Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I worked in a pan European call center responsible to provide support to a Japanese laptop maker. Those were the days. People working in call centers are usually not very normal. A lot of them will have some kind of addiction. Others would just be crazy. I had a colleague once telling me he did not come to work because a black bird told him not to leave his house. Ok.
The Italians were a large number in the call center – about 20 colleagues. As good italians, they were quite excited and noisy. I remember that some of them would refer to their clients over the phone as “dottore”. It seems that in Italy, the salutation “doctor” is quite commonly used to anyone that you wish to show some respect. This also happens in Brazil where a lot of people are referred as doctor without even ever being inside a university. If you hold some power and/or have some money, you will gain the title.
Most nations in the world will have a similar approach on who gainfully deserves and can use the title. Medical praticioners and academics with PhD are always considered doctors. In some countries, like France, the use of the term is extented to dentists, farmacists and veterinarians.
Very soon we are moving to Germany where the use of “doctor” is completely different. The Germans are very respectful of titles, diplomas and certifications. If your doctor´s degree was not completed in Europe, you cannot refer to yourself as a doctor before completing the validation of your study. Some time ago, some American researchers, with PhDs from top universities, were prosecuted in Germany for using the “Dr.” acronym in their business cards and websites. Nowadays, foreign PhDs in Germany can be referred as a doctor only if their university is party of the Carnegie List or if an equivalence was completed.
Still in Germany, if you hold two or three PhDs, you can possess the amazing title of “Dr. Dr. Dr.” Cool isn´t it?
There are some bizarre uses of the term around the world. In Hungary people change their names to legally contain the acronym in their documents. Again in Brazil, lawyers and judges found a way to legally be called doctors – it is not uncommon to hear about brawls originated from a mortal not referring to a lawyer as doctor.
I find despicable the use of the doctor term by people who do not deserve it. Back in Brazil, if someone referred to me this way, I would ask them not to do it. Doctors, in most cases, have worked hard for many years to achieve their results. My girlfriend just finished her PhD after five years of working 10 hours a days and uncountable weekends in her laboratory.
If I wore to use a title that I did not have, I would go for Baron or Duke – at least no one has to work to get these.