Page Nav




Germans Are More Crazy about Titles than Nigerians Are

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi Nigerians are severely self-deprecatory about their obsession with titles, but Germans ...

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Nigerians are severely self-deprecatory about their obsession with titles, but Germans are infinitely more fixated on titles than Nigerians can ever be. I experienced this firsthand when I visited Germany a little over a year ago.

I was invited by a German university to deliver a paper on cross-border journalism. The conference organizers paid for almost all my expenses, which I found unusual since my university has a dedicated budget to fund all my research trips.

Anyway, because they paid for most of my expenses, including my train tickets (a sample of which is screenshot here), my air fare, hotel reservation, intra-city transportation, etc. they determined how my name appeared in receipts. In every document they sent to me, three titles were simultaneously prefixed to my name: "Herr Prof. Dr. Farooq Kperogi."

“Herr” is a title of esteem for German men. Its addition to “Prof. Dr.” struck me as hilariously self-important titular overkill. But it all made sense to me when I got to Germany. Because I used a Nigerian passport to travel, the immigration lady who attended to me was initially a little rude, even condescending. She wanted me to provide evidence that I would leave Germany after my one-week conference.

I handed her the printed copy of my train ticket that would take me back to the airport a week from that day. When she saw “Herr Prof. Dr.” on the receipt, her attitude toward me changed dramatically. She went from ice-cold contempt to exaggerated admiration and respect.

“You teach at a university?” she asked. I answered in the affirmative. “Where?” I told her. Suddenly she wanted to start small talk about the US, Germany, the conference I was going to attend, etc. I’m sorry, but I was already too pissed to be bothered. Just because of freaking titles?

Well, I later discovered that Germans are so enamored with titles that they even affix them to the doors of their homes! And stacking of multiple academic titles? That’s so German, too! A person can be addressed as “Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Somebody.” It means this person has three doctoral degrees in addition to being a professor.

People who have more than three doctorates in addition to being professors usually prefix the following titles to their names: “Prof. Dr. mult. Somebody” The “mult.” in the titles indicates “multiple” doctorates.

“Prof. M.D.” indicates that someone has a medical doctorate and is also a professor. If “Prof. Dr. Ir.” is prefixed to someone’s name, it means the person is a professor, has a doctorate, and has a master’s degree in engineering.

And you thought only Nigerians are obsessed with stacking multiple titles to one name! Abeg leave my Naija people alone jare!

Note that not addressing Germans by all their titles is often interpreted as unprovoked personal aggression. According to the Wall Street Journal of November 16, 2016, “Germany’s federal labor court ruled in 1984 that the incorrect or incomplete use of an academic title at work represents an attack on an employee’s personal rights.” Ha!

Related Articles:
Difference Between a Doctorate and a PhD
Who Should Be Called a "Dr."? A Physician or a PhD?


Share your thoughts and opinions here. I read and appreciate all comments posted here. But I implore you to be respectful and professional. Trolls will be removed and toxic comments will be deleted.