Tara goes to the German Emergency Room… maybe

I had an appointment with a new doctor this week. As an expat, it is always an adventure for me. I don’t know the right customs, I don’t speak enough German, and I usually want a medication that doesn’t exist in Germany. After quite a few visits to new doctors this year, though, I had a feeling that this time would be better.

I arrived to the building on the medical campus 20 minutes early, and when I entered the small lobby, there were no signs for my specialty. Actually, there were hardly any signs at all. I only saw a reception desk. As I approached the receptionist, I was filled with German-ability confidence until I realized that I didn’t know how to say the office’s name I needed in German. I had found it on an English website and hadn’t bothered to learn the word in German.

So, I decided to fake it and ask, “Wo ist die (English word for the specialty)?” hoping the words sounded enough alike in both languages.

Utterly confused and unable to speak English, she asked me to repeat myself several times. I tried to put the emphasis on a different syllable each time I said it, hoping that the word might eventually sound German. I guess it finally worked, because she told me to go downstairs and to the left.


Once down in the basement, though, I discovered that the door she had directed me to said, “Ambulanz.”

Ambulance? I thought. This must be the Emergency Room! It didn’t look like a specialist’s office at all. There was a small reception office with a long line and people in the hallway in wheelchairs and on beds. I figured the receptionist had misunderstood me.

I marched back upstairs to tell her that wasn’t the right place for me. I pulled the website of the office up on my phone, and after she made several phone calls on my behalf, the exasperated woman, along with 3 of her colleagues she had consulted with, told me that, yes, the Ambulanz is where I was supposed to be.

“Uh, okay, danke,” I said embarrassed and returned to the basement. I entered the Ambulanz office, was surprised it was the right place, and got checked in for my appointment.

When I got home and researched the word, I found out that while Ambulanz can mean “ambulance,” it also means “outpatient department.” Oh.

I guess I did think that it would be kind of strange for ambulances to be going down into the basement…

I think this sign that I pass frequently is for an actual “Emergency outpatient department.” I’d better find out, though.

It’s never dull going to the doctor in Germany:


2 responses to “Tara goes to the German Emergency Room… maybe

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