How might we utilise technology to support the global expatriate to go through cultural barriers and complete tasks efficiently in order to enjoy a better assignment experience in a new environment?

My Role / 

My duties were to define the research plan, in order to understand this, the research phase, from benchmark to contextual interview, we did both quantitative and qualitative research, it includes: 22 expats and 13 key stakeholders. And then, I organised the ideation workshop and made some interactive prototypes for it to keep an agile method to test with our users and the evaluation with experts to optimise our design.


Client / 

RCA Final project

Project Deliverables/ 

Research insight report

Competitive product analysis

Concept system and stakeholder map

Blueprint map

Concept video

Business model

Information Architecture


Year / 



Partners / 

Xiaosu Lai


In today's highly globalised world, with the expansion of new markets, resources, and business opportunities, there is a growing demand for employers with specific skills and leadership. Currently, more than 80 percent of  medium-sized businesses and large corporations send their professionals abroad, and 45 percent plan to increase the number of expatriates. My final project at RCA was looking into the cross-cultural work experience of global expatriates. You see in a busy city like London, people come from different cultural backgrounds. They all experienced some cross-cultural barriers that prevented them from fully utilising their professional skills and sharing their experiences. Since me and my teammate all had work experience like this, it gave us a broader perspective to resonate with. 


From our research, we do see a gap in younger generations taking on assignments, seeking career advancement and support networks. With this high turnover of talent, the younger generation is shaping the trend of global mobility. They are tech-savvy and culturally sensitive. They are eagerly seeking better global job opportunities to advance their careers while enriching their international experience.


Our challenge is about cross-cultural integration, and we wanted to ensure that the research captures the perspectives of different cultures and maintains a high degree of diversity for the design. As a result, we interviewed expats from around the world. They came from 17 countries and provided valuable insights and opinions for our project.










Research Methodology and Process


We went through Discovery, Definition, Development and Delivery phase. The quantitative study started with 64 questionnaires, and the data collected was simplified and clustered by using factor analysis (FA) to give an outlook on user experience and characterization.


On this basis, we conducted 22 target user interviews and 13 stakeholder interviews, involving human resources departments, intercultural training institution services, technical experts, etc. Then we draw out a storyboard and interactive prototype to validate the concept and it really helped us add more value to the design.




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Research Insights and Highlights

Watch the video to understand the research insights of expat experience
  • In terms of relocation options, the majority of respondents were satisfied with the current relocation programme offered by their companies as it addressed most basic needs such as house rental services, commuting options, etc. 



  • The buddy/mentorship system, which operates in many companies today, is a knowledge sharing method used to orient new employees on-boarding. It includes assigning a workplace partner/mentor to newcomers. Most of the respondents liked the system because of the material and moral support it provides at work. On the other hand, it lacks the incentive to keep mentors engaged in the system.



  • Cultural integration support is information-based, and when first arriving in a new environment, they seek services such as intranets/knowledge networks to cater individual cultural needs during the rocky path as an expat. Most of the end-users need cultural integration in the business connection occasion.






The responses from end-user
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Expert interview
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User Research synthesis - an opportunity to synthesize and refine design by Affinity Diagram
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Current customer journey mapping out process
Internal ideation workshops and concept assessments

Design Opportunity


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Tiny bits of plastic measuring 0.1μm - 5mm

How might we utilise technology to support the global expatriate to go through cultural barriers and complete tasks efficiently in order to enjoy a better assignment experience in a new environment?


Design Solution- Respire

Watch the video to understand how does Respire work

Respire is an innovative service for expats to support cultural integration. As a B2B service, Respire understands the cross-cultural barriers at work and the need to build meaningful new connections.

Respire addresses cross-cultural barriers at work and the need to build meaningful relationships through two key functions:


AI intelligent chatbot and Motivated Mentoring system.


Prior to assignments, Respire conducts pre-assignment training to help expatriates understand different aspects of another culture by sharing relevant cultural knowledge and helping them better integrate into their new international environment. The support then continues upon arrival, acting as a personal intelligence secretary at work.




Respire interface mock-up
Initial UI prototype
Respire system Information Architecture
UI Design
Product Ecosystem and Stakeholder Map

Design Validation

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Service Proposition

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Validation interviews: pitching to the potential user to have a full
picture of what precisely they are reacting to the design
Paper prototype validation with target audience to check into not
only the interactive flow but potential business model.


I have always believed that the true spirit of service design comes from teamwork, and that a good service designer should translate everyone's experience into valuable insights and knowledge as fuel for future design as they conduct their research. Therefore, it is very important to develop communication skills. In this project, through the topic of cultural integration, I also fully understand that it is not uncommon to see such cooperation models in the future.

In my previous experience of working in London, the team partners came from different countries, had different backgrounds and cultures, even though there is a rigorous execution of the design process to improve the efficiency during the design project, but the understanding of the world is a bit of a lag in communication, so this project is of definite importance to me, I believe that in the "future of work" is a ongoing topic, which we can use design thinking to solve problems for a better workplace.