Does Living Abroad Stimulate Creativity?

According to a study done by William Maddux, an assistant professor of organizational behavor at INSEAD, people who live abroad are more creative than those who do not.

Learning another language? The study showed that those who spoke more than one language were more creative than those who spoke one. Even if you’ve never traveled but you’ve learned another language, you’re still gaining a multicultural experience and thus stimulating creativity.

The study also says that people who embrase local culture and language were more creative than those who did not (hanging out with only expats for example). So it’s not just living abroad that would inspire creativity. Adapting to the local society while abroad is important. Although the survey didn’t officially publish this, Maddux says that the younger you are, the more likely you’ll stimulate creativity while abroad.

With studies like these, I hope more companies are realizing the importance of career breaks, gap years, sabbaticals, and sending employees abroad.

We’ve already known this but it’s now scientifically proven. Will the american culture change its work ethic with more evidence of studies like these? Will companies start to realize the importance of hiring those with gap years?

The video below was uploaded in 2009.

14 Comments

  1. Ashlee D. on March 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Very very true. Learning a new language helps stimulate creative because the multilingual mind does not see things in just one way, but rather knows there are multiple ways of expressing something. There is a ton of linguistic research about this, especially about how it affects children. Great post, and love your blog!

  2. Ashlee D. on March 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Very very true. Learning a new language helps stimulate creative because the multilingual mind does not see things in just one way, but rather knows there are multiple ways of expressing something. There is a ton of linguistic research about this, especially about how it affects children. Great post, and love your blog!

  3. Jill on March 7, 2012 at 12:33 am

    I love to hear this. I’m really hoping this will be a new trend for young people in the U.S. and around the world. I speak pretty good Spanish and I’m seriously considering moving abroad to become fluent and more importantly, more worldly. I think that is a very attractive quality for a potential job candidate- that they are willing to relocate, seek opportunity and thrive in a foreign environment. 

  4. Jill on March 7, 2012 at 1:33 am

    I love to hear this. I’m really hoping this will be a new trend for young people in the U.S. and around the world. I speak pretty good Spanish and I’m seriously considering moving abroad to become fluent and more importantly, more worldly. I think that is a very attractive quality for a potential job candidate- that they are willing to relocate, seek opportunity and thrive in a foreign environment. 

  5. Amer on March 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

    At least that’s how I wanted to think about it. In a way it does make you a bit more creative especially in the fields of art and design.

    • Michael on March 27, 2012 at 7:30 am

      As an architect, do you think it has made you more creative?

  6. Amer on March 10, 2012 at 11:37 am

    At least that’s how I wanted to think about it. In a way it does make you a bit more creative especially in the fields of art and design.

    • Michael on March 27, 2012 at 8:30 am

      As an architect, do you think it has made you more creative?

  7. Krystal Christine on March 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

    A new environment stimulates creativity because there are new things you learn

  8. Krystal Christine on March 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    A new environment stimulates creativity because there are new things you learn

  9. Vicki on March 13, 2012 at 3:47 am

    Or is it that the more creative ones among us are more open to the idea of travel, living abroad, mixing with new cultures and learning new languages?  I believe this article should spark a “chicken and the egg” style debate!  Of course, the more you expose yourself to new things, the more inspiration you have; however, the people who are most likely to expose themselves to (and really indulge themselves in) new and interesting experiences are those who are less rigid and more creative in the first place. 

    I have travelled extensively, and have met a wide variety of people.  The more creative amongst whom tend to be on the road/living in a foreign place on a more long term basis.  I believe these people were creative before they left their “normal” lives behind them.  I think to do such a thing, you need to have a strong element of creativity in the first place. 

    Having said that, I am English and I now live in Buenos Aires.  I have also lived in Spain, and have been lucky enough to travel to all seven continents over the past few years.  I would never have considered myself to be a creative person during my time at school/university, but this side of me has definitely developed immensely during my time away from home.  I now love to write, take photos, and certainly think in a more abstract/open way.  Travelling throughout my 20s has been a great aid to my personal development, and I think my persona/outlook on life would be incredibly different had I remained working in finance in London!

    To me it is not important whether the chicken or the egg came first.  Rather than the chicken and the egg both exist! 

    • Michael on March 27, 2012 at 7:22 am

      The guy in the video asked that same question. Check on minute 2:00.

  10. Vicki on March 13, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Or is it that the more creative ones among us are more open to the idea of travel, living abroad, mixing with new cultures and learning new languages?  I believe this article should spark a “chicken and the egg” style debate!  Of course, the more you expose yourself to new things, the more inspiration you have; however, the people who are most likely to expose themselves to (and really indulge themselves in) new and interesting experiences are those who are less rigid and more creative in the first place. 

    I have travelled extensively, and have met a wide variety of people.  The more creative amongst whom tend to be on the road/living in a foreign place on a more long term basis.  I believe these people were creative before they left their “normal” lives behind them.  I think to do such a thing, you need to have a strong element of creativity in the first place. 

    Having said that, I am English and I now live in Buenos Aires.  I have also lived in Spain, and have been lucky enough to travel to all seven continents over the past few years.  I would never have considered myself to be a creative person during my time at school/university, but this side of me has definitely developed immensely during my time away from home.  I now love to write, take photos, and certainly think in a more abstract/open way.  Travelling throughout my 20s has been a great aid to my personal development, and I think my persona/outlook on life would be incredibly different had I remained working in finance in London!

    To me it is not important whether the chicken or the egg came first.  Rather than the chicken and the egg both exist! 

    • Michael on March 27, 2012 at 8:22 am

      The guy in the video asked that same question. Check on minute 2:00.

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