Alice B. Toklas

This Week Out There – April 19th-25th

In this new weekly segment, I curate some of this week’s expat-related stories.


Ah! The Luxury of Moving House

Moving house is never fun, and moving as an expat can carry added difficulties. Being mobile requires one to frequently let go of many things, so the process of deciding what to leave behind can be especially fraught.

To help ease the move for her son, this expat mom in Turkey offers a dose of perspective, writing that deciding what to take with you in a rusomo-refugeesstrife-torn part of the world is a luxury that many people can’t afford.

As we watch the morning and evening news together, we are both reminded of just how fortunate we truly are. My son understands that around the world, and along the Turkish borders in particular, there are so many people who do not have the opportunity to pick and choose which items they want to keep and carry with them.

For those dealing with a recent move, read it here.

Stop the Press! Expats Consider Moving

A recent survey found that around half of expats in the UAE report that they are considering leaving due to the rising cost of living. In a country where an estimated 88% of the population is composed of expats, that works out to about 3 million people and a hell of a lot of moving vans.

It’s good to keep in mind that when an expat says he or she is considering moving, we probably need to take it with a grain of salt – my own anecdotal evidence suggests that expats as a species are generally more open to the prospect of moving than the average person; it may be part of the reason many of us ended up living halfway around the world in the first place. Anyway, here’s the story.

Possible Link Between Expat Experience and Creativity

china_fashion_week_20102

Too much creativity can actually cause the brain to explode

Many of the great 20th century artists – Orwell, Picasso, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway – lived abroad for significant parts of their lives. If you’ve ever pondered whether the expat experience helps to foster great art, check out this report on a recent study by Columbia University and INSEAD, which found a link between expat experience and enhanced creativity (You can find the abstract here). The study looked at fashion houses but the authors point out that it could have broader applications for business.

“Creativity is the driver of growth for companies and individuals in the 21st century. Professional foreign assignments are the surest way to become creative, and fashion industry understands that. Companies in other industries also should value executives’ foreign experiences and promote them through global talent mobility programmes,’ said INSEAD’s professor Andrew Shipilov”

Shiplov also notes that it’s not just living abroad that drives this growth, but engaging with local culture in meaningful ways.

‘The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment,’ he added.

Now we await the research that explains why repatriated expats are undervalued. Any guesses?

Speaking of creativity …

In 1954, expat Alice B. Toklas published a cookbook that was to become legendary in the 1960’s for the hashish brownie recipe it included, which was the inspiration of the 1968 Peter Sellers film I Love You Alice B. Toklas. Anthropologist Layla Eplett has written an interesting account of the origins of the recipe, and its unwitting inclusion into the book that rocked the hippie scene and was a favorite of William Burroughs and other expatriates of the mind.

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