Migrant acculturation: An exploration of the early work experiences of Indian professionals working in skilled occupations in New Zealand
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The Indian migrant group in New Zealand has been growing rapidly in the recent past, and a significant number of Indian migrants who relocate into the country are skilled professionals (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2016; Statistics New Zealand, 2014). Skilled migrants contribute towards increasing the human capital of the host country, by bringing with them skills, knowledge and expertise that can be harnessed to create economic advantage for their employers and the larger community (Ben-Gad, 2008; Ortega & Peri, 2014). Smooth adaptation of skilled migrants at the workplace could therefore, prove beneficial to not just the migrant individuals, but also to their employers and the larger economy. This research aims to examine the workplace acculturation experiences of skilled, first generation Indian migrants in New Zealand, and how intercultural interactions at the workplace influence their adaptation process. Interpretive descriptive methodology (Smythe, 2012) was adopted to address the research question and one-on-one, in-depth interviews with five professional, first generation Indian migrants in the city of Auckland formed the basis of this study. Analysis of the findings was done using the theoretical concepts of culture shock, acculturation and culture distance. This research finds that workplace acculturation experiences of professional Indian migrants are greatly influenced by their background and individual contexts; key factors being previous exposure to a foreign environment, financial liabilities and visa type. Visa conditions in particular, are found to have a crucial relationship with the employment choices of migrants, influencing their career choices and affecting their early workplace experiences. The lack of New Zealand work experience was a key barrier faced by participants while seeking employment in New Zealand, but once this initial hurdle was crossed, their workplace acculturation was smooth and swift. This seamless adaptation at work was attributed to the support of supervisors and colleagues, although the participants’ employers did not have formally established diversity policies and practices. This research provides practical insights to organisations that can help them formulate effective inclusion practices to support new migrants, particularly Indian professional migrants in the workplace. It also adds to the existing academic knowledge in this area, considering that there is a scarcity of studies centered on the adaptation experiences of skilled Indian migrants in New Zealand.