Monday, 5 July 2010

Are expats more creative?

As many expats will testify, living abroad can be an extremely worthwhile learning experience. Not only does it provide a fresh perspective on life but can also open the door to new cultures, friends and daily routines. In addition to all this, new research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that people who live abroad tend to be more creative than those who lived in their home country.

When tested on a variety of standard psychological tests for measuring creativity, success rates were much higher for those who had spent time living abroad (60%) compared to those who had remained in their country of birth (42%). As Professor William Maddux explains, “The theory that living abroad somehow opens your mind is an old one, which we know through stories of artists like Hemingway who lived in France. Running tests like this however gives us actual empirical evidence for the first time.”

Interestingly, creativity was highest amongst those who had made a considerable effort to integrate fully into their new country of residence such as by learning the local language. It seems that to truly widen our creativity, we must really try to fit into our new surroundings and begin seeing things in a whole new light.

Such findings have really interesting implications when considering the number of employers who place a premium on creativity and innovation to stay competitive. For example in recruitment, when designing training schemes and designating job assignments. With scientific evidence for the first time supporting the notion that the expat lifestyle really does make a difference psychologically, we’re eagerly waiting for the results of the 2010 Expat Explorer survey to see just how these lifestyles vary across the globe and what commonalities may play a part in expat creativity.


  1. That's very interesting! Do you have a link to the study that you're referencing? I'd really like to read it.

  2. Hi Clarissa

    Glad you found the article interesting. The study referenced is below

    “When in Rome . . . Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do: How Multicultural Learning Experiences Facilitate Creativity” (Maddux, Adam, and Galinsky 2010)


  3. Well, we certainly have been since we have been here. Is it the restlessness or the need to belong, to make and do so that everytime you have a "what the hell am I doing here?" moment you have something concrete to hold on to and say.. THIS.

    For us it's this:

  4. Thank you for this - glad to see others are reading and wondering about this. I wrote a blog post about it earlier this year:
    It's flattering to think we could be more creative as expats, but I think some expats are still too much within their comfort zone to experiment and be creative, while others are too far outside it and are blocked in their creativity... at least for a while. Still, it can only be to the good, eventually....


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