance and the messages we send about our identity, both knowingly and unknowingly, when we get up in the morning, fix our hair, slip on our shoes, pick out our jacket and walk out the door. Also available, an executive summary of the research.

At Home Abroad: How Design and Architecture Influence Overseas Living:

Now available: Download our study on the importance of home environments to overseas living. We examined the relationship between housing choices and expatriate adjustment among 130 participants, who shared their experiences of choosing and settling into a home in a new country, and their thoughts about how their new home influences their cultural and family experience living overseas. Contact us for copies of the full report, either standard format or customized with your company’s cover and logo.



Voices from the Road: The Personal and Family Side of Short-Term International Assignments and Extended Business Travel: Employees' Perspective (Sponsored by Dwellworks)
In Phase I of this study we surveyed 1461 employees on unaccompanied short-term international assignments and extended business travel. We measured and compared aspects of both the work and family context of the assignment, and work and family outcomes. Results led to recommendations for families and sponsoring organizations. Mobility Magazine (Worldwide ERC) printed an article on this research written by Dr. Copeland in March 2008. Download report for free


Voices from Home: The Personal and Family Side of Short-Term International Assignments and Extended Business Travel: Spouses' Perspective (Sponsored by Dwellworks)
In Phase II of the study we surveyed spouses of employees on such unaccompanied assignments, asking for their perspective on the assignment. What is it like for the family to stay at home? What jobs, roles and stresses does the at-home parent need to absorb? If he’s not there to talk to, confide in, offer advice or solace, have fun with, what’s she to do? How do families cope with the revolving exits and entrances of the employee? Just when they’ve gotten used to his being gone, he’s home for a visit. Do they return to their old pattern of decision-making, or having gotten used to managing on her own, does she resent his “interference?” In short, are short-term assignments good for marriages, or even “OK” for marriages?

And the children? How absent can a parent be and still maintain a loving and supportive connection to a child? What kinds of parenting can – and can’t – be offered by telephone and email? What events (like school plays, graduations, and games) are so important they can’t be missed, and do the parents and children agree on the answer to this question?

Download report for free.


Moving Matters: A Study of How to Help International Transferees Relocate: A study of 104 international transferees who had moved (as expatriates or repatriates) to one of 17 countries. What do people do to feel settled after an international relocation? How do people learn about their new country? What do parents do to help their children relocate smoothly? What role does a moving company plan in this process?

Many Expatriates Many Voices: A study of 101 accompanying spouses and partners who had recently moved to the US because of their spouse/partners' job, focusing on their reactions to Americans, what made a difference in their adjustment, and which services helped smooth their way.

Many Women Many Voices: a study of 194 women who moved to a new country primarily because of their husbands' jobs - what helped and what hurt their chances of adjusting smoothly to their new lives.

Caught Between Cultures:a study of Asian-American, Asian International, and European-American young adults - their families, their emotions, and their adjustment.

Women On Overseas Assignments: a study of women expatriates from around the world - their reflections on what their companies are doing to maximize their adjustment at work and at home.

US-UK Moves: a study of cross-cultural adjustment in American and British accompanying spouses.

We also conduct proprietary customized research studies for companies and organizations that want to know, for example:

  • which pre-departure and on-site support activities are most beneficial to families
  • which personality and family situations are most conducive to success in different cultures
  • how best to support expatriate families throughout their whole assignment

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Caught Between Cultures:
A Study Of Culture And Family Influences On Young Adults

Project Director: Anne P. Copeland, Ph.D.
Executive Summary

Goals of Project:

  • To understand the blending of family and cultural values when young adults move into a new culture.
  • 132 university students (37 Asian Americans, 23 Asian international students, and 72 European Americans).

Outcome Measures:

  • Self-reports of mental health adjustment and relationships between young adults and their parents.


  • A single family interaction pattern can have very different meanings in two different cultural contexts. When families move from one country to another, their family/cultural values may not match the ambient cultural ones of the new country. This discordance may help to explain the pattern of distress among Asian Americans that has often been reported in the literature.
  • Both Asian groups described their mothers as having more permeable boundaries - that is, having their mothers more closely involved in all aspects of their lives - than did the European Americans.
  • Asian Americans reported feeling more conflict about their parental relationships than did the other two groups.
  • For both American groups, more permeable parental relationships and conflict about independence were related to poorer adjustment. However, for the Asian international group, involved and permeable relationships were related to several positive adjustment indicators.
  • It is critical not to examine family interaction patterns outside their cultural context.

Women On Overseas Assignments:
A Study Of Women Expatriates From Around The World

Project Director: Saskia Meckman
Executive Summary

Goals Of Project

  • To understand what multinational corporations (MNCs) are doing to encourage and increase the number of women expatriates being sent on overseas assignments.
  • To listen to what women executives have to say about their MNC's support regarding their own adjustment, as well as their families', at work and at home.
  • To learn about what MNCs are doing to optimize the host nationals' attitudes towards women expatriates.


  • 22 participants to date, currently living in four world regions: Europe (UK, The Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland), US, Asia (Hong Kong), Africa (South Africa); data collection is on going.
  • Expatriate women. Average age: 30.6. Half were US citizens. 68% were single. 54% had been on previous expat assignments. Half hold management positions.
  • Recruited through Women Business Organizations, journalists, global leaders in the field, global relocation companies, HR departments of Fortune 500 companies, and cross-cultural trainers.


  • Women expatriates were the most satisfied with the support received regarding their career, once sent on assignment, and the least satisfied with the support concerning their families.
  • One of the biggest challenges women expatriates face is managing their levels of stress.
  • Company support is provided mostly before and during the assignment, with little to no support given to women expatriates and their families during repatriation.
  • Very few established policies are implemented in MNCs to promote women expatriates.
  • Very little appears to be done to assist the families of women expatriates. Little support is given to their children and teens and even less support is available for their spouses or partners.
  • Support given to women expatriates from their family members is critically important to their adjustment.
  • The majority of the women expatriates felt that their host nationals' attitudes towards them were mostly positive, with little reluctance from male host nationals.
  • Having a higher power status was more relevant than was gender regarding host nationals' attitudes towards women executives.

US-UK Moves:
Cross-Cultural Adjustment In American And British Expatriate Accompanying Spouses

Project Director: Sara Norell, Ph.D. (advised by Anne P. Copeland, Ph.D.)
Executive Summary

Goals Of Project

  • To understand the commonly reported finding that family adjustment is central to successful employee relocation.
  • To develop a deeper understanding of what affects spouses' international experiences by going beyond superficial ratings of how they feel about daily tasks and measuring their mental health and intercultural adjustment instead.
  • To develop a deeper understanding of how personality affects mental and intercultural adjustment
  • To develop a deeper understanding of the dynamics of US-UK assignments (cultural and personal), as these have a high frequency and a perception of 'culturally similarity,' and yet demonstrate considerable levels of adjustment difficulty.
  • To explore the experiences of accompanying spouses from their own point of view rather than simply as an influence on their husbands' productivity.
  • To provide a forum for expatriate accompanying spouses to communicate their experiences and set a platform from which to make practical recommendations to the international companies that move them.


  • 88 American women living in UK, mostly in Greater London and 80 British women living in USA, mostly in northeastern USA
  • Mostly (but not exclusively) white, married, well educated homemakers with children, living in a new country temporarily because of their husbands' jobs, expecting to return home or to another country within within 2-5 years.
  • Recruited through women's associations, schools, American clubs, informal expatriate networks, expatriate clubs, relocation companies, and multinationals

Factors around the Move

  • Only 6.5% of the spouses were consulted by their husbands' employers before the decision to move was made. 23.8% said their husbands had had more influence in the decision to move than they had. In addition, 26.6% of the spouses said that they and/or their husbands felt pressured into accepting the assignment.
  • 69.5% of the spouses felt happy and excited about the move at the time of the decision.
  • Such premove circumstances were important for adjustment. Women who felt that they (and their husbands) had a choice in the decision to relocate, and who shared equally in this decision were better adjusted.
  • Women who had lived in their current country longer and who had more host national friends were more interculturally adjusted, or integrated with their host nationals, although they did not necessarily have better mental well-being (ie, higher psychological adjustment)
  • Women who were more satisfied with the physical environment in their host country were better interculturally adjusted and felt more integrated in their host culture. British women were more satisfied with the quality of their physical environment, and also felt more integrated into and less marginalized by their host community than the American women living in Britain.
  • The majority of American and British women described themselves as homemakers, and there were no differences between American and British women in their work status, with the exception that British women more frequently described themselves as 'unemployed due to visa restrictions' than American women.'
  • There were no differences in adjustment or intercultural adjustment between working and non-working accompanying spouses. However, American women were more satisfied with their work or educational situation than British women. Coupled with the above finding on visa restrictions, this implies that work satisfaction overseas relates more to self selection or personal choice in work status while on assignment, than to work status per se.

Social Support

  • One of the strongest predictors of overseas adjustment was the social support women felt they had. Women who were more satisfied with their social relationships were better adjusted, regardless of the nationality of their networks (ie, home, host, or third nationality).
  • Another strong predictor of overseas adjustment was having a good marital relationship. Women who were closer and more disclosing to their husbands were doing better overseas.

Personality And Life Values

  • American and British women had different personality profiles. American women described themselves as more Type A (i.e., ambitious and headstrong) and as having stronger religious beliefs and belief in God-mediated control than their British counterparts.
  • Some personality dimensions were strong predictors of adjustment for all women, especially having a sense of personal control in one's life (eg. internal locus of control) and having a realistic sense that one can control certain aspects of one's life. Also, assertiveness and achievement orientation were beneficial for overseas adjustment. Women higher on these were doing better, and the more assertive women were also more integrated into the local community, and felt less marginalized as foreigners in their host country.
  • Certain life values predicted adjustment for all women. The more adjusted and integrated women believed more in 'having fun and enjoyment', and a 'sense of accomplishment' in their lives. The less adjusted women believed that 'having a sense of belonging' was more important.
  • Other life values were culturally specific in their benefits: British women who believed more in 'being well respected' felt more integrated into life in the USA, whereas Americans who believed more in 'being well respected' felt less integrated and at home in Britain.
  • Women with satisfying religious or spiritual beliefs were more adjusted. A belief in God-mediated control, however, only benefited British women living in the USA. Britons who believed more in God-mediated control were more integrated into their local communities in the USA.
  • Furthermore, only British women benefited from being more punctual on social and professional occasions. Upholding and valuing more punctuality assimilated British women into the American way of life. Conversely, Americans who were less punctual socially, perhaps more laid back, felt more integrated into the British lifestyle.
  • On the other hand, only Americans benefited from being more Type A and self-disclosing to acquaintances. Ambitious and headstrong Americans who revealed themselves more to acquaintances felt more adjusted and integrated into life in Britain.

In summary therefore, the personality variables covered in this research project fall into three categories:


1) Some optimized overseas adjustment for all women (ie, they were helpful regardless of nationality and host country, such as having premove decision-making power, a sense of personal control and social support, and being assertive).

2) Some facilitated adjustment by enabling women to act in their culturally comfortable ways (ie, being more the American cultural generalization or the British cultural generalization, for example, being a higher Type A American and less self-disclosing Briton to acquaintances).

3) Lastly, others eased the transition in that they merged women with their host culture ways, creating a better Person-Culture fit (ie, being a less punctual American in Britain and a more religiously oriented Briton in the USA).

For further information on this survey, contact Sara Norell on + 44 207 951 9936 or e-mail

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