I went to the dentist this summer after putting it off for several months. I had made a lot of progress by going to other doctors, but eventually, it was time to have my teeth checked.
I entered the office and greeted the assistant in German. When she had follow-up questions, I told her I didn’t understand, and she got another assistant who spoke enough English for me to know that I needed to sit in the waiting room and fill out a form.
I am more confident since my first German appointments in February. I now know how to fill out all of the personal data on a form, like my name and address. However, this form then had 20 health questions that I could not read. I decided I would wait until I saw the dentist, then she could help me fill them out.
This is not what the assistant thought would be appropriate, though. Instead, she insisted on translating and asking me all of the questions in front of the other patients in the very full waiting room.
She started, “Do you have diabetes?”
“No,” I said, hardly believing she was going to ask me all of these questions in public.
“Are you pregnant?”
“No,” I said, thinking if I was secretly pregnant, all of these people would know!
“Do you have AIDS?”
“No,” and are you kidding me? I just sat there hoping that there were at least a few people in the room who didn’t speak English.
Then, we got to a section that she didn’t know the English for. So, in German, she loudly asked the room full of patients if they knew the translations for the next several questions. My hope for non-English speakers suddenly didn’t matter as I slouched down further in my seat.
One man on the other side of the room helped translate. “Oh,” he said to the first question, “I think that means, ‘Do you have pain here?'” as he held the right side of his belly.
“No,” I said mortified as the questions kept coming. If I had a positive answer for one, I’m not sure I would’ve said so because I didn’t want all of the patients to know my entire medical history.
The assistant was called away, so this stranger helped me fill out the rest of the form. At that point, I didn’t really care. I was so happy when my name was eventually called for me to see the dentist and I could leave the waiting room.
Now I know that in Germany, dentists aren’t feared like they are in the U.S. It’s only the German dentists’ waiting rooms that are scary to me.