Nature or Nurture? What Makes You an Expat?

Is a lust for travel, adventure and new surroundings built into your DNA?


DNA, and the building blocks of life.
DNA, and the building blocks of life. PHOTO: NICOLAS HANSEN/ISTOCK

My six-year-old already knows how genetics works. We talk about it a lot—after all, my mom is a geneticist. Just recently, my daughter explained it to her slightly younger friend: “Your hair is black because you inherited it from your daddy. He has black hair and so you have dark hair as well.”

Of course, it’s a very simplified explanation of passing on genetic information from one generation to another. But that’s the thing with genetics: it’s complicated.

Do children of actors become actors because they inherited their parents’ talent or because they grew up in an environment that made a career in movies easier?

Do alcoholics become addicted because their genetics works against them or because they simply learned this behavior from their parents?

Did I move abroad because I’m wired for it or because circumstances encouraged me do it?

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