Purpose – This paper aims to analyze the adjustment experience of Chinese expatriate managers in Portugal. Design/methodology/approach – This exploratory study is based on the qualitative analysis of 12 semi-structured, open-ended interviews to Chinese expatriate managers in Portugal. Expatriates varied in terms of international experience, stage of career and industry. All expatriates had at least one-year working experience in Portugal. The coding process followed a reflexive approach between data and existing theory. Findings – The process of adjustment of Chinese expatriate managers to the Portuguese context is arranged in five dimensions: perception: expatriates tend to perceive the differences between China and Portugal as not significant; guanxi replication: similarities between the two countries raised the question of whether the guanxi model could be replicated; resistance: although the two countries are perceived as close, there are significant differences, namely, in terms of some cultural aspects, the legal framework and the level of acceptance of the guanxi; adaptation: given these resistances, it is necessary for expatriates to change some practices that are commonly used in the Chinese context; and identity construction: Chinese expatriates are particularly concerned by their identity as foreigners and of the corresponding need to adjust. Originality/value – This exploratory study revealed that guanxi should not be seen as a purely cultural product grounded in the Confucian tradition but instead should be taken as a business strategy that depends on the existence of specific factors, such as the relevance and quality of interpersonal relationships in a business context.
- Expatriates, adjustment