Friday, November 18, 2016

Herr Doktor?

Via the Wall Street Journal, it's clear the Germans are very particular about titles (article by Tom Fairless): 
German law in the past prohibited foreign Ph.D.s from using the title “Dr.” 
American Ian T. Baldwin, a Cornell-educated professor of ecology in eastern Germany, received a summons from his local police chief in early 2008. 
“He wanted to know how I planned to plead to the charge of Titelmissbrauch,” or misuse of titles, recalled Prof. Baldwin, who directs the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. “I couldn’t even pronounce it.” 
Several other American academics were caught up in the investigation, triggered by an anonymous whistleblower. 
Public outcry prompted a change to the law, but after his close shave, Prof. Baldwin still doesn’t use his title in Germany.
If I were Professor Baldwin, I probably would have guffawed aloud - but then again, I've never faced a police chief in a foreign country... 

10 comments:

  1. As a US citizen working in Germany, I had to have my Phd degree "certified" before my secretary would put "Dr." on my business card.

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  2. "I've never faced a police chief in a foreign country...". It would have been more than foreign. It would have been a German police officer. No laughters...

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    1. As a german, living in the US for a couple of month, I can tell you, that german police officers are most of the time very nice people, and for sure not more unfriendly than american police officers .

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  3. Perhaps not quite the same, but here in Canada, the engineering societies are quite particular about who can use that term. Describing oneself an "engineer" in print without having a valid Professional Engineer's license leads to C&D letters, fines, etc.

    Even a Member of Parliament who described himself as an engineer, but has not practiced in a number of years and gave up his professional society membership, was forced to issue an apology and make a charitable donation.

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    1. I guess engineers have PE licenses and such. The line between who's a scientist and who's a technician varies quite a bit between companies.

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  4. “I couldn’t even pronounce it.” Great example for Americans working abroad, there. Flout foreign laws while in their countries, plead ignorance. Act like you're the victim.

    Maybe they'll eventually notice that he doesn't... belong there?

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  5. However, you can use the title Fuhrer with a high school diploma. :-)

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    1. It's "Führer", and it is forbidden to use it as a title;)

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  6. About 30 years ago, a friend from my grad school (in the US) went to work in Germany for Bayer; his parents grew up in Germany, and my friend had always wanted to live there.

    On his Bayer business cards, after the 'Ph.D.' there was a "USA" in parentheses, so that all would immediately see that his was not a German Ph.D. He was royally ticked off. At a certain point, he did not even want people over there to know that he was American; if people asked, he told them he was from his parents' home town of Manheim, since he spoke German with an accent from that region.

    It wasn't pretty, and I would venture to say that he was discriminated against. And ironically, Bayer supported the US research institute that he and I graduated from, and he was specifically recruited so Bayer would have someone on staff with his expertise.

    He left after 7 years and came back to the US.

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  7. They can change the law back, and you'll still go there looking for jobs. Hell, if I had my job there, I would be okay if my business card said "Indentured Servant Uncle Sam" on it. That's why the country is called Germoney. Thankfully, I had options to go to other countries, so my Germon skills are only used for reading whiny newspaper articles about how their precious EU and CDU/SPD dominated society are DOOOOOOMMMMed!!!

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