Since I travel quite a bit for my job, I like to follow a couple of travel blogs including Gulliver from the Economist. This week Gulliver reported on an article in the main Economist about a link between expat life and creativity. Now I take issue immediately with the statement that follows:
ANECDOTAL evidence has long held that creativity in artists and writers can be associated with living in foreign parts. Rudyard Kipling, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gauguin, Samuel Beckett and others spent years dwelling abroad. Now a pair of psychologists has proved that there is indeed a link.
I can assure you that no one has proved anything. Some statistical model has been used to show a connection in a small study population in which confounding factors have also been taken into account. That is not proof. (Sorry, geeky science girl hat goes on whenever I see things like this extracted from the academic literature… best not to get me started down that path!) However, it is an intriguing concept. And one of the confounding factors that has supposedly been eliminated in the study was the idea that more creative people choose to be expats in the first place. Not sure if I truly believe the statistical model that says that was clearly excluded, especially based on the small study population. Regardless, the conclusion from the study is something to make an expat smile:
It may be that those critical months or years of turning cultural bewilderment into concrete understanding may instill not only the ability to “think outside the box” but also the capacity to realize that the box is more than a simple square, more than its simple form, but also a repository of many creative possibilities.
So for all the rants about two-tap sinks, lacking closet space, and bewildering cultural customs, this little adventure might be taking me down the road to self improvement.