London calling

Every six months or so, I pop over to England to catch up with my colleagues in our London office (NPG’s largest office). I love visiting this city, and it’s not just because I get to use words like ‘skint’ and eat fantastic Indian food every night…

But I was thinking about how difficult it must be for people who move to a new country to start their Ph.D.s/post-docs/jobs – in addition to adjusting to a new lab/co-workers (which can be difficult even if you’re working in a familiar city/country), you have to learn how things are done/how things work in your new environment. As trite as it sounds, so many things can be so different.

For example, I lived in London for two months when I started at Nature, and I’m embarrassed to say that I had to dig out the manual for my combo washer/dryer to figure out how to operate it. (I thought I was doing something wrong because my clothes never came out 100% dry – it turns out that the machine in my apartment didn’t use heat to dry the clothes, just an extended spin cycle…) Even going to the pub can be problematic: we had a German post-doc in our lab who frequently forgot to bring his passport when we went out for drinks. Despite the fact that he was in his mid-30s (and clearly looked old enough to drink in the U.S.), he had a difficult time convincing waiters/waitresses to serve him without ID…

For those of you who changed countries when starting your Ph.D./post-doc/job, I was wondering what little differences were the most frustrating for you? And for those of you who are living in a city/country you know well, how do you help your new co-workers adjust to their new environment? (For example, I’ve heard that some schools/labs distriubte packets that contain local information, FAQs, etc. – are these useful/helpful?)


Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)