Expatriates Emotional Challenges and Coping Strategies: A qualitative Study

  • Panagiotis Platanitis

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


In the last few decades expatriation to East Asia and China in particular has become an important phenomenon investigated by research studies. Undoubtedly, expatriates face multiple emotional challenges during their stay in China, such as adjustment, cultural adaptation, work related difficulties, language barriers and family separation. The present study aimed to explore in depth the specific psychological needs of expatriates based on their personal subjective opinion from a Counselling Psychology perspective. A narratively informed Thematic Analysis design was used and conversational interviews conducted to generate accounts of the phenomenon of expatriation and the emotional challenges people faced due to a change of country and culture. Five main themes were identified and special emphasis was given to the subthemes which consisted the new and unique findings of the current thesis: I) Emotional Challenges: a) emotional difficulties, b) positive challenges, c) the challenge of the unknown and d) repatriation. As coping strategies, emphasis was given to a) social network, b) the importance of the family, and c) professional support. The issue of adjustment, which included three subthemes a) adjustment to daily life b) living conditions and c) work satisfaction was also discussed. The fourth theme, Personality, included two subthemes: a) Traits and b) Personal Development. The final theme was cultural differences, which included three subthemes: a) communication and interaction with locals, b) cultural differences at work and c) culture shock. The study found that emotional challenges have both positive and negative impacts on the life and well-being of expatriates. Common emotional difficulties identified were anxiety, distress, depression, loss, cultural isolation and loneliness, while positive aspects included working towards better professional and personal development. The study also identified social interaction as the main expatriate coping strategy and community counselling work was suggested as a form of support. Personality traits were identified as an important variable which can have a significant influence on emotional challenges as a form of coping strategy. A detailed account of the issues concerning adjustment to daily life was also discussed. Emphasis was also given to work adjustment as a coping strategy and cultural differences was discussed as a form of emotional difficulties. The contribution of the current qualitative research is discussed and further clinical interventions are suggested.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnthony Parnell (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)


  • China
  • counselling psychology
  • emotional challenges
  • expatriation

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