Adjusting in Denmark: An empirical study of cross-cultural spouse adjustment in Denmark

Line Franke Nielsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The focus in families that relocate has long been on the expatriate, however, a shift can be seen towards more focus on the spouse and on the family, as these are main components to the success of the expatriate and the international assignment (IA). Also many studies have shown that the spousal adjustment is more difficult then the assignees’ as the spouse is more in contact with the local society and she/he is more alone in the adjustment phase.(Harvey and Wiese, 1998) Therefore, it is essential to the success of the assignment that the spouse is adjusted. This has been apparent in the last 20 years or so, but there is still a lack of empirical studies done on spouse and family adjustment. Most of the studies done have been theoretical grounded and only a couple of studies (e.g. Black and Stewart, Shaffer and Harrison) have formulated a theory concerning the aspects that influence the spouse’s adjustment. This paper sets out to conduct an empirical study of spousal adjustment in Denmark while testing Shaffer and Harrison’s theory on spouse adjustment. The reason for this is the intake of international companies in Denmark, as many big international companies are choosing to locate their Nordic headquarters in Denmark, such as Mars (former Masterfoods) and IBM. With these companies’ move, an increase in expatriates and their families relocating to Denmark is natural, and the adjustment of these families become important for the Danish business environment and the society in general. This might pose a special challenge in Denmark, as the country has gotten a reputation, in the last ten years, as a difficult country for foreigners to live in, and the Danes are portrayed as less welcoming than many other European populations. These characteristics are built on the experiences of other population groups than the expatriate, and hence I find it intriguing to find out how the expatriate families see Denmark. Furthermore, as I feel that the spousal adjustment process has been neglected, I chose to focus on their adjustment instead of the expatriate’s adjustment process. The aim with this paper is to find out whether the spouses are adjusting in Denmark and to figure out how the Danish culture has influenced their adjustment process. In order to do this, the expatriate spouses will be interviewed about their adjustment to the Danish society. This analysis will be compared with a description of the Danish culture to see whether there is a connection. The goal is to be able to give the companies, who are bringing expatriates to Denmark, some advice on some areas to especially focus on during the training, so that the expatriate families and especially the spouses are better prepared before coming face-to-face with Denmark.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2008
Number of pages85