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Author Topic: postdocs across the pond  (Read 38670 times)
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2005, 1:50:49 am »

Frankly,  I don't believe in the language barrier. At the PHD level, everyone speaks english. And for the life outside university: it's not all that difficult to master some basic words (' a beer please'...). In my field, many US institutions just are better, but many other certainly are not. I'm in politics, and learning about all kinds of political systems is necessary to be a good pol scientist. I frequently noticed that many americans consider 'comparative politics' as 'non-US politics', while most Europeans see that particular discipline as 'comparing systems'.
Linnaeus, what you are saying is something that would be considered strange: being a scientist, thus the 'intellectual elite', and never having used a passport...

One thing is for sure: we have many US students at our institution, and they are all very enthousiastic when going home. The same for almost everyone I know spending some time abroad: I never heard anyone who said he didn't learn anything.

And about work ethics (fem sci phd): you're correct for some countries. Some countries in Europe are lagging behind in terms of research and education (situation remains problematic in CEE countries, and for some disciplines also in southern eur.). Other are doing very well: Norway is e.g. world class in politics.

But 4 h lunches are no more than a stereotype. e.g. the Belgians like to have at least 1h lunch, but have a higher overall labour productivity  than has the US. Spending many h in your office does not necessarily mean yuo're working hard.
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2005, 10:32:34 am »

I'm not doing a post-doc, but am writing from Munich where I am doing two months of research.  

NOT everyone speaks English, and it can be a problem.  I am battling the Bayerische dialect with most everyone from the staff at the archive to buying tickets to ordering food.  For a while I thought that MY German was bad and that is why they couldn't understand, but it's the dialect.

The main archivist speaks a little English and heavily accented Austrian German.  Sometimes her co-workers don't understand her.  Her word for tomato is three syllables longer and bears no resemblence to the Hochdeutch word for tomato.  The media archivist speaks German and French and VERY little English.  It's hard, but we use simple words.  The manager speaks German, Italian and Spanish and some English.  Thank goodness for the college students working there!  They are great translators when I need help.  The executive director is fluent in English and German, but is very busy.

Then there is the matter of computer keyboards in other countries.  In Germany, the y and z are switched and there is a row of umlauted characters and most of the punctuation are in different places.  If you want the @ sign to send an email, you have to hit the 'Alt GR' key with the letter Q.  Also, your cell phone will probably not work.  These are small things, but they will slow you down.

It is also difficult to rent an apartment or get long-term housing without having a German bank account.  There is also a 90-day limit  for visitors every 6 months, and I will be at 76 days.  The man at passport control was firm that if I exceeded my 90 days that I had to register with the police.  This is something I've been trying to avoid, as it is a pain in the rear.  When I get a grant for a semester or a year, I will do this, but again what a pain.

The library system is another hurdle!  On this trip I will be here long enough to actually retrieve a book.  It can take 7-10 days to get a book sent to you in the reading room.  This is after you have taken a test and gotten registered to use the library.  I am going to conquer the Bavarian State Library on this trip no matter what.

On the other hand, I love it here!  I am working in two archives and both are very kind and supportive of me.  They are very happy that someone in the US is interested in their very German topics in their archives.  The classical music concert scene just can't be beat, and there are lots of interesting things to do.

Please forgive any odd typing or grammar...my fingers are not quite bi-lingual!
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2005, 4:13:15 pm »

any gsm tri-band will generally work .  i use t-mobile with a sony-ericson t610 in the states, and on the continent the same thing, no problems yet, but i've only been to 5 countries.
« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2005, 9:05:32 am »

I have conquered the Bavarian State Library today!!!  Well, except for their wireless internet which will require another visit to another office in another building.  IN PERSON!  Since I don't have a residency registration, I had to register through the Archive where I am researching.  And I can only use the books in the library.  It will take 2-5 days to retrieve them.  It's almost like working at the Library of Congress but MUCH slower.

Thanks for the info on cell-phones.  Unfortunately, we don't have T-Mobile where I live.  I may have to break down and just get it here.
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2005, 10:30:38 am »

Dear Schoolmarm,

After you've finished honing your skills with the Bavarians, I recommend a visit to the Staatsbibliothek Berlin; it is the world's ultimate challenge in the world of complex, bureaucratic libraries.

Seriously, it may help ease your frustration to consider the motivations of major German research  libraries in comparison to those of US research libraries.  Every library has to balance its obligations to access and preservation.  A local public library is usually weighted very heavily to access, since almost nothing in the collection is unique or difficult to replace.  A major research library in the U.S. will tend to emphasize access for most of its collection and preservation for those portions that are unique and valuable.  German research libraries tend to place much greater emphasis on preservation than their U.S. equivalents and access is clearly a secondary concern.  In other words, the librarians' first job is to make sure that all of the materials in the collection will be there in five hundred years and your convienience and access to materials is always a secondary concern.
Quite Curious
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2005, 3:13:28 pm »

brrr wrote:
> Norway is e.g. world class in politics.

Are there really postdocs in politics? Wow! What's next, postdoc in home ec?
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2005, 6:00:07 pm »

The rental market is much smaller in the UK.
« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2005, 9:05:43 am »

politics=government=political science=public administration=etc. etc. etc depending on what nation you are in and what you are actually doing.  even the u.s. has postdocs in politics, the nsf sponsors them too... Imagine the horror.
« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2005, 11:12:50 am »

As for well paid postdocs...my fellowship was from the National Science Foundation (Postdoctoral International Research Fellowship) and it paid very well. $55k in 2001-2002. You have to pay taxes out of that and it included travel money, living expenses and a small research budget ($3k). Definitely more than a postdoc in the U.S. will make with 0-1 year experience. I lived in Florence, Italy which is expensive and the amount awarded is based on cost of living in the foreign location.
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