To make a small pause from scientific posts, I decided to talk about my comeback to Germany. I first went to Germany a couple of years ago as a doctoral candidate. I obtained my Ph.D. there and made very good friends. After a while, I contacted Dr. Papantonis, who accepted me as a postdoctoral researcher in his lab. Of course, I am very happy to return to Germany. I do not know if it is my "German ancestry" or Germany itself, but I simply love this country. Why? In this small post I will make my personal list of why Germany is the best place to be (and to do research). However, as a challenge, I will try to go away from the obvious points: "punctuality", "organization", "friendliness", "efficiency", etc.
Disclaimer 1: This is my personal impressions, in the cities I have been such as Aachen, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Dortmund and Berlin.
Disclaimer 2: I do also love my home country Brazil. I do not have what it is called "stray-dog-syndrome" - which affects, I would say, the majority of Brazilians. Which consists on saying that Brazil is the worst country and that every other country does X better or talking constantly about how country X, Y and Z are so much better; while not doing anything (or even acting in an unethical way) for his own country.
Here we go:
1. The people: The German people are simply very friendly (ok, I did not manage :-) ) and polite. It's a perfectly balance between not being "invasive" and not "ignoring" you. For example: every time I got lost in Aachen (I get lost a lot...), when asking someone in the street for directions (even in English!), everyone (and I mean 100% of the time), the person would help. I have been to countries (I will use this sentence a lot, do not make assumptions... I have been to many places) where, when you ask someone in the street for directions, they simply put their hand next to your face (as if: "do not talk to me") and ignore you completely. I never ever heard of that sort of behavior in Germany.
In Germany you can be a Surgeon without never studying for that! [Unfortunately, as this is a general blog I do have to explain jokes, sorry for that. No, in Germany you have to study a lot to be a surgeon, this was only a printing mistake in my first "Arbeitskarte"]
2. The supermarket checkout: Yes, you read it right. In the beginning the supermarket checkout experience was a little bit frightening, but with time you start loving it so much. I will explain: In certain countries, it seems like people like to wait in the line for the checkout. The checkout is absurdly slow (not to mention the abuse of plastic/paper bags). On the other hand, in Germany, the checkout is a speed test. Everything is fast without being "aggressive" (it is just efficient [sorry, did it again]). Having a scientist's spirit (and being a little bit crazy, I admit) I have compared Germany line waiting time in Germany and three other other countries (A, B and C) in similar-sized supermarkets, normalized by the neighborhood's population. Sample size = 31. A = ~42 (SD=3.1) min; B = ~37 min (SD=4.4); C = ~21 min (SD=2.0); Germany ~9 min (SD=1.2) [data not published :-)].
In Germany you are working and suddenly, balloons in your window. (Photos taken in Aachen).
3. The food: Not absurdly sharp yet not flavorless. I believe this area around Germany (including the frontier countries) is the only place in the world where sweet food tastes like it is supposed to (right amount of sugar; not Tons). Ok, there are an absurd amount of cooking shows on TV. But even with that, I was not able to learn to cook so...
Beautiful German landscapes. Or one of my favorite words: "Sehenswürdigkeiten". (Photo taken in Aachen).
4. The seasons: Brazil - you take a (cold) shower and just after stepping out of the bathroom you are sweating. In the city I was born seasons are: hot / hot / hot / rain. Boston in winter - cold to death, meters of snow; Boston in summer - hot as hell. Germany - mild seasons. Only two weeks of "what they call hot because they do not know my hometown" and four weeks of "maybe snows, maybe not".
In Germany, trees grow on the top of walls. How? Germanying. Come on Germans even straighten up rivers. (Photo taken in Karlsruhe; where my granduncle and grandaunt live).
5. Public transportation & bicycles: My personal favorite. You can do everything using public transportation. And the public transportation is simply the best. Ok, expensive, but the best. By the way, if you are a student it is basically free within the "State" you are.
Still a member... please, still a member. (Photo taken in Brussels).
6. Open to diversity: I promised myself I would not talk about politics on this blog. But, as of the moment of this writing, there seems to be a wave of delusional extremism in many parts of the globe. Racism, homophobia, ethnocentric discussions, etc. Although "you-know-whose" party got some seats in Germany; Germany (and surroundings) remain to be an island of rationality in the middle of the sea of craziness. If you are more informed than I about German politics (and you probably are), you might have a few criticisms to make. But let me start talking about Brazilian politics and you will have an idea about how German problems are "a little bit less problematic".
My mother, in our way to the Dreiländereck (Tripoint) - Germany / Belgium / Netherlands. (Photo taken in on of these countries, I'm not quite sure...).
7. Education quality: A country in which you have to study to practice any (ok, most...) profession is the country to be. In German you can study to be a salesperson, a bus driver, an engineer, etc. All works are regarded as necessary towards the well-being of the community. Once in Berlin I talked to a person which is a gardener, specialist in vegetables. She told be that there are several "specializations" within the study of gardening. How amazing is that? What about higher education? Germany is still a member of the European Union. That's all that is needed to be said.
In Germany, when you receive your Ph.D. your colleagues make a "hat" for you. Usually, on top of this "hat" contains many things that you like or that represent you in some way. (Photo taken in Aachen).
8. Work quality: In Germany salaries are really decent. Of course, as any other country "under the influence", you can be a rich person with 15 rooms in your mansion (when you need only one, in the case of people who goes through that path [James Joyce or Anton Chekhov books suggested here]). And do not even start me on vacation time. When I left Germany for the first time (after almost 4 years of work), I had 48 (business) days of vacations accumulated; which I politely wrote to the responsible personnel saying that I would voluntarily forfeit (sorry, I don't know the correct English word here).
All-star-team from RWTH Aachen University in a retreat in Brussels. (Photo taken in Brussels).
9. Politicians are not delusional: In Germany there is no "stray-dog-syndrome", but also there is no delusional nationalism. While in Germany, corruption scandals resume to politicians who "plagiarized" their Ph.D. thesis; in other countries, politicians are (really) stealing public money dedicated to the food of public schools.
Panoramic photo taken by someone who does not know how to take panoramic photos (me). Ok, it was a terrible idea to render this photo in a blog. But the original is nice, I promise. (Photo taken in a town near Karlsruhe, let me ask my Granduncle [with his wife in the picture]).
10. Scientific infrastructure: The best! As "the informatics guy" I basically "live" inside server/clusters running jobs in batches. I remember as if it was today when our small group visited a little city called Jülich, which contains one of the biggest computational clusters in the world. A huge "hangar" full of machines. And it's not only that. It's the ease of access without the need of "crazy rules". Practically every molecular biology with at least one bioinformatician has a dedicated queue. And your "jobs" execute smoothly. Please read the post right under this one, where there is a reference for a very successful history on bioinformatics. That was in the Netherlands; but I would say almost the same applies to Germany.
Conclusion: Germany is awesome, the end. :-)
Figure Sources: All Figures were taken by me or by lab members during the time of my Ph.D. studies in Germany.