Among the 4,500 Finns in Belgium at the moment, the majority live in
the Brussels area, working in the institutions of the European Union,
in Finland’s permanent representation to the EU, and in the regional
offices of various organizations and Finnish industrial companies. The
multicultural environment in Brussels, with almost half of the population
being of foreign origin, stands in striking contrast to the almost monocultural
Finland (4% immigrants).
This study examined the adaptation of the Finnish expatriates and their
spouses to Brussels’ multicultural environment, the relationships between
the different components of adaptation and values, and the role
of empathy in the process of adaptation. The interview sample consisted
of 52 participants. The study used a mixed-methods design and
combined in-depth interviews with quantitative data on value priorities
and aspects of empathy.
As a group, the expatriates stood out by their high regard for self-direction
and work values and low regard for conformity and security when
compared to similar highly educated samples in Finland. They also
scored low on personal distress.
Five main dimensions that describe the process of adapting to the
multicultural environment were identified from the interviews. These
dimensions included broadmindedness and flexibility, which were
mentioned in all interviews, as well as extraversion, self-efficacy and
adventurousness. Positive adaptation was predicted by high regard
for universalism and low regard for conformity, and by low personal
distress and strong tendency to the perspective of other people.
“(the current work) … provides a deeper understanding of the experience and
processes through which expatriates are adapted into their host society”
Professor Lilach Sagiv, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem