Inter-cultural Working Relationships between Expatriates and Local Employees in MNCs Cases from the Automotive Industry in China
One fact multinational companies must face is working with employees who come from different cultures and countries. Due different working principle and approaches, problems related to cultural differences occur. One of the most obvious forms of cultural conflict is in the relationships between expatriates and local employees. The purpose of this study is to increase knowledge about inter-cultural relationships between western expatriates and local employees, and to explore how trust exists between them inside MNCs. The paper is based on qualitative studies in one German-Chinese joint venture and one Swedish subsidiary in China. 19 semi-structured interviews have been done through both face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews in China and Sweden. Results show that expatriates and local employees are learning from each others’ different working approach over time, but however, challenges happened quite often because of those differences. There are differences between expatriates and local employees in how they work as an individual or as a group; the way they solve problems; how much a plan means to them; and how much responsibility one can take during work. Language is still a critical barrier for international companies in China, not only with understanding each other’s words but also the possible interpretation due to cultural differences. Different types of trust have also been explored through empirical data, and it shows a clear influence between cultural differences and trust inside organization. A positive attitude about how to treat those differences, sufficient communication and adequate length of working time with each other could lead to a more efficient workplace, as well as an increase in trust between employees who have different culture values.