Living Abroad is Your Key to Success… Potentially

New research suggests that living abroad can improve an individual’s opportunity to be successful, providing they approach it in the right manner.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have established that not all international experiences are created equal and that opting for a life overseas will not automatically bolster an individual’s change of increasing their creativity or improving their career: “Although living abroad does help to hone creative abilities, not all individuals who have lived abroad derive an equal benefit from such experiences,” explained Dr. Carmit Tadmor of TAU’s Recanati School of Business.

Dr. Carmit conducted the study with Dr. Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Dr. William Maddux of the international graduate business school and research institution INSEAD. Their findings revealed that it is those expatriates who are able to simultaneously identify with both their home culture and that of their host country who will be most likely to reap the benefits of living abroad. The researchers referred to this respect for two different social living environments as “biculturalism.” Expats who develop biculturalism demonstrate a more complex thinking style that allows them to view things from multiple perspectives.

“Unlike patterns of cultural identification in which individuals endorse only one of the two cultures, bicultural identification requires individuals to take into account and combine the perspectives of both old and new cultures,” explained Dr. Tadmor. “Over time, this information processing capability, or ‘integrative complexity,’ becomes a tool for making sense of the world and will help individuals perform better in both creative and professional domains.”

While many expatriates do tend to surround themselves with fellow expatriates in their own bubble, it is those that make a concerted effort to try and identify with both their host culture and their home culture who will be the most successful in developing fluency, flexibility, novelty and innovation: “It is clear that becoming a true bicultural is not easy, but it holds the key to translating foreign experiences abroad into a tangible toolbox that bolsters one’s creative ability and professional skill to the highest level,” the researchers claimed.

The study was published on November 6th, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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