Expats sought for scientific trial

1st April 2005, Comments 0 comments

Editor's note: This was Expatica's April Fools joke.

Editor's note: This was Expatica's April Fools joke.

1 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — Ten volunteers are being sought for a scientific study of why some people like living and working abroad and others do not.

This is a question that has been troubling multinational companies for years. "There are employees who take to foreign assignments like ducks to water and there are others who can't stand to get their feet wet," the French scientist leading the research, Professor Max de Gor, said on Friday.

The research team, based in the Dutch city of Wageningen, contacted Expatica and other expat organisations this week to help recruit volunteers.

About 25 people have already shown an interest, but the researchers want a bigger pool of volunteers to choose from. Of the 10 volunteers chosen, half will be people who like being expats and half who want to go home.

"I think expats will find this stimulating and rewarding work that should really boost many people's quality of life," De Gor said.

"The risks are virtually non-existent," he added, noting the research has been licensed by the Dutch Algemene Inspectiedienst (AID).

Reluctant to go into detail about what the research entails, the professor said that volunteers have to be prepared to undergo a series of perception, cognitive, physical and medical tests.

After some prompting, De Gor conceded that hypnosis will also be used. "The subjects will be put in a tranquil state and asked to go sit in a room. There will be a big screen by a half-open door, showing people, builders perhaps, working hard at the other end of the building. We will be interested to see how many of the subjects wander out of the room to go and offer to help."

This is a slightly modified version of tests carried out to see why some livestock animals don't mind being travelled long distances, while a minority resist being moved.

"It sounds a big crazy, but humans in their genetic makeup are not very different from other animals, like sheep for instance," De Gor said.

Much of what humans do is learned behaviour, but De Gor said that deep down there might be a more fundamental reason.

"We are discovering more and more every day about our genetic make-up. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could uncover the expat gene, if you will, that compels some of us to move abroad."

The research team hope ultimately to isolate the "wandering gene" and exploit it commercially. "If we can extract the gene from happy expats and implant it in other less happy expats the rewards will be far-reaching," he said.

Several major companies have apparently expressed an interest in the research, but don't want to be publicly identified with it at this stage until it has yielded positive results.
One Human Resources manager at one firm based in The Hague estimated, when contacted by Expatica, that each failed assignment — in which the expat returns home prematurely — can cost anywhere between EUR 10,000 and EUR 1.3 million.

"Looking at those numbers we would be really interested in a treatment that would make our expats happier and more productive," she said.

Health Ministry spokesman Wim van Gekkekoe told Expatica that ministry officials were not aware of the researchers' plan to harvest genes. "We might have to look into this as the law is very strict. Behaviour experiments are fine, but genetics is another matter," he said.

"We don't want newcomers to our country being probed by big needles without good reason," he quipped.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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