Living abroad increases creativity?

According to a research by Maddux, Galinsky and Adam, the answer is yes: living abroad increases the creativity of expats. The research entitled Multicultural learning and creativity demonstrates that engaging with a new culture stimulates the creative process.

Successful expats

The research subjected both people who have lived aboard and those who hadn’t to a range of tasks. Overall, the expats performed better “discovering creative insights, drawing creative pictures, coming up with creative solutions (…) and making creative associations between ideas”. It is not surprising, therefore, that this creativity leads to a successful career.

Adapting stimulates creativity

Integration into a foreign environment is the process most likely to stimulate creativity. Expats need to understand the culture in which they are living and learn the nuances between different environments. By doing this, they can learn to find creative solutions to different problems.

A good example taken by the research is that of culinary customs. In China, leaving food on one’s plate is be seen as polite (your host has supplied more than you needed, you are satisfied), in the US this might be seen as rude. Expats need to understand cultural difference and adapt to the local customs. The authors sum this up with, “By repeatedly experiencing such “aha” moments of insight, individuals with knowledge of both cultures should be more likely to have the insight that there can be more than one solution to a given problem”.

So to you expats out there, go forth and be creative!

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John Manuel says:

There are those whose increase has merely been in intake of alcohol or nicotine! But I think to many the increase in available time to develop their creativity is the key. I’d written about 60% of my first book back in the UK, but never had the time to close it out. Since living here on Rhodes I’ve built up a large following for my blog and published three lighthearted autobiographical memoirs about my Greek experience.