Intercultural communication within a Chinese subsidiary of a Western MNC: Expatriate perspectives on language and communication issues

Michał Wilczewski, Anne-Marie Søderberg & Arkadiusz Gut

Multilingua – Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, 2018


This study investigates Polish expatriates’ stories of encounters with local personnel in a Chinese subsidiary of a Western multinational company. A narrative analysis of the stories produced important insights into Polish-Chinese communication in an intra-subsidiary context. Low proficiency in the host language was a serious obstacle to expatriate socialization and a source of expatriates’ exclusion and social isolation in the workplace, which often led to stress, frustration, and negative attitudes toward collaboration with local personnel. Language-related issues prevented the expatriates from acquiring information from Chinese superiors, learning about problems within a team, and participating in decision-making. The findings of this case study relate to communication challenges in the Chinese subsidiary, expatriates’ accounts of how they overcame communication difficulties, and their reflections on what fostered and hampered intercultural communication.