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You don’t have to say ‘sir’ to anyone

It was a Danish teacher in the UK that originally inspired economics professor Philipp Schröder to try Aarhus University.

Economics professor Philipp Schröder comes from Germany, but he took his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the UK. One of his teachers over there was Danish, so when Schröder expressed a wish to do research and write a PhD dissertation, the Dane referred to Aarhus University in glowing terms. And Schröder wasn’t hard to convince.
“We Germans know Denmark pretty well, and I’ve always been fond of the place,” he says.
The rest is history. Philipp Schröder arrived in Denmark in 1994 and finished his PhD; then lived and worked in Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen before returning to Germany briefly. In 2003 he returned to Aarhus University, and he has been here ever since.
There is a simple reason why Philipp Schröder has stayed in Aarhus:
“My wife is Danish!”
Coming to Denmark for the first time was not a culture shock for Philipp Schröder, and integration into Danish society was not difficult at all. But there were a few differences between the German and Danish university systems.
“At first it was a bit difficult to find out who was in charge of my department. Everyone seemed to behave like equals, and the hierarchies in Denmark are not as clear as they are in Germany and the UK. I remember wondering who I ought to say ‘sir’ to – until I found out you didn’t have to say ‘sir’ to anyone,” says Philipp Schröder.
At Danish universities there is a level playing field among all the researchers. And Philipp Schröder believes that this benefits young researchers from abroad in particular. But some senior researchers might feel that a certain proportion of their status is lost in the process.
“I wouldn’t say that I miss this. But it is rather nice when people in Germany sit up a bit straighter when I walk into the room to give a lecture. They don’t do that in Denmark!” he concludes.