Western Expatriates Building Networks In Asia – An Analysis Based On Causation Vs. Effectuation Theory


  • Claus Schreier
  • Andrin Senn


effectuation theory, Western expatriate, network building



Establishing a social network promises various advantages and benefits for an expatriate. For instance, according to Wang (2001),  social networks give expatriates access to social capital and resources  and the social support needed to achieve better personal outcomes (Wang, 2001, p. 14). In addition, Forret (1995) states that networking provides managers with the information, ideas, and the essential equipment to perform well in their jobs (Forret, 1995, p. 3).

When expatriates are posted to a new geographical setting they need to adapt to their new environment. Their social environments will be affected as they have become detached from their existing social networks. Expatriates spend effort to maintain existing networks in their home countries as well as they try hard to establish and build new social networks in their unfamiliar host countries. The process of building new networks is an entrepreneurial activity that involves unpredictability and goal ambiguity in an unstable environment that keeps changing with the expatriate’s actions (Engel, Y., Kaandorp, M., & Elfring, T., 2017, p. 35).

To explore the question ‘how can expatriates develop their networks strategically when the environment is unstable and the future is unpredictable’, this study analyses the network building approaches of expatriates and examines whether they apply causal or goal-directed networking approaches, or whether they apply effectuation logic, when building their new social networks. The empirical findings from ten interviews with Western expatriates from six different western countries sent to five different Asian countries (China, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore) indicate that an effectuation approach is preferred, particularly in the early stages of their assignments, but some change their networking style to a causal approach during the course of their assignment. Causal networking was generally chosen when the goals for networking were clearer, e.g. when the expatriates began to identify the contacts from whom they could obtain the specific information they required.