Since the 1990s, economic and cultural globalization has propelled the transnational mobility of managers and fueled cross-border careers. Some scholars have argued for the emergence of a new global business elite with cosmopolitan mind-sets and homogeneous lifestyles, while others have highlighted their disconnection from the local surroundings and their everyday life within national expatriate ‘bubbles’. Thus, the question of whether today’s mobile professionals can be described as interculturally open and competent cosmopolitans, or as pronounced anti-cosmopolitans, is still unanswered.

Expatriate Managers and the Paradoxes of Working and Living Abroad considers a core protagonist of economic globalization and the management of MNCs through the lens of a practice-based theoretical approach whilst seeking to address this question by building on intensive ethnographic case studies of expatriate managers, most of them high-ranking executives, from two comparative different home countries, the US and Germany. These managers, together with their families, have been assigned to China, Germany, or the US to perform demanding coordination tasks within their multinational corporations (MNCs). Based on detailed accounts of expatriate managers’ experiences and everyday practices, the book reveals the multiple and sometimes paradoxical ways in which they deal with cultural differences as they build up new forms of working, belonging and dwelling.

The findings suggest that the newly emerging mind-sets and lifestyles of expatriate managers transcend the polarized images of mobile elites as either cosmopolitan ‘global managers’ or parochial anti-cosmopolitans. Expatriate Managers and the Paradoxes of Working and Living Abroad examines the global elite from an everyday perspective, showing that understanding the dynamics of a global economy requires probing into the lifeworld’s agency and everyday arrangements of the social actors who are putting globalization into practice.

chapter 1|15 pages


part I|65 pages

Embedding the Expatriate Manager

chapter 2|21 pages

Working in Transnational Social Spaces

Expatriate Managers in Transnationally Integrated MNCs

chapter 4|27 pages

Cosmopolitans or Parochial Anti-Cosmopolitans?

Expatriate Managers’ Resources, Social Positions, and Orientations

part II|51 pages

Negotiating Difference in the Private Sphere

chapter 6|29 pages

Gendered Mobilities, Gendered Cosmopolitanism

Male and Female Expatriate Managers and Their Accompanying Spouses

part III|43 pages

Negotiating Difference in the Professional Sphere

chapter 7|22 pages

Role-Taking and Role-Making

Expatriates as Creative Organizational Boundary Spanners in MNCs

chapter 8|19 pages

Expatriate Managers as Cosmopolitan Professionals?

Dealing with Difference at the Workplace

part IV|56 pages

Comparative Perspectives and Conclusion

chapter 9|34 pages

Host Country Effects?

How Host Locality Properties Impact Practiced Cosmopolitanism

chapter 10|20 pages


The Paradoxes of Practiced Elite Cosmopolitanism