The foreigner and the new group



Maria Ester de FreitasI; Marcelo DantasII

ILecturer at the International Business School, Fundação Getulio Vargas - São Paulo - SP, Brazil.
IILecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center for Development and Social Management, Unviversidade Federal da Bahia - Salvador - BA, Brazil.




"Your Christ is Jewish; your car, Japanese; your pizza, Italian; your democracy, Greek; your coffee, Brazilian; your holiday, Turkish; your digital numbers, Arabic; and your letters, Roman. Only your neighbour is a foreigner."

Poster on the Streets of Berlin (1994) Extracted Identity by Z.Bauman (Rio de Janeiro: Zabar, 2005, p.33)

There is a widespread circulation of goods, services, information, capital and people across the globe, which is driven by a trend for economies to become increasingly globalized and interdependent. The diversity and complexity of the world is an accepted phenomenon which is being appropriated by multinational companies operating through procedures like mergers and acquisitions, partnerships and business alliances or even outsourcing. The effect of this is to bring people of different origins together both in the sphere of work and the broader social world.

It is clear to us that this economic exchange is welcomed and even encouraged by the recipient governments which can capitalize on the effects of the new trading facilities, the creation of employment and, ultimately, a rise in tax revenue. However, it is often forgotten that there are people behind the capital, goods, merchandise and companies, and not just statistics and objects. What is more, the circulation of people from one country to another does not seem to be regarded as a part of this globalization process and is only taken note of by governments with respect to their increasingly restrictive laws about periods of stay or when drawing up criteria for skilled immigrants. Without doubt, the presence of foreigners has wide social, economic, political and cultural implications which are a challenge to contemporary governments and expose the feelings of identity found among individuals, groups and societies whose lives embody the paradox of the new age - whether to be singular in a pluralized world or local in a globalized world.

The press coverage about foreigners and the challenges and dilemmas resulting from migratory patterns, particularly those caused by groups of refugees, have opened up a debate on immigration. This has largely concentrated on its undesirable social and economic effects, the application of legal mechanisms designed to control foreigners and new conditions for the closure of borders. Scenes of economic crisis strengthen the competition for job vacancies amid a flight of capital and stampede of companies to places where there are more generous labor and tax laws. From a political standpoint, the worse the negative effects on the economy, the more conservative become the electorate that is being wooed by the political parties which negotiate public policies to enable immigrants to be integrated in the culture of the local community, while at the same time, seeking to define what to do to prevent uprisings by the children of immigrants who live on the outskirts of the large cities.

The exiles of the past have not been re-enacted in the refugees of today, whether by the sheer volume of the flow or by the difficulties caused by the economic crisis or by the social reactions opposed to the humanitarian shelter provided by their own country. From this perspective, humanitarianism is something that must only take place in the case of dire need. As Le Pen said: " I like foreigners a lot, but in their own countries".

However, despite being responsible for organizational procedures on a global scale, the world of business has refrained from entering this discussion. This might be because capital, goods and information, are readily translated into an economic and financial rationale and are more easily understood than people who are always problematic. Companies need markets, information, knowledge, skills and managerial competence which is then converted into people who buy and sell, supply and analyze data, and establish concepts, and different kinds of behavior and relationships. In an increasingly complex scenario, culturally diverse professionals can form teams that lead to better results and find means of dealing with problems in a more creative way. Depending on how this diversity is handled, the organization can either improve or harm its performance.

Culturally-diversified teams have been set up by executives or professional specialists (usually expatriates), in relatively reduced numbers. When involved in the purchase or installation of plants in other countries, companies effectively have to deal with local problems such as the labour force, laws and customs. Since it is hard for a large company, only to emply people originating from the local culture, the presence of foreigners is a real phenomenon in distinct organizational spaces and hierarchical structures. Moreover, they have the scope to interact in a fairly productive way, whether as competitors, suppliers, partners, buyers, employees, the boss or owner.

It is clear to us that in future, foreigners will be increasingly viewed as people who carry weight and importance both in their social lives and organizational capacity. However, apart from in certain specialist research studies about expatriation, it is very unusual in Brazil (and elsewhere) to find an analysis that examines the foreigner in organizational space. Our aim is thus to obtain a better understanding of what shapes a foreigner. We also examine how he confronts the challenge of being in a new group, against the backcloth of the organization of work in the contemporary world and by laying stress on the socio-economic, cultural and political factors involved in this debate.



The foreigner is a generic category often adopted with a degree of reluctance by someone who is classified in this way, since he is unaware of his complexity, diversity and unusual features. There is no such thing as a foreigner in the absolute sense. The word itself has various connotations for the contemporary world: exile, refugee, tourist, professional, teacher and student, modern nomad or globe-trotter, voluntary migrant and the spouse who bears a different culture.

The foreigner is always a stranger in his dealings with others and as Kristeva (1988) points out, he may also feel like a stranger to himself, depending on how he accepts his condition, experiences his life and forms a bond with the objective and subjective worlds that make up his biography. We believe that the experience of being a foreigner not only varies from person to person but is also based on the circumstances and reasons that led to his being assimilated into a 'strange' land.

The discovery of the other leads to a form of equivocation between truths and the values of bonding, because it exposes one to the inherent 'danger' of the other, his manner, his language and his mirror. A foreigner begins by taking into account what he lacks but he gradually feels the need to introduce himself, say where he comes from and what he is doing in that place. It is then that it is advisable to have valid documents because these have a symbolic significance that goes beyond the question of legality and having access to the rights associated with them, in so far as they allow him to feel that he has been recognized by others, that his existence has been vouched for and that he is not just an administrative statistic.

We have selected three categories of foreigners - the exile, the immigrant and the expatriate - that are found in modern societies. On the basis of these categories, we will conduct a brief analysis of what these experiences feel like for the subjects themselves and for the person who welcomes them, while taking into account that these can vary depending on the historical period, the places chosen for residence, the laws that prevail and the spirit of the times.



The exile is somone who was forced to leave his country to save his life and that of his family or to flee from prison, and who has little chance of being able to return to his homeland. The fixed requirement to change his place of residence is a formal condition that cannot be negotiated. Being in exile is a kind of psychological annihilation arising from the disappearance of all the social, natural and cultural affiliations which sustain a sense of identity. The abandonment of the country of origin in this situation, inevitably confronts the subject with a sense of loss in different ways. Faced with this loss and separation, the exile must carry out a psychological task which has some of the features of what Freud (1917) called "grief work". The loss of status is a complex matter because the place of origin has not disappeared but the individual has vanished from the country.

In exile, apart from the sense of loss, it is identity itself that is put in question, since it goes so far as to engender in the subject a process that is appropriately described as "de-identification" or a state of "disillusion" and subjective distancing. This will not lack contradictory feelings, in particular because the state of exile results in a debunking of the myths about bonding and unveils its illusory character. In the opinion of Freud, the struggle is generally a reaction to the loss of a beloved person or of an abstraction that takes its place - like the fatherland, freedom or an ideal. In exile, the nature of loss is essential for an understanding of its problematic features. The country has not disappeared and this leads to a paradox: if the exile is the subject of the loss of his country of origin, he is also the lost object of his family and friends, or rather he finds himself in the place of an imaginary dead person.

It is not unusual for the foreigner, after the initial period of excitement has passed of making new discoveries in the locality where he has been welcomed, to see failings among the indigenous people and criticize the way they behave. He begins to make unjust comparisons which are fuelled by his sense of loss and his idealization of his native land, which generally seems to be warmer and more beautiful and splendid. Some foreigners even succumb to the temptation of forming cliques with groups of compatriots to demonize the land that has welcomed them and criticize the smallest details as a means of overcoming their own fears and anguish. They even construct the myth of their return.

Political circumstances like dictatorships, wars, decolonization, territorial disputes and the recognition of the independence of countries were responsible for people being granted political exile throughout the last century. [Note: + the huge numbers of political refugees to Britain and the US in the 19th Century too e.g. Bolivar, Marx... ?] Currently, the reasons for exile include religious persecution, the threat of genocide, the censorship of political opinions, and the cultural mechanisms of the physical and psychological destruction of minorities. These foreigners, who are refugees rather than simply exiles, have not aroused the same sense of solidarity as in previous times, to a great extent because they are found on such a massive scale. The UN has faced ever-growing challenges to reduce the dehumanizing effects caused by these changes and the refugee camps are not places - or rather forgotten spaces - that are invisible but stand out like an endless parenthesis. By linking up the world, the Internet manages to mobilize immense forces to provide humanitarian aid, but, the bread they are given is not accompanied by the respect and dignity which should be accorded to the exile.

In the organizational world, the professional expatriate can be regarded as an exile when the expatriation is undesired or has not been negotiated and was not prepared for by the expatriate and his family. Studies about expatriation show that many companies do not accept the refusal of professional employees to become expatriates without taking retaliatory measures (Cercin, 2002). These experiences are felt to be very painful and parallel the suffering of a real exile; since the employees feel compelled to accept their responsibility, it is difficult for them to express their feelings and it is impossible for them to return home before the final deadline of their contract. (Freitass, 2005). Studies have shown that expatriates of Japanese origin realize that their careers will be jeopardized when they are away from their headquarters and hence, as well as being exiles, expatriation penalizes them when they get back home (Kubo, 2011). There are exiles that are afraid to fail in their jobs and do not have time to spend on the local culture or any interest in it. Their experience of living together with the indigenous people is confined to what is necessary to carry out their tasks. As a result, there is no intercultural learning for the benefit of either themselves or the organization.



Unlike the exile, the immigrant is someone who has chosen to live in a place that is different from his place of origin and nothing prevents him from returning home. There can be a wide range of reasons for his decision to leave home, from a desire for adventure and to experience the unknown, to pragmatic considerations like economic survival or the chance to construct a better life.

Belfort (2007) reminds us of the study of the nature of man in Kant which is based on the case of a foreigner and his right to the possession of land. In this situation, an inhabitant on Earth can only be thought as a part of a whole and as originating a land-based community although it is not a legal community of ownership. In other words, there exists in Kant a right of ownership which transcends the borders of States, since everybody has the right to a place on Earth and to appear in a society without being treated in a hostile manner. However, recent events in history show us that this view, which condemns the growth of feelings against the foreigner, is increasingly remote from everyday life where there is a revival of the old spectres of exclusion and the annihilation of the "other".

Unlike economic interchange, the migration of people is a problematic factor that is fragmenting modern societies and exposing the contradictions of globalized capitalism, while at the same time being viewed as a psychological threat. In other words, from a socio-economic standpoint, there is economic protectionism, a struggle for jobs and the use of social amenities and benefits exclusively for the local inhabitants. As well as this, is the fact that the immigrant can act as a useful scapegoat for States which think that controlling the intruder is a means of concealing their real interests. At the same time, the large scale of this movement of people raises the prospect of a "possible invasion" which is taking place on both a social and psychological plane. As Enriquez (2008) warns, the local inhabitant regards the foreigner as an intruder into his own psyche and this gives rise to the fear that he will be forced to change his being and live in a different way with people from other cultures, religions, habits, languages and customs. As a result, there is a return to one's roots and a reassessment of the values of the local region. It is as if in the midst of the globalization movement, there was a renewal of the importance of what is local and regional and that this can strengthen identity links while also triggering off defence mechanisms in the form of racism, discrimination, indifference and the negation of others.

In Simmel (1994), the foreigner is regarded as a particular kind of social interaction which brings together the "leaving/ separating" and the "staying/remaining". Proximity and distance are constituent features of the foreigner. It should be added that proximity and distance are also found in the local inhabitant in a way that allows him to interact with the foreigner at a determined historical moment. This is because the social and cultural changes that are derived from the presence of the foreigner can be viewed through the lens of time and interpreted through the laws in force, as well as the fears and spectres that may or may not be changed into reality.

Several countries are drafting new laws for the acceptance and permanent residence of immigrants, skilled immigrants being one of the key points. On the one hand, the selection process takes account of the legitimate interests of the recipient country with regard to the shortage of knowledge and specialist skills in the market. On the other hand, the brain-drain of these migrants from their country of origin raises new challenges concerning their future development, since science and technology are the cornerstone of new models of growth. The oversight of forgetting that the invited workers have or will have families or that they will not be returning to their place of origin is the serpent's egg for future feelings of intolerance in times when there are lean years.



The expatriate is the foreigner who arrives at his destined place with a work contract in his hand to work in a sector of a company which he is already linked to. The fact that expatriation is accompanied by a deadline that has to be complied with, reduces the eventual negative reactions. In addition, the professionals of the large companies know that there are many reasons why organizations choose an expatriate, the most common of which are the need to supplement teams with knowledge so that new projects can be carried out, innovation management and the control or reinforcement of the cultural organization.

The expatriate must be able to give proof of high professional competence, and justify his entry to the team, as well as showing a capacity to adapt to the local culture. He must reorganize his life-style by building a daily life with his family, overcome his uncertainties and anxieties, and master the local "code" in his practices and his various sources of socialization. He is constantly being exposed to confrontations with what has aleady been established, with what has already been done, and with uncertainty and ambiguity. Moreover, he must make every effort and go to every length to show a capacity to be always learning. Everyday adaptation can be understood as the power of the foreigner to make a suitable response to any situations that might arise, without experiencing discomfort or bewilderment, or rather, without being thrown off balance by the suffering he has to endure because of his loss of reference-points and practical knowledge.(Freita, 2005).

As economic factors tend to be predominant in modern life, the expatriate tends to be a kind of foreigner who can travel to another country more easily than others. This is because his presence is not regarded as an invasion and a partnership is necessary when the local workers lack the qualifications required for the work he has taken on. He is viewed as someone who arrives in the group with new kinds of knowledge and a new outlook which can benefit the development and performance of the local organization. In addition, it is necessary for companies to encourage cultural interaction between foreigners and local regions to make it easy for them to adapt. When the expatriate only represents the "master's eye " or the control of the purchaser, he can be easily rejected by the group even though his destined country regards him as a qualified immigrant.

The expatriate is increasingly being known as a"citizen of the world". However, although the term can be either neutral or positive, in our view, there is no human being who is devoid of his own culture. With respect to an individual, the term denotes a capacity to quickly adapt to an alien culture and what is essential is an ability feel less psychological pressure when struggling with the unknown, or to be able to meet the requirements of a new routine without acute discomfort. Instrumental learning in the world of work helps the expatriate to cope with frequent changes, without serious damage to his identity.



The idea, much discussed in Europe, of selective immigration as a means of benefiting immigration with a large supply of qualified or highly qualified personnel to meet the growing demands of innovative technology in the leading sectors, seems to be predestined to failure. This is because it is an outmoded concept to assume that the countries of Western Europe are the most desirable destinations for people in the rest of the world intending to emigrate from their country of origin in search of better opportunities. Historically, the biggest exporters from qualified groups of workers, whether from countries in development or the emerging countries, have been undergoing a new phase of development in their economies and are likely to disappoint these expectations.

Although it was only during the crisis at the end of 2008 that the world took account of the economic strength of the countries that make up BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), in reality, for almost two decades these countries have been growing at a faster rate than the world average, and very often above the averages of European countries and North America. This is because they have expanded their internal market on a huge scale, as well as increasing their international competitiveness and achieved a high growth rate compared with countries in the "rich old world". Brazil, for example, has recently advanced from 12th to 7th position in the world ranking of the largest economies. As a result, it is hard to see how the qualified work force of these countries which have growing rates of employment and comparatively low rates of unemployment, would be attracted by voluntary emigration. Today, it makes no sense for qualified professionals with high salaries to seek employment in rich countries that are undergoing a period of economic stagnation with high rates of unemployment and declining numbers of vacancies in the job market.

Thus, while Europe believes that its siren song will lure this supply of qualified immigrants who do not pose a threat to local jobs and can still help to galvanize the most innovative sectors of the economy, the emerging countries continue to grow and are "exporting" declining numbers of workers to the central countries. It remains for Europe and the United States to accept those who emigrate for non-economic reasons, like the education of their children, problems with security or indignation at social inequality or government and political corruption in their countries of origin. Alternatively, there are mavericks or rather, adventurers who, despite enjoying a reasonable economic position in their country of origin, do not have enough qualifications to compete for job vacancies that are well remunerated and seek opportunities in the rich countries. In the case of this last group, which is not uncommon, they have to take drastic action and "kill a lion every day" to survive and often pretend to be a successful people and are thus able to give their families financial help.

The countries which have recently become more affluent, offer job opportunities that cover a wide spectrum - from relatively unqualified work like construction and domestic employment, to more complex responsibilities in engineering and advanced technology. In contrast, the recruitment of emiogrants for the rich countries tends to be ever more restricted to people from the poorest regions in the world or countries with authoritarian regimes. Among the problems that are currently causing turmoil in Europe, the influx of large groups of people from North Africa and the Middle East is, on the whole, made up of people with few professional qualifications.

Every day studies are being published in the international press, together with economic forecasts, which show the need for wealthy European countries to accept dozens of millions of immigrants by the year 2050, when their economies are undergoing a state of decline and they have an aging population that is decreasing from its current levels. However, these same countries are not managing to resolve their economic, social and political problems which are caused by their inability to absorb immigrants on a social, cultural and economic level. This can be observed in the cases of Italy with its Albanians and Hungarians, France with its Arabs from the North of Africa, Britain with its Indians and Pakistanis, Germany with its Turks etc. As a result there are regrettable incidents like the recent riots in England with an outbreak of violence among the young children of poor immigrants in the suburbs of London, the surprising and violent terrorist atack by an extreme right-wing Norwegian in the capital of the country and the constant and organized expulsion of illegal immigrants by France - the forecast, according to the French press was 30,000 deported people in 2011.

The foreigner has thus ceased to be a peripheral political problem and become a central question in the future of Western democracies and economies. Between the political and cultural incapacity to bring about a real and profound integration of these foreigners in national societies and the desire to believe that it is possible to handpick those who are interested in strategies for the growth of their economies, the developed societies and democracies of Europe, and possibly in the near future the United States, are skating over a crisis that is complex. Despite being aggravated by economic factors, the crisis goes beyond this and penetrates the crystallized values of conservative societies that believe they are the most liberal and open in the world.



The way that a foreigner is accepted by a new group will depend on a number of factors, among which the following should be underlined: the perception that the group has of his usefulness, the image that the group has of his country, the reasons and conditions for his inclusion in the group and the kinds of benefits that the members of the group are willing to share. In his interaction, the foreigner can enhance the group through a wide range of diversified knowledge and skills but at the same time, this might give more scope for conflicts and clashes of interest since his presence does not exempt him from ambiguities, fascination and risks (Ménéchal et al, 1999). The foreigner is a recurring figure in history and takes on the appearance of a conqueror, slave, prisoner, soldier, missionary, ally, businessman or traveller. Today, his presence continues to arouse interest, in particular in the economy and politics. But what is his true essence ?

Gerg Simmel (1994) says the following - in a text written in 1908 - with regard to the dialectical and paradoxical game theory that is an intrinsic part of the image of the foreigner: " he brings the distant near and what is near remains far away; he is both a bridge and a door". The foreigner is someone who is fixed in the midst of a determined environment but his position is determined by the fact that he has not formed a part of this environment from the beginning and possesses attrributes that are not inherent in the environment. Distance and proximity are present in all human relations; distance can be understood to mean the distancing of the near and strangeness as the proximity of what is far away, and this is naturally both a positive reaction and a form of interaction. The foreigner is an element in a group which includes outward appearance and confrontation. This group forms a synthesis of proximity and distance and is the formal shape in which it is embodied. Simmel refers to the appearance of the foreigner in history as a trader and the trader as a foreigner. By virtue of his nature, he is someone who does not possess land, that is to say land in the sense of a vital substance that remains in a spatial or social sphere. The objectivity of the foreigner means distance and not taking sides while, at the same time, this particular combination is made up of proximity, distance, indifference and engagement.

The foreigner is close to us, to the extent that we feel him to be a human being by virtue of certain national, social, professional and more generic kinds of resemblance. The individual features of the foreigner (his country, his town or city, his ethnicity and his culture) are not viewed as individual but rather as a part of his foreign origins. He is seen and felt to be a foreigner of a particular type. Nonetheless, for the foreigner who is included in a group, other people are not simply carrying out anonymous routine functions but are individuals; he tends to accept what is typical as being an individual character and erects a social world made up of what Schutz (2003) describes as pseudo-anonymity, pseudo-intimacy and pseudo-normality.

But what is the "typical situation" of a foreigner who strives to interpret the cultural model of a new social group and to adjust to it on his own. Schutz attempts to answer this question in his essay and regards the foreigner as an adult who is attempts to be accepted or at least tolerated by the new group. He recognises that, in the everyday world, people's knowledge is not homogeneous but inconsistent, albeit to a limited extent, and not exempt from contradictions, even though it may seem to be consistent and clear enough for him to understand, and be understood, in a group. The whole group has a knowledge of procedures, a general awareness of rules of action that can be called " a scheme of interpretation".

This knowledge is not shared with the foreigner who follows alternative procedures and another scheme of interpretation. He does not have a particular history involving others although there is another history that forms his biography. He is a newcomer in the group who, in the best of circumstances, is willing to share the present and the future with himself but is cut off from the past. In the state of being an exile, immigrant or expatriate, the foreigner is confroneted with these difficulties because he has to become integrated with the local inhabitants and interact with them over a prolonged period of time. He experiences strangeness and feels uncomfortable about this since he has to form part of a new group and be accepted by it, unlike a tourist whose concern is with his own pleasure and just interacting with local people in a superficial manner. This foreigner discovers another person and himself in a real display of otherness. Strangeness and familiarity represent general categories in our interpretation of the world by defining the new, seeking to understand feelings, reconciling the new with what we already know and attempting to establish rational links.

Language is one of the main cultural reference-points and poses a huge challenge to the foreigner although he may have a good command of grammar. It is not just a question of grammar and rules, which he may have a passive knowedge of, -the foreigner is immediately faced with the need to transform his thoughts into interactive activities. Moving to another country without knowing the language is a daunting prospect; the newcomer remains dumb and his native language only allows him to speak to himself and find refuge in his thoughts, while experiencing the shock of realizing that his language is useless ! Others are unaware of this in the language they use and it is hard to learn the meaning of something and form an intelligible utterance ; it is as if he was only making a noise. Being unable to speak the local language makes the foreigner become not just a foreigner for others but a stranger to himself too, because he is bewildered and finds it difficult to recognize this sense of powerlessness.

The modern world has ordained that English should be the official language of tourism and business. Evidently this decision removes several problems emanating from the huge number of languages spoken in the world (at least six thousand) but there is also the fact that a language is more than simply a means of communication and is - above all - a means of socializing and forming ideas. So long as tourists roam the world with a dictionary in their hand with some basic phrases and a huge capacity to survive cultural differences, the foreigner who settles in another country must master the language in which henceforth he will live. In the world of work, especially skilled labour, this mastery of the language is an essential requirement or must be obtained in a short period of time. Having this gap causes serious problems in adapting to or communicating with a group and requires a great effort in coordination and negotiation.



While the world is shrinking as a result of better means of communication and transport, cultural interactions are an increasingly noticeable feature of contemporary life. These trends are more accentuated in a world that is becoming more integrated, with the disappearance of frontiers and the spread of information and cultural values, which leads to a curious situation: we are all diverse; we are all foreigners. The foreigner can be an integrator, demolisher, mediator, collaborator or destroyer of the social or orgnizational order, whether existing or desired.

Companies are today the driving-force behind the process of globalization and are at the heart of the discovery of new markets, work processes, materials, knowledge and experiences which involve people with different habits, customs, beliefs, knowledge, needs, desires and skills. People with a wide range of affiliations and identity links bind themselves to an organizational project for reasons that go beyond those that are supplied by a salary, position and career. It is increasingly common for people to invite foreigners to work together and travel to work with others and this gives rise to a more complex professional world that is heterogeneous, with prospects of being either more creative or more open to disputes.

Whatever his status or condition may be, the foreigner is today a fundamental component in the life of the companies that rule the planet and of projects that have to be completed in different parts of the globe; he is also a vital presence in large-scale projects that require the involvement of experts. Supplementing knowledge is essential for innovation and resolving complex problems and to the extent that the passport has become the document par excellence, being a foreigner, or inviting a foreigner to work, is the natural outcome of a form of capitalism that also conpels companies to travel abroad.

The new foreigner is not only a physical person but also a legal entity. Whenever a company becomes nomadic and moves from one country to another, it has to confront its own foreignness, as has been shown by the TV Series "Outsourced". In the same way as when someone is invited to another person's home, the "company-foreigners" also have to defer to the host to deermine what is desirable behavior and avoid disastrous cultural mishaps. Future research in the field of intercultural organization studies will be able to tell a new story. We are only at the stage of "Once upon a time...."




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