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#1 2010-09-03 03:05:42

Jadelin
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From: On the move
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 934

Do people insist on their titles in your country?

I came about this news report today about Dr. titles in Germany.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … 04353.html
The comments are equally interesting to read. In Taiwan, where I still live at the moment, titles are handed out like candy, it sometimes feels to me. Students call me even 'professor' at times (I am still at Assistant Prof. level), which feels weird all the time. But most of the time, everybody addresses me by my first name. Which I like best. My American colleague on the other hand, insists on being called Dr. so-and-so by her students, which strikes me as very odd.

In Germany people are very serious when it comes to titles. My father insisted that I have all my IDs or official identifications changed to include the Dr. initial. "I paid for the whole damn thing, so at least I want to show off with it" is his usual explanation for this. But every time someone addresses me Dr. ... I cringe, happened last year once, when my name was announced in a crammed doctor's waiting room.

Personally I find German etiquette annoying. Our insistence on Sie (you) and Du (you), and how we address everyone by their last name. Gah. I am curious how things are handled in your country. Are titles big status symbols? Can you insult someone by missing it?

 

#2 2010-09-03 03:51:10

Aan`allein
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From: The Netherlands - occasionally
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 5858
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

In the Netherlands it feels a bit like a generational thing. My parents' generation uses their titles pretty extensively still - at least in written communication, not so much in speech - but I can't recall ever having used mine, nor do any of my colleagues or friends. Even on my CV I only list my title way down on the bottom of the fifth page (I'm in IT, where CVs have broken out from the 1-2 page limitation on CVs) under education.


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#3 2010-09-03 05:12:11

Jadelin
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From: On the move
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 934

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

I wonder if we are not sometimes giving away some benefits we could get from shoving a title into other people's faces (well, not with friends or people you like of course). Although I would never introduce myself with a title to others, I have found the occasional change of attitude in people (at banks or other institutions, bureaus etc. where I had to apply for something or such) when they found out about it. Suddenly I was offered a seat, a coffee, better conditions for a contract and so on. Personally I think that I do not LOOK like an academic, so in Germany it makes a difference between night and day if people KNOW. Then, on the other hand, it can become quite a conversation killer. At my workplace, however, I find it very relaxing that nobody talks to each other with their last name or title. Then, when recently I had a job interview with New Zealand (via Skype, great job, pity, didn't get it) I was very anxious about how to address the five people sitting there in front of the camera. First names, last names, titles? I even googled it to find out how they do it.

In American movies people talk about themselves as Dr. ... all the time. Wonder if that really is common over there (I am trying to apply for a job there, too).

In Taiwan it is customary to force your name card on people and the more you can show off what and who you are the better. You are not a PERSON without a name card. Having lived there for so long, I am afraid I have got used to this custom by now. I have become a Jedi master of bragging in Asia (thankfully I can still turn off this mode when I get home), "oh, I have done this, well, I know those people, gosh, I shake hands with the president..." Gah.

However, Aan, it is interesting that you would even leave out your title on your CV. For me that has been the only place so far, where I have been comfortable putting it on the front page. After all, when I want a new job, I need every advantage. Nobody needs to know that I got my crappy title by watching hundreds of Hong Kong movies.... ha.

 

#4 2010-09-03 06:27:10

lian
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From: Where Dormice Are Cherished
Registered: 2001-06-08
Posts: 3022
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Wow, that is a purposefully incendiary article right there. Just look ast those wacky, stuffy Germans! They even managed to throw in some gratuitous "NAZI!" Go WaPo.

Anyway. I ... don't use titles in addressing, ever. Like, even if I write my Prof. Dr., I just go by "Herr/Frau xyz". (One day this will get me in trouble~). I don't have any title of my own, so I'm not tempted to use it :P

And I freakin' love the "du" - "Sie" distinction. Wouldn't have it any other way, even if it makes me want to tear my hairs out to translate formal distinctions sometimes :D

 

#5 2010-09-03 07:06:02

Jadelin
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From: On the move
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 934

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Yes. The article is silly. I don't even remember how found it. But Du and Sie is really strange sometimes, especially in German TV or movie dubbing when I think some people or couples should already have advanced to ..well ..a more intimate stage.

 

#6 2010-09-03 07:29:40

lian
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From: Where Dormice Are Cherished
Registered: 2001-06-08
Posts: 3022
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

He he, my (ex) flatmate wrote her thesis on "Sie" and "du" in film dubbing exactly because this discrepancy bugged her!

 

#7 2010-09-03 20:49:12

Firsfron of Ronchester
Mantis
From: Ronchester, in Erkronland
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Posts: 12322
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Is that article correct that someone who has two doctorates in Germany could actually be called Dr. Dr.? That does seem extreme.

In the U.S., in academia, it's still extremely common for someone with a doctorate to be introduced as (ex.) "Dr. Kristi Smith". However, in my region, it is almost an unspoken rule that, once introduced, she will then say, "Please call me Kristi." I have a dozen or more co-workers who have Ph.Ds, and they all are very informal about the whole thing. No one goes by "Dr. Smith" or "Professor Smith".

However, things are very different on the East Coast of the U.S., in my experience. People are generally more uptight and formal, and unspoken rules about students addressing faculty are much more rigid. Actually, everything about the East Coast seems more rigid.


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#8 2010-09-04 03:49:31

Yzabran
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From: Den Haag, Holland
Registered: 2008-03-08
Posts: 21
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Jadelin wrote:

Personally I find German etiquette annoying.

And I love every single bit of it. It makes always a clear distinction between those who are respected and those who are considered friends (and family). You can be polite without being friendly.

Our insistence on Sie (you) and Du (you), and how we address everyone by their last name.

This is the same in Dutch (Sie=U, Du=Jij) and in French (Sie=Vous, Du=Tu) (plus a lot of other languages), and it keeps people who you are not close with at a certain distance. Might be something magic: know ones (real) name and you can command him. Come to think of it, I think Tad mentioned it somewhere in Shadowplay.
I do think Europe is losing a lot of culture and a social structure now it's americanized. People poke in private lives where they should keep a professional distance. I don't feel comfortable calling my boss by his first name, which should be reserved for friends, and at the same time knowing he's going to fire my real friends-among-co-workers. Friends don't fire friends... Maybe there's still culture sticking to it, because people act different when they use first names and Du/Tu/Jij, as if they are friends and have a right to know private things about you.

Are titles big status symbols?

No, the academic titles aren't symbols in The Netherlands (and Germany, and probably other countries), they are a legal reward for what you have accomplished, the reward for mastering something that only a few have mastered. At least the Mr., Ds. Drs, Ir, Dr. titles are protected by law. I do think the same goes for military ranks and their titles, but I'm not sure. So are the titles of nobility and royalty*, but these are no rewards.
The institutes at which you can be educated for the reward are inspected by the state in order to keep up the quality. Institutions can't give titles to people without the state approving of it.

I do think the article is written without the understanding that Dr. in Germany actually means something, as a "seal of approval". Since the German states (or any other European state) have no control over the institutes elsewhere in the world, they can't guarantee that the PhD has had the same thorough education as the native Dr. And in Europe, a lot of American universities are considered to have no quality whatsoever, and making a distinction between American PhDs from "good" and "bad" (and of course the "not good, but not too bad") universities is undoable.

Can you insult someone by missing it?

You can insult someone by telling the academic title is worthless, as if someone who has had a full, serious and exhausting education knows nothing more about his specialism than anyone else.
Because titles aren't status symbols, they are hardly used in the Netherlands. Only in professional circumstances (applying for a job), and when you want to show "look, I know more about this topic than the common person" (at least, that's how I do it). If I worked at the university, I probably would use it more often, because it somehow defines where you are, like in business you are "consultant", "account manager", "CEO", CFO", "Sys Op" and so on.

*) Titles of nobility and royalty are not used commonly. When "Prince Bernhard of Orange-Nassau, van Vollenhove" came to our office in the role of businessman, he was announced "Bernhard van Oranje" (and wasn't recognized by most). As a matter of fact, his father didn't have a royal title and was commonly known under his academic title.
There's not much glamour or status in being a nobleman and living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, driving a rusty 15-year-old Kia. On the other hand, there is a Dutch society for noblemen who want to bring back the pride and the recognition that the noble title is actually a part of the inherited surname.

 

#9 2010-09-04 10:54:52

Jadelin
Pilgrim
From: On the move
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 934

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Thank you Yzabran. That was very informative. I have to admit, I had my share of bad experience with etiquette in Germany in the past, mostly from the time I was jobbing during semester holidays in a number of companies, and therefore am a bit fed up with it. You wouldn't believe the stiffness and bickering that happens in offices, when you miss to shake hands with someone in the morning, forget to greet them (in these boring jobs the days often blended into each other, and I sometimes forgot if I had already greeted someone in the hallway on that very day, or maybe it was the day before). At least the offensive Fräulein (Miss) has already been omitted from our vocabulary (although, it might still exist in some offices, I don't know, offices are like a total different cultures, that's why there are so many - funny - TV shows about them).

Personally, in Germany I cannot remember anybody, except for medical doctors, being introduced to me as Dr. in the past. Ever. In Taiwan that happens all the time. What I hear more often is Dipl. Ing. (diploma engineers), and then we do accept this as a sign of quality, a person you would not want to build a house without. Only my parents keep mentioning my 'famous' professor cousin to me with slight hints that I should probably marry him some day (although we have never met, haha).

 

#10 2010-09-04 12:18:49

Yzabran
Pilgrim
From: Den Haag, Holland
Registered: 2008-03-08
Posts: 21
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Jadelin wrote:

You wouldn't believe the stiffness and bickering that happens in offices, when you miss to shake hands with someone in the morning, forget to greet them

I do think that's a matter of culture. I would be offended if someone doesn't say "goodmorning" in the morning at office. It is as if you aren't there, neglected.

At least the offensive Fräulein (Miss) has already been omitted from our vocabulary

Why on earth is that offensive?

Only my parents keep mentioning my 'famous' professor cousin to me with slight hints that I should probably marry him some day (although we have never met, haha).

Professor, on the other side, is no protected title. Anyone can call himself Professor.

 

#11 2010-09-07 01:20:59

Jadelin
Pilgrim
From: On the move
Registered: 2001-06-04
Posts: 934

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

Sorry, Yzabran, I will continue this interesting discussion in a few days. I just arrived back in Taiwan a few hours ago and already it is crazy here. A million things in the office, deadlines and stuff. Motorcycle broke while I drove to the phone company to turn my internet back on (which worked at least, as you can see). But have not had a minute of rest, let alone something to eat yet.

I'll be back.

 

#12 2010-09-07 03:46:25

lian
Pilgrim
From: Where Dormice Are Cherished
Registered: 2001-06-08
Posts: 3022
Website

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

<em>Why on earth is that offensive?</em>

Personally, I would find it freakishly offensive if people defined me by my being married or not. SO oldfashioned.

 

#13 2010-09-07 16:06:11

Shadow Adams
Pilgrim
From: Pennsylvania, USA
Registered: 2009-12-03
Posts: 54

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

When I read the Washington Post article - all I could think at the end was "Wow." Good thing I didn't have a title when I was an exchange student in Germany about 10 years ago. After going through 8 years of schooling, and currently possessing a medical title, here are some of this American's thoughts on titles:

From the student perspective way back in a liberal arts undergraduate college - whether I used a professor's title really depended on the professor. I studied biology primarily, and I think the "science types" tended to be more formal about how they were addressed. There was only one professor I ever addressed by first name, and, interestingly enough, that was my German professor. He was a great guy to talk to, and I picked him as one of my faculty advisors.

Then I studied abroad in my junior year - we were warned about title usage. If  I ever messed up "du" and "Sie" with a professor, I apologized immediately. I observed in Germany that there was this huge gap in status between profs and students.  In the U.S., especially in a small, liberal arts college, that gap eroded somewhat. As one of my politics profs said, "We're [in America] all lovey-dovey in the classroom."

On the university level, those faculty members were giants to the students. I had professors from Scotland, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa among others. They were some of the best of their fields. They lecture at conferences around the country.  Of course I would use their titles appropriately, and I can't imagine them going to one of those professional conferences and legally NOT be able to state all the little letters after their names.

I understand that different educational institutions would have different standards, and a lot of times, equivalency tests would have to be taken in order to practice in a different country. One of my colleagues came from Egypt, and he told me how many different tests he had to pass  [not just the medicine, but also English proficiency] and how much time it took before he could practice here.  But once you become a PhD, MD, etc, those skills are yours and that's what you ARE, regardless of what institution gave you that title.

Now that I'm practicing, I only use titles with my colleagues. I view that as a sign of respect. Occasionally, in an informal situation, one of my bosses would use my first name. That actually does unsettle me a little. I haven't practiced as long as they have, but I passed my exams like they did, and I guess it's just because I tend to be so formal. I do like when clients call me "Doc," though :)
On the flip side of that coin, one of my colleagues always calls the clients by their first names, and I never do.

My apologies if this got too long and rambling. The discussion here got me thinking, though!


Lead me not into temptation, especially bookstores.

 

#14 2010-09-08 16:27:45

Yzabran
Pilgrim
From: Den Haag, Holland
Registered: 2008-03-08
Posts: 21
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

lian wrote:

Personally, I would find it freakishly offensive if people defined me by my being married or not. SO oldfashioned.

But now -with Frau- you are always called as if you are married, tied to the husband, and old.
And in the old days, it made clear that if you were Frau Müller, Müller was the name of your husband, and your maidenname had been something else. Fräulein Schmidt has been called Schmidt since the day she was born, being it the name of her father and married mother.
If you go back to the roots of namegiving in the German area, and the importance of names, it probably makes more sense why fräulein and frau indicate to whom a woman belongs to and shall obey. Both Frau and Fräulein are similarly oldfashioned (and that's why I don't understand why you find the one more offensive than the other).

 

#15 2010-09-08 16:57:06

Magpie
Mantis
From: the town of thistly flowerbeds
Registered: 2006-03-27
Posts: 23332
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

I'd rather be called "Fräulein" than "you, girl" - happens all the time at work. (I'm twenty-three, dammit, can you stupid customers stop treating me as a sixteen-year-old already?!)
Du/Sie is similarly infuriating. I found it pretty hilarious when people started addressing me as "Sie" when I was seventeen or so, but now I wish they'd finally all use it. Do I really look so young?

As for titles... I hear we Austrians are famous for making a fuss over titles, but I can't say I've really noticed it. Might have to do with the fact that I chose to drop out of university and join the hard-working, sore-footed and dirty-fingered class. I do remember, though, being warned when we wrote the papers we needed for our final exams at grammar school, to make sure to put all our teacher's titles on it, "OSTR. Prof. Mag." or "Prof. Dr. MMag." (huh. I actually visited my old school's website for this, and noticed that many of my old teachers seem to have retired already. And the rest look dumb in their pictures.)
And at my ex-job, when the boss brought us a plant to nurse back to health, god forbid we only put her name on the tag, without being preceded by "Dipl.Ing."!

But on the whole, not much experience with titles, and I'll be happy to keep it that way. I quite like my lowly, dirty-fingered existence. If they'd just call me "Sie"...


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#16 2010-09-08 21:25:41

Jaime
Pilgrim
From: Wilmington, NC
Registered: 2001-06-01
Posts: 11528

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

It was made pretty clear to me both times that I went to Germany that Fraulein was now considered old-fashioned and condescending - kind of like calling any woman who appears to be beyond her teenage years "Miss" in the US.  But we also have a marriage-neutral pronoun, Ms., which is perfectly acceptable to most people if you aren't sure if the woman is a. married, or b. married and prefers not to use the Mrs. title, which often happens when women choose to retain their own surname.

I did notice the German and Dutch habit of being considerably more formal about their titles, and was crisply corrected on a couple of occasions when in a professional institution, like the hospital.  (the average person on the street seems to be a lot more relaxed about it, or at least tolerant of it coming from an American tourist struggling with German or Dutch syntax!)


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#17 2010-12-03 10:01:52

Nefermiw
Pilgrim
From: Lund, Sweden
Registered: 2010-11-28
Posts: 140

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

I know this thread is not the most resent one. but I think it's a good topic. I'm Danish and have lived and worked both in Germany and Holland, and I have learned that it takes some time to get acustomed to different cultures.

Danish people also have a formal and informal way of saying you: du (=du/jij/tu) and De (=Sie/u/vous), but the formal version is hardly ever used anymore. I think that it might be used adressing very old ladies (at least over 80 years old). Danish people are very direct and the Danish language haven't even got a word for 'please'. If a Dane should prase something polite it will be done by rephrasing it to a question of probability, like: could you...? or would you....?

When I started working in Germany I had to tell my employer and colleagues that I came from a very informal culture and that I would like to be 'du' from day one. You can get some really weird working atmospheres when you colleagues are on different terms with each other. I had 3 colleagues that all sat in the same office, 2 men and one woman. The men said du to eachother but the men were on Sie with the woman. Our boss was coincidentially Swedish and insisted that I should address him du since we spoke Swedish/Danish amongst eachother, but all the others at the office had to address him Sie.
I never got used to people calling me Frau Hinnum or even worse Frau Johansen. I'm married but kept my last name which is Hinnum. And for some reason I also find the Fräulein not so nice. Maybe it's because it has a WWII ring to it, or is that just me? It could also be because of the -lein at the end. I'm sure Dutch women would mind being addressed Vrouwtje.

In Holland I liked that I had the choice between being formal and informal. I could use the informal when shopping and didn't need to feel like the shop assistant is my best friend, but I could use the informal with my colleagues who I saw almost more hours of the day than my husband.

After having lived in Germany I have come find the Danish too direct and too informal. Weird that I never noticed this when I lived there. I now live in Sweden at it seems like it's a bit like in Holland, but I haven't been here long enough to say for certain.

On the whole Dr. title thing. The article is correct in that titles are taken seriously in Germany. You see people calling themselves Herr Dr. Dr. Whatshisname. My husband worked at a Max Planck Institute in Germany and put Dr. in front of his name after having finished his PhD. The funny thing is that he can't do that in Denmark, because Dr. means something more than a PhD in Denmark and is therefore not the same.

Cultural differences sure are fascinating. I wonder how many "don'ts' that I am going to commit here in Sweden before I figure it all out.

 

#18 2010-12-03 19:22:50

Ad1tu
Pilgrim
From: Buffalo
Registered: 2004-02-22
Posts: 2729

Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

I have to say that even in the limited experience I've had (being at 1 liberal arts college, 1 major university, and some vague memories of high school..) there have been a broad range of feelings about how teachers / professors feel they should be addressed.

At my undergrad, a tiny liberal arts college, there was quite a variation on how professors felt. Outside of the music, business, and HPE (health & physical education) departments, very few professors were NOT doctors. But that aside, some profs on the first day of class openly said "Please call me by my first name, xxx" and yet others said "Please call me Dr. yyy." I even had one who blatantly said "I don't like my students calling me by my first name." I don't know as I ever noticed a pattern as far as which fields preferred their titles more.
My rule of thumb, and I have no idea where I came up with this idea, has so far been: If they are a Dr., address them as such. That's a lot of work. If I'm not sure, then they are 'Professor'. Unless having been told otherwise, of course. For me, it's a respect thing. I'm still young and going through the learning process. I don't feel I've earned the right to just call some profs by their first name unless they say it's ok.

As a grad student at a major university, things are looking a bit different. I'm not a TA (apparently I'm not smart enough..long story...) so I can't comment on that. But in my remedial classes (again, not smart enough) there is definitely a feeling that the profs are wayyyyy up high and students are only little ants or something. It's not that they aren't willing to talk to students and answer questions, but they have these restricted office hours (cos they're so busy, ya I know) and just have a general feeling of being less approachable.
Now my advisor, he's been quite interesting to observe. When a colleague of his gets brought up, he's very informal. "Oh yes blah blah Sasha blah blah." But when he tells me to go talk to someone, it's "Oh go see Dr. Khaetskii". (He's also very friendly, open, and totally willing to tell me his life story if it helps get a point across or to help me understand.)

Just an American point of view.. :)


If you should do what makes you happy, and no one can tell you what makes you happy, then that means no one can tell you what to do!

 

#19 2010-12-03 21:27:57

Genisis X
Pilgrim
From: Lake Canberra
Registered: 2005-05-08
Posts: 13775
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Re: Do people insist on their titles in your country?

We only use titles and such in formal situations here in australia.

School students refer to teachers by Mr Suchandsuch or Mrs/Ms Whodavethunkit, not sure about university, never been to one, but the instructors at TAFE (trade school) were on a first name basis.

Police officers introduce themselves with rank when on duty.

People who insist on being called doctor or professor or whatnot are generally viewed as being conceited and therefore not worth the time of day.

I call pretty much everyone 'mate'. It's a convenient social norm especially when you've forgotten someones name ;)

-X


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