German B1 level not enough for blood donation?

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I just got refused from giving a blood donation because my German is apparently not good enough. I am quite shocked and hoping it has nothing to do with xenophobia.

Today one of those mobile vans by the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz was parked on the street close to where I live in Berlin, so I decided to step in and donate my blood. The guy - not sure if it was a nurse or a simple receptionist - asked me some details such as Ausweis, address and contact details. I got slightly annoyed when, after finding the bio page of my passport, he kept noseying in other pages containing various visas for other countries (mine is a UK passport, so he had no business to check anything else, or at least he could have asked). Anyway, I kept my cool, and the interview went on.

He then provided me one of those medical forms that are standard when giving blood or going in for surgery, e.g. asking about allergies, surgeries, travel history, diseases... While my German is level B1 which was good enough to have the conversation with the guy, I was not entirely confident I would have been able to understand all the questions on the form. So I asked him if I could have brought the form home where my German speaking wife could have helped me. He answered with a categorical "Nein".  So I asked him if I could have returned in about an hour together with my wife so that she could have acted as an interpreter and helped me to answer the questions. Again he answered with a "Nein" and saying that I had to answer the questions by myself and if I were not able to do so entirely by myself I would then not be able to donate blood. I don't want to go into any detail about the tone of his voice and arrogance that could be read from his face.

I will just say that I had no other choice but to leave and with a bitter mood.

 

It seems to me ridiculous that one is not allowed to fill in a medical form not even with an interpreter. But I get it - if those (really?) are the rules. Yet the guy totally lacked friendliness, which at least a hint should be required when working with people (moreover with people donating their blood out of their free will).
This experience left me with doubts over if this level of service had anything to do with xenophobia or if it's just terrible customer service. Apart from leaving me with this doubt, for sure I am left with the feeling that, despite reaching a modest level of B1, this is still not enough to take part in the life of the local community.

 

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I´m pretty sure the rules are as he says. E. g. it is relevant where you traveled because traveling to certain countries might make you inelegible for blood donation for some time. Also, you might not want to answer questions like whether you had unprotected sex with more than one partner the same way if your wife is looking over your shoulder as you would otherwise.

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with medical and legal stuff, no, B1 is often really not enough.  And you managed to hit both of those in one go :)

 

my guess is he was more concerned about getting 100% accurate answers from you, and that you 100% understood what you were signing.  

 

many foreigners find that "germans" lack friendliness.  

 

cue the usual discussion

 

eta:  if you want to get to the bottom of it, or find another place to donate blood, you could contact the red cross and ask them if it's normal you would be rejected on these grounds.

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32 minutes ago, Free Prince said:

This experience left me with doubts over if this level of service had anything to do with xenophobia or if it's just terrible customer service. 

 

Or simply sensitivities on your part, the complaints about the unfriendly Germans are numerous...

 

If you spent more than six months in the UK between 1980 and 1996, this is an exclusion criterion for blood donations - because of the risk of transmitting spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). And if you were born or raised in a malaria area, the same applies. 

 

 

 

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I donate blood and I have seen people turned away because their German was not that good.  I think lisa13 is absolutely right when she says it's about you understanding the questions correctly and giving truthful answers.  So you say you could have asked your wife to interpret for you but in order for you to be truthful, you need to answer the questions in private.  If one of the questions for example was about recently having sex for money or sex with someone whose history you don't know and you did, you might not want your wife to know about that.  Second, they do not know if your wife is a skilled interpretor.

 

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I can't give blood here - lived in the UK in all that time mentioned above.   Blame our dodgy government practices for that, not Germans.

 

It does not apply to all bodily tissue.  We can go on the bone marrow donor list and such.  You could try that instead.

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 The staff need to have accurate info on your health, past history,  sexual activities,travel  details, and your understanding.  Donating blood is a wonderful gift, but  there have been  contaminated samples in the past. Leon and Lisa have made some valid points.

 Please, do not take offence.   Donated blood will go to many patients, but has to be disease free. The questions are standard across the world.

Good reason to improve your German!

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Point taken. I wish they had provided me with a similar explanation, I would have probably been able to find my way through the form considering that I have already given blood before in the UK and that I've already filled in similar medical forms in Germany.

I might give contacting the red cross a try

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I can't give blood either - same reason - UK passport and anything older than 22 brings you questions about where you were during the BSE/CJD time. Our daughter who was born in August of 1996 in the UK had to fight quite hard to be allowed to give blood, although hers was such a faff to get out that they have discouraged her from returning.

 

Lots of these processes feel worse when the questions are being fired by someone who is not speaking your own language, when it is quite personal, and when their attitude feels rude. Unfortunately, the 'rude' thing is partly cultural, and partly subjective. I feel very bruised after completely normal conversations with some of my acquaintances here, because their brusqueness is breathtakingly unpleasant. Although other friends (German) notice the 'rudeness', it doesn't personally bother them, they either give back as good as they get, or they ignore it. 

 

Bone marrow sounds good. Maybe that will be a better bet. Or have another shot at the blood, and you may just get a more personable vampire next time...

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2 minutes ago, Free Prince said:

Point taken. I wish they had provided me with a similar explanation

 

In-simple-German-clearly-pronounced. Because that's B1. Hättest du ihn verstanden, wenn er dir gesagt hätte, dass du zur Rinderwahnrisikogruppe gehörst?  

 

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20 minutes ago, someonesdaughter said:

 

In-simple-German-clearly-pronounced. Because that's B1. Hättest du ihn verstanden, wenn er dir gesagt hätte, dass du zur Rinderwahnrisikogruppe gehörst?  

 

Born on an island in the southern hemisphere where there are 10 sheep per inhabitant, and moved to the UK in 2001.

And to answer your question, probably not.

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2 hours ago, Free Prince said:

Yet the guy totally lacked friendliness, which at least a hint should be required when working with people (moreover with people donating their blood out of their free will).
This experience left me with doubts over if this level of service had anything to do with xenophobia or if it's just terrible customer service.

Are you sure the guy gets paid for the work? Lots of volunteers doing these kind of things in Germany.

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I also can't donate blood here in Germany because I lived in London for 4 years in the late 90s. And I didn't eat meat for at least 2 of those years because I read a book on the meat industry - which means I still don't eat much meat. (It was that  'illuminating'.)

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I tend to think that they generally do not want to have British blood in circulation in Germany, even though so, so many of us have no chance of having been in contact with mad cows or anything else.

The only "solution" I have been able to come up with is to give blood whilst on holiday in England, and give the donation service my friend's address.

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9 hours ago, Free Prince said:

I am left with the feeling that, despite reaching a modest level of B1, this is still not enough to take part in the life of the local community.

 

B1 German is sufficient for only very basic communication, if you want to become a part of your local community you'd need to learn better German in order to interact with the locals. There are still many people here who grew up in the DDR and don't speak much English and there unwillingness to deal with you has to do more with your inability to communicate in their language rather than xenophobia. 

 

 

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I never formally learnt German, just been picking it up as I go along over the 9 years that I have been here. But I recently did a B1 test, and the B1 preparation course, as part of the Einbürgerung process. I was surprised at actually how low the B1 standard is. The level of language used in the test itself was, I thought, of a decent standard, but as the pass mark is only 60%, reading and listening are multiple choice, and writing and speaking parts can be largely memorised and regurgitated, I thought the standard required to pass is actually quite low. Some of the other people in my preparation class could barely hold a conversation and yet they passed.

 

Anyhow, that's just my opinion on the B1 thing. Like others have said, giving blood is not that trivial. You (and they) have to make sure things are legally covered. and as a Brit, you can't give blood here anyhow.

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yes the problem is it's hard to get past B1 without more daily German conversation, which would ideally happen in the community :/

 

this has been the biggest sticking point for me - it's very hard to become more fluent in conversation when you're not having a range of conversations with a range of people.  Certain topics I'm quite ok with, others I'm pretty much speechless.

 

OP I think you should focus on finding other ways to become part of your community.  Meaning, find a verein or some kind of activity group where perfect German is not a must, but where you'll be able to converse purely in German.  Yes it can be awkward and embarrassing at times but I've found I'm more uptight about my lack of perfection than most Germans are.

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5 minutes ago, theGman said:

I thought the standard required to pass is actually quite low. Some of the other people in my preparation class could barely hold a conversation and yet they passed.

 

That would be me :)  every time I've taken formal courses they want to stick me in B2 or borderline C1 as on paper, yeah, I can "do it" but only for testing purposes.

 

I really wish there were more courses available that really focused on building truly functional conversational German as opposed to adhering to the silly "Niveau" model

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Last time I gave blood (in the UK, many years ago),  I was asked whether I had sex with man from Brazil sometime in the XYZ period (by the way, I'm a man).  I found it bizarre that had I had sex with men or women from other countries, that would have been fine, but from Brazil was special.

 

Edit:

not to boast about my sexual activities, or lack of them, but I never had sex with people (men or women) from Brazil. And never with men (of any country). 

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