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Ritu Gupta, Human Resource Management, T A Pai Management Institute, Manipal, India
The media and other social institutions have played a major role in the way expatriates from South Asian countries have been perceived with unease and fear. Considering the tectonic shifts witnessed by the society in the past two decades, understanding contemporary issues faced by adolescent expat kids should be given due importance. There is a need to understand whether such individuals are subject to religious or social discrimination by the host-country people. It will also be interesting to know how the expat kids cope with such challenges.
What types of demands are placed on expat kids during the shift, when their life is disrupted by their arrival in a new country, in a new culture, and how do expat kids cope with such changes? To answer these questions, I and my co-authors interviewed a sample of expat kids (18yrs and above) about their experiences being expat kids. The stress faced by adolescent kids due to change in living conditions and new school environments can be very acute as they have more nostalgic baggage of old friendships and familiar conditions to shed off compared to their compatriots who are in their childhood and pre-teens. We used attachment theory and the self-categorization theory as conceptual apparatus to make sense of their responses.
Adolescents consider anti-immigrant remarks and religious stereotyping to be more offending than those who are at much younger age, since they have the maturity and ego to negatively appraise such verbal attacks. Adolescent children are more sensitive to negative societal profiling due to their heightened sensibility towards social stigma. Expat kids of South Asian expatriate employees deal with socio-political challenges associated with anti-immigrant sentiments and stereotyping of certain ethnic communities with respect to religious extremism.
In this study we observed that expat kids have experienced certain social ostracization due to their affiliation to their native community's beliefs and values. This may have been accentuated by the propagation of the recurring role of Islamic nations in terrorist acts in popular media. Showing disrespect to those who are not related to such acts is not fair.
The study findings indicate that the post-millennial expat kids are more psychologically resilient towards such type of stigma. The best way to cope with such instances is to create a cocoon of indifference around themselves and to systematically filter out any such negative reactions. The pressing issue of feeling isolated and disconnected from existing social networks is a major issue for adjustment of expat kids. The post-millennial expat kids are better equipped both in terms of attitude as well as technology to cope with such challenges. Online social networks are the perfect resort for such kids to connect to existing friend networks. These channels can provide two-way audio-visual interface which can help ease the sense of loneliness in the minds of the expat kids. Advent of Geo-location applications in mobile phones such as Google Map can help these children to explore the alien world more freely and without the dependence of host country peer group. This can significantly reduce the stress induced out of the unfamiliar context.
Can the corporate firms help in any way to foster such type of insular attitudes? Pre-departure counselling sessions may be conducted where expat kids may be asked to be prepared for such type of jibes and remarks and how to handle such situations. This is especially important in case of adolescent expat kids since they may be more vulnerable to such abuses.
To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Banerjee, P., Gupta, R., Shaheen, M., David, R., Chenji, K. and Priyadarshini, C. (2020), "Exploring adjustment mechanisms of adolescent expat kids from South Asia against sociopolitical stigma", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 8 No. 3/4, pp. 273-290. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-06-2020-0041
Alternatively, feel free to contact me directly for a copy or to discuss features of this study or other ongoing research with expatriate adjustment: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com