Expat Adventures: A Visit to the Doctor

Like probably every expat, I love to read expat blogs. And while I very much enjoy reading about countries that I do not know yet, I am at the same time highly amused by all the posts of expats living in Germany. Some things that seem pretty normal to me, all of a sudden become very entertaining, even ridiculous. Very often, I also read about visits to the doctor. And indeed, I believe that other expats will agree, doctor visits can become rather adventurous in a foreign country.

Elaine Benes

Elaine Benes prepared me for my very first visit to an American doctor! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember my disbelief when I had to undress all the time in order to put on a very peculiar gown at American doctor’s offices – but then of course I remembered Seinfeld’s Elaine struggling with getting appointments after she refused to put on the gown. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find that scene online, but some of you may know it.) And after all, as you know as a German, I have no or few problems with getting undressed…

Here, we already went to see a doctor on several occasions. Since we belong to the lucky few with a decent insurance, we can go to a renowned hospital for whatever issue we might have. Of course, that makes it already so much easier than finding doctors all over town.

On my first consultation, I went to see a dermatologist. Already stoked by having successfully made an appointment, I confidently handed my insurance card over to the receptionist who eyed it suspiciously and shrugging her shoulders, handed it back to me. Upon entering the doctor’s office then, I realized that in Mexico, you don’t have to undress all the time. Even when it would make sense – like in this case: for I wanted the doctor to check my moles of which I have PLENTY, so yes, I was prepared to take off my clothes. But no, instead I was to lift my clothes here and there until I was completely tangled, then the friendly doctor assured me there was nothing to worry about , and it was not without doubts that I left the hospital and drove home.

About an hour later, my phone rang and I was told that I still had to pay my hospital bill. Good to know, that they don’t send you an invoice! So I went back and presented myself to the cashier. Again, I tried to woo her with my fancy insurance card, but she merely shook her head. At this point, it became clear to me that going to a hospital is not so much different than going to the supermarket: you take, you pay.

English: Cartoon of 1906. The physician has pl...

Yes, I get why SHE doesn’t have to undress – it would take her forever to get dressed again! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During various visits to different doctors, I learned that every now and then you do have to undress and put on that gown. However, discretion is key. So you lie down on the bed and get covered by a blanket. Depending on what the doctor has to examine, he gives you the tools and instructions what to do. Not a single time has a doctor really looked at me, let alone touched me! Even the gynaecologist didn’t come close but let me do all the work. It’s very bizarre! I just hope that in case someone needs surgery, they will drop their over-discretion. And I am still not sure how it works in the delivery room. Maybe they all wear blindfolds and just hold out their hands hoping to catch the baby? 

Oh, wait, on one occasion a doctor actually did get closer: I showed an allergic reaction to a horsefly bite and got an injection in my behind. A few weeks later, I found out that that same doctor was my student who then greeted me with the words, “Oh, hello, I know you!” When what he really meant was, “Oh, hello, I know your butt!” What are the odds, huh?


8 thoughts on “Expat Adventures: A Visit to the Doctor

  1. Oh how awkward!… “Oh, hello, I know your butt!” I’m still laughing at your gynocologist letting you “do all the work” phrase. So very interesting how medicine is practiced differently in various countries.

    • Very awkward, indeed! 🙂
      Ha, you already liked my doctor story at Le Panier, I remember. You are right, it is interesting to note all the differences. And given that a lot of students nowadays study abroad, it is almost weird that there are still so many differences.
      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  2. I’m always nervous about going to the doctor in a foreign country. Sometimes it’s just those little differences in the way things are done that can cause embarrassment and you have no way of knowing what the norm is.

    Shortly after my arrival in Australia, I had to go for a gynecological exam. In America, I’m used to being left totally in private to undress and change into the gown and sheet. But this Australian doctor just sent me to a corner of her office and instructed me to undress my bottom half. She didn’t leave the room or even turn her back. And I didn’t get a sheet. Tomorrow I have to go for a full 2 hour exam for my residency visa and I have no idea what to expect. I hope that if they want me to pee in a cup, they’ll leave the room while I do it because I can’t go if someone is watching!

    • Haha, seems like things in Australia are handled the same way as in Germany – I almost forgot about how humiliating it feels to run around half naked… Thanks for the reminder! I don’t know why they do it that way!
      And good luck with your exam! If they don’t want to leave the room, encourage them to do a group pee…! 😉
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I still remember the time when I thought I broke my wrist here in China and they yelled at me to push it flat against the tray when they were trying to take the X-ray. Bedside manner doesn’t really exist in China – I’d do for a little more politeness at my end. Self examinations sound pretty good.

    • Oh, dear! That sounds like a dreadful experience! I am so sorry! Is your wrist ok by now?
      My parents used to travel China a lot in the 80s (which should have been a completely different experience than today), and they also told me how rude people seemed to us.

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