Rude receptionist at Doctor's office

70 posts in this topic

I had fever and pain so my Hausarzt recommended I see a specialist. I got an appointment for the Specialist and reached there on time. I started speaking with the receptionist/assistant making the best use of my basic German (I've started with B1.1 in my evening classes). They she handed out to me a form where you have to list your pre-existing conditions. I've had some experiences before where the doctor's office had this form in other languages or provide your some support filling the form if you're not a native, so I asked her is the form was available in English.

 

At this point the receptionist basically lost it. "We speak no English, no Persian here" (I'm Indian), "this is not the right practice for you go find another doctor and pointed towards the door", "the doctor speaks only in German","why did you come here alone?" she basically lost her temper and spoke in a very condescending tone. I told her I am in pain, I have no one in Germany and I will try my best in German. I took the form and used Google translate to fill it to the best of my ability. Sometime later the same assistant herself gave me some quick instructions in perfectly fine English. The doctor was very friendly and spoke great English (even though I had the complete thing already typed out in German for him on Google translate). At the end I thanked the doctor for his services and gave him the feedback that I felt I was treated unfairly by his staff. To which he said a brief "okay" and left.

 

I'm an intra-company transfer and plan to stay in DE for 4 years. I try to be respectful of the local culture, do my best to learn the language along with my job and would consider myself soft spoken.

 

I felt very belittled today, and for something which was a mere question and not a demand. I felt the person determined her reaction based on the way that I look. I really want that no one else should go through this, especially when they are sick. Is there any sort of action I can take?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I doubt you can do much about it.

As I understand, you were not left without medical attention, and being generally rude isn't a crime. Plus, I think receptionists at the medical practice offices in Germany are just rude to anyone who walks in without an appointment made a few months in advance.

 

Honestly, after two years in Germany, I think that it's just the way it is here. People often criticize the US for "fake smilies" and stuff, but I'm not sure this attitude is better. Also, I don't think the way you look plays a significant role here. I'm as white as it gets, still often meet Germans that are irrationally rude as a reaction to my not-so-perfect German. Which is ironic since everyone I interact with at work get out of their way to practice their English with me. 

 

But, what I'm trying to say, don't think about it. It's just the way things are around here. 

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I second that. Unfortunately it's probably just a case of "welcome to Germany". Not all service is bad but I have lost count of the number of times I have been shouted at. The customer is not king here.

 

Try your best to shrug it off.

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I agree too. It's not everybody but plenty of people are rude and you can shrug it off, call them out or be rude back. I think in a situation like that I would call her out on it. As in calmly asking her to explain to me why I am being asked to leave and whether these are her orders or the doctors, if she would be so kind as to give this to me in writing which she definitely wont.

 

I have also met receptionists who were rude. They are kind of like the doctors German shepherds. They may bark and nip at you but their opinion is not necessarily shared by the boss. I've had receptionists tell me what the doctor will or will not do and I've said fine, I have time so you can ask him and in all cases the doctor was a lot nicer than they thought. I even had one doctor put a note in the computer to help me argue with his staff when they are telling me on the phone what can and can't be done.

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I agree with most of that, except that it's not always that way.  I've only had to deal with a couple of jerk receptionists at a doctor's office and most are fairly helpful and even nice?

 

I especially agree that there are some people who just can't abide anyone who can't speak German well, if not perfectly, and they are colossal assholes.  Funny things happened a few times with some of my German colleagues who were not white...sometimes they would be treated so badly when we went out for drinks or whatever, but as soon as they spoke their native German the waiter or whoever was being an asshat TOTALLY changed their attitude and became nice as pie.  First time I didn't believe it, then it happened again, and again and even again.  

 

I can only assume there are some instances where it really is a racial thing, but the language thing seems to be a bigger factor than one might guess.  When I've had it directed at me, personally, it usually comes in the form of the person screwing up their face and pretending they don't understand a word I'm saying.  I have sometimes thought they really don't understand, but most of the time they do, they're just being asshats.

 

shrugging it off is a good strategy.  if they get extra rude, best response is to remain non-reactive, or to even ignore them completely and maybe go to another receptionist to see if they will assist, or just wait for the doc.  There have been times I left parts of intake forms blank as I had no idea what I was being asked, and no one cared.

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59 minutes ago, rtrtrt said:

Is there any sort of action I can take?

 

Move to Munich.

 

Bavaria is considered to be the Germaniest of Germany but when it comes to simple relationship between people, Bavarians are warm and helpful. This has never happened to me there in 7 years regardless how good (bad) my German was.

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Just now, yourkeau said:

Move to Munich.

 

Bavaria is considered to be the Germaniest of Germany but when it comes to simple relationship between people, Bavarians are warm and helpful. This has never happened to me there in 7 years regardless how good (bad) my German was.

Heard that as well. And apparently it's not just Munich but Bavaria in general.

 

Eastern parts of Germany, well, these are the complete opposite. Stuff like that happens all the time. Foreigners' office, for example, hates foreigners. Every time I had to go there I was shouted at for no apparent reason.  

You even get used to it and stop caring. Also, many don't seem to like Americans specifically around here. However, still, nobody can tell me why. 

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3 hours ago, JCrichton said:

Heard that as well. And apparently it's not just Munich but Bavaria in general.

 

Eastern parts of Germany, well, these are the complete opposite. Stuff like that happens all the time. Foreigners' office, for example, hates foreigners. Every time I had to go there I was shouted at for no apparent reason.  

You even get used to it and stop caring. Also, many don't seem to like Americans specifically around here. However, still, nobody can tell me why. 

 

My experience with the foreigner's office in Erfurt (so Eastern Germany) was opposite of yours. They were very nice to me. The foreigners' office in Berlin wasn't nice, but it was no big deal to me. I knew what I needed and went in with those documents and was willing to "fight" for what I needed. Being fluent in German helped, too. 

 

Living in Berlin, I noticed that employees in stores in the eastern sections of Berlin were generally nicer than employees in the west parts of Berlin. Maybe others have had different experiences, but that's what my experiences have been.

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@rtrtrt Use deepl.com and write a review. Post the review on jameda.de. It seems to be the only thing that gets to German doctors.

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If and when they are exremely rude I do not give them a pass. She spoke english to him, so she obviouly understands. I do agree at times it is a english fear thing but not always. My wife is Hispanic and somewhat timid and has had this issue several times...she is shy about standing up but the one time she had enough and stood up the issue resolved immediately. Her response on one of those ocassions was "Yes I know is should speak better german that is why I am studying everyday, but you also seem very stressed and unhappy in your job, have you considered looking for something more enjoyable". Interesting part was after a very startled look the mood changed immediately. Now when she goes the same woman  is a Chatty Cathy and wants to practice english and spanish and is overly friendly. I have dicussed this with my german collegues and they also have issues with Drs office so its not just a rcial thing..some brush it off others say they will not put up with it and give it right back. Completely looking the other way when it is over the top allows the bully crap to continue.

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There are pages of this on TT under different threads. It is not necessarily a race thing, a sex thing or even a language thing. It is simply the culture. Mean spirited and harsh. Kindness to strangers a foreign concept. They've never been on the receiving end of it so cannot give out what they never had. Sadly. But it is gradually changing for the better. You should have seen them before the Football World Cup a couple of decades ago... :D Rude is the default mode. Indifferent if you are lucky. And that was my experience in Bavaria. God help the rest of Germany! I find the Baden-Würtemburger a different species altogether. Civilised even. There is hope. Don't bother moving. Don't take it personally. They just do not know any better. Learn to wear a scowl and give back what you get. Be prepared to undergo a personality change when in Germanic mode.

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The challenge of giving it back was that I lacked the vocabulary in German and could not find her after the treatment when I knew she spoke English :/ . My response would have been like "I hope that you or your loved ones don't fall sick while traveling or working abroad. If they unfortunately do, I hope nobody treats them the way you treated me today".

 

Thank you for sharing your PoVs and experiences, helped me cope with this. I'll do my best to shrug this off and work harder on my German!

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I have had that same problem of not having enough German to argue.  That's not all bad as it means I have much less practice in that type of conversation so I can't say I really want to get good at it

 

one fun response I found is to ratchet up the "bad german" and act like I don't understand them (only useful when they are criticizing one's german skills): "es tut mir leid aber verstehe nicht" (with slightly exaggerated sad face) ...then they're kinda stuck.  And just keep at it:  "verstehe nicht.  verstehe nicht. verstehe nicht" - the one time I did that the person got so annoyed and flustered, it was simply beautiful.

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Well I can attest to the fact that Berlin is the worst for this after having traveled extensively over the last 2 years in Germany. Other areas people are much more helpful. We just signed a contract for our future retirement apartment in the Harz this weekend. The landlord actually came with his wife, and in-laws and then after we went trough everything invited myself and my wife for lunch at the local restaurant…we almost fell over and were not sure we understood him correctly. At night we walked around the village and everyone said hello as you passed…I think we were so surprised we were the rude ones and forgot to respond back. On Sunday morning the little grocery store was open for about 2 hours I think for the Sunday school kids to buy candy, the 2 teachers with them kept insisting I go to the front of the line to pay. So I can personally say there are pockets of unexpected friendliness, we are looking forward to our permanent move date there.

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OP, you have my sympathy for the receptionist's response. 

 

Anytime I have had to go to a new doctor's practice, I try to give myself a time buffer because I know I will be form filling and translating words on my handy. The last visit was for one of my kids - it was absolute bedlam with flustered receptionists so I know I probably would have got the same response that you did if I had asked for help.

 

Like others have said, don't take it personally and maybe give yourself more time next time.

 

PS hope you are feeling better now

 

 

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This has been an ongoing thing since I've been in Germany, 36 years now. 
I think a lot has changed over the years. Germans are not as rude as 
they were back in the 80s. Shopkeepers have found that a bit of helpful
kindness to customers sells more goods. I have changed too, now I speak
fluent German and am more self confident. If need be, I can dish it out 
back to them when they are rude to me - in no uncertain terms. 
I've probably also become more tolerant of behaviour and words that a 
newcomer from the UK or US would find rude. Somehow it's part of the 
culture in Germany to be "up front" and viciously honest. 
There have been countless discussions with friends and acquaintances 
from the UK on this topic over the years and I can only say: try 
not to take it personally - but also stand your ground and command 
respect!
 

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4 hours ago, optimista said:

Kindness to strangers a foreign concept.

 

this is just not true at all IME.  I have witnessed and personally been the beneficiary of countless acts of kindness from all kinds of people, usually in the most mundane ways but also at times where the situation was more urgent.  Over and over again - these experiences have far outnumbered the unpleasant exchanges.

 

I just despair when I read advice that we should all just be preemptively dour and unpleasant.  Of course you can do that, and if it works for you have at it, but I for one would suffer for it far more than I do from the occasional rude encounter, and worse, it would require a constant feeling/expression of internally generated negativity (I think we know I have plenty of that already, thanks) instead of just an occasional blip that swoops in now and then.  Just not a "solution" I can stomach. 

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6 hours ago, AlexTr said:

@rtrtrt Use deepl.com and write a review. Post the review on jameda.de. It seems to be the only thing that gets to German doctors.

Dangerous advice: be very careful with bad reviews, there is no freedom of speech and even if you only state facts it can end you in court anyway. If you want to go that way, do it, but be very careful with wording. Avoid anything which can be considered as "offense" or "libel".

 

Also, doctors have a right to force their profiles be removed from Jameda, so this makes little sense, actually.

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