Ian Salter is a British researcher at the Faroe Marine Research Institute. He holds a PhD in Chemical Oceanography from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK. He has worked as a researcher in France, United States, and Germany. Ian has lived in the Faroe Islands for 3 years. He is married and has two children.
Why did you decide to move to the Faroe Islands?
My wife is Faroese so there were personal considerations. But professionally it was also an interesting opportunity to move here. The Faroe Islands are surrounded by water, and the country has strong cultural and economic links to the ocean. Marine science in the Faroe Islands seems to hold more meaning and people are very interested in understanding the ocean. Capture and farmed fish are crucial to the Faroese economy and so there is a great motivation to understand the local marine ecosystem. From a personal perspective, the opportunity to frame my research in an end-end ecosystem context represents a valuable and unique opportunity that I have not encountered in other countries.
What is it like to work as a researcher in the Faroe Islands?
A lot of things are much simpler here, particularly in terms of administration and bureaucracy. Although the individual research institutes are small by comparison to other countries, the level of connectivity and integration between them is very high – it is almost like the whole country is one super-institute. It can be considered a drawback that there are less collegues in your particular field, and it is important to maintain connections with your international network. Because there are relatively few people working in any given discipline, there is room to establish areas of interest and specialisation. Collaboration is very easy.
Do you have the same career perspectives here as elsewhere?
There is a lot of fluidity and moving of expertise between research institutes, which provides different opportunities. Career paths depend a bit on whether you are working at the university or research institutes. There are probably less senior positions here compared to other countries, and being Faroese is perhaps an advantage, although there are numerous senior positions occupied by non-Faroese academics. From a personal perspective, the things I want to achieve here are rooted in my scientific field and not focused on career advancement.
Is it difficult to be integrated in the society as a foreigner?
It is always challenging to move to a new country. The Faroe Islands is a small community with strong social connections. However, if you are prepared to put yourself in new situations, people are very welcoming and open. My wife is Faroese which gives me an advantage but it has been important to me to make sure that my integration is not dependent on her. I have worked hard to develop my own social network. I have very good relations with colleagues and friends outside of work, whom I have met through different activities and clubs. There is also a large community of foreigners in the Faroe Islands from all over the world. There are lots of events and initiatives that help foreigners connect with each other.
Has the language been a problem?
Everyone speaks English and you can get around fine without learning Faroese. But if you want to integrate and benefit fully from being here, learning the language helps a lot. There are some basic courses in evening school and more intensive courses during the day if you have the time to attend. There is a need for more language support for foreigners, but it is something that is discussed often and there are national and local initiatives aimed at improving language tuition. You can make a lot of progress at home with radio, TV and books.
What has it been like for your family to get settled in the Faroe Islands?
Faroese society is very family friendly and it is easy for young kids to settle quickly. A lot of people have moved back to Tórshavn recently which means that there can be waiting lists for day care facilities and the most popular activities. People moving here with a family should be aware of this and make inquiries before arriving.