Why Living Abroad Makes You Smarter!

living abroad increases creativity

Yet another thing to add to your list of reason why living abroad is a good thing: It might actually make your smarter.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things.

Creativity, adventure and travel are three things that I am very passionate about and they all share one similar psychological characteristic. They all require you to be open to NEW EXPERIENCES.

If you are not open to new experiences than you should leave right now. I’m serious. Scoot, skedaddle. There’s nothing here for you to see. Go back to your boring routine and predictable life. On second thought, maybe you should stick around and see what you’re missing.

The Study:

People have speculated for a long time about the benefits of living abroad. Specifically, there have been claims that living abroad can increase your creativity.

Apparently, it’s no longer a theory but a proven fact with scientific data.

In a study conducted by researchers William W. Maddux (INSEAD) and Adam D. Galinsky (Northwestern University), when you live abroad, there is is a psychological change that you undergo.

It happens when you adapt to a foreign culture, learn a new language and struggle through culture shock while living abroad.

All of these things cause a shift in perspective, which opens your mind to new ideas and IGNITES CREATIVITY. 

My understanding of the benefits of living abroad.

No-one needs to tell me about the benefits of living abroad.

I’ve been traveling and living abroad since before I could walk and talk.  Even today, as i write this, i am living in another country. Only now i do it with my husband and three kids.

I do it for many reasons but mainly because i enjoy the benefits of travel and how it effects me, my thinking and I want my children to experience those benefits too.

If you have ever lived abroad or traveled for any extended period of time, than you also know the effect it can have on you.  It’s undeniable. It can be inspirational and open new doors in your mind and make you see thing in new ways.

If you haven’t lived abroad, think about your last vacation. Were you recharged when you returned home?  Did you feel more clear headed and motivated? Now multiply that by 100. That’s how it makes me feels.

Here are some examples of how my travels have positively effected different areas of my life.

  • My cooking: I have a distinct way of cooking food by fusing different nationalities cuisine together.
  • My Music: I can listen to African music, euro trash and Chinese opera. I love it all. I love the variety.
  • People: Having lived in so many places, I am open to different cultures and peoples customs. This helps me get a long with people from all walks of life.
  • Children: Seeing how different cultures raise their children has made me come up with creative solutions in raising my kids.
  • Conventional Wisdom: Seeing how different cultures live has made me question conventional wisdom. Which I think is  a good thin

Those are just some ways that living abroad has stirred in me a renewed sense of creativity and world views.  Lets take a look at how living abroad has effected other groups of people

Artists & Writers

It’s been common knowledge that living abroad can and has inspired great work from artists and writers. Have you ever heard of  Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso? Some of their most famous works were inspired by living abroad or done while living abroad.

Companies and Corporations

it’s not just artists and writers that benefit or do their best creative work after living abroad. Companies can can also benefit from hiring employees who have lived abroad or by sending people abroad to work In their foreign divisions. These individuals bring a different mind set. A more creative one that finds novel ways to problem solving resulting in an increase to a companies bottom line.


Entrepreneurs also benefit from increased creativity after living abroad. This could explain why so many entrepreneurs have also lived abroad. If you have been keeping up with lifestyle design than you also know there is a a slew of solo-preneurs who take long term trips abroad and start successful online businesses, and blogs.

Corbett Bar of think traffic started working on his web based businesses(s) while living in Mexico with his wife. Adam Baker, of Man vs. Debt  travelled for a year and built a solid business around teaching people how to create a life they want to live while reducing their debt.

Finally there’s me. I’m starting my own business now while living in France.  In all my previous travels, i have always travelled to soak in a new culture. ( I should have been a cultural anthropologist or linguist). This time I’m using my time abroad to spark my creative entrepreneurial side.  The fact that you are reading these words now are an attestation to that fact.

How to reap the full benefits of increased creativity while living abroad.

Just living abroad doesn’t guarantee you increased creativity. According to William Maddux’s research, for you to receive the full benefit of increased creativity from living abroad, certain criteria have to be met.

  • Length of time: The longer that a person lives abroad, the more that person increases the likely hood that they improve their creativity.
  • Adaptation To Local Customs and Cultures: Exposure and adaptation to multicultural experiences such as different food, foreign friends, foreign music, language, customs, to name a few, is necessary to reap the benefits of living abroad.
  • Vacations Don’t Help: Merely travelling abroad on vacation does not receive the same benefits as living abroad because it doesn’t give you enough time to adapt to the new countries culture, customs and language.
  • AGE: The younger you go abroad, the more it effects and improves subsequent creativity.
  • Don’t stay in your bubble while abroad: Living abroad but only hanging out with your own countries expatriates will do nothing for your creativity. You have to mingle and adapt to the countries environment.

Points of interest:

So what happens after you live abroad? Does you creativity die or diminish? Well according to Maddux’s research, the effects of increased creativity are lasting. What’s interesting is something called priming. Just recalling your time abroad through a memory will show more subsequent creativity within the next 5 or 10 minutes when compared to someone who recalls going to the grocery store or being in their hometown.

In other words, when you reactivate the abroad experiences, it does seem to increase your creativity. Hallelujah!

Lastly and most importantly, living abroad is not the end all be all to increased creativity.  There are many ways to increase creativity. Living abroad is but one fun and interesting way to do it.

So there you have it. Scientific validation for the art and business world that going abroad might be the missing component to activating and stimulating your creative craft or entrepreneurial spirit.

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