Strangers in Familiar Places: Using Generic Spaces in Cross-Cultural Identity Work

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Employees working across multiple cultures are exposed to a vast number of different norms and values, and consequentially work is often a struggle to retain a coherent sense of self. However, when international workers travel, they also encounter more bland spaces where familiarity and similarity are important. These spaces appear culturally generic to the Western traveler, but are highly Westernized to bring comfort to Western employees traveling in foreign cultures. This paper argues that these spaces are important in cross-cultural identity work in the sense that international workers – professional strangers – need these places to belong and relate to familiarity and to regain a sense of identity. Drawing on an illustrative empirical vignette of an international consultant, I demonstrate how culturally generic spaces can be used in identity work of an international relations consultant.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture and Organization
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)51-68
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • Cross-Cultural Work
  • Professional Strangers
  • Belongingness
  • Generic Culture
  • Globalization
  • Non-Places
  • Identity Work
  • Postcolonialism

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