Going to the gynecologist in the US (compared to Germany)
When you are moving abroad it’s funny how many small things in daily life start to become a big event. For me visiting the gynecologist in my new home, the United States, was one of these moments.
In the following, I describe a little bit of my routine visit last week to give you some insights on how different our cultures are in these daily life situations. For my male readership: I know that’s TMI, but if you are curious keep on reading 🙂
Be aware that I am only referring to my very own experience. I have been to this doctor a couple of times now so I know the process. However, I can imagine that some things I noticed are typically for his surgery or Chicago as a bit city in the States. Would love to learn about your own experience wherever you live at the moment down in the comments.
Making an appointment
The very first difference for me was to experience how easy it is to make an appointment. Maybe there is some correlation with my Expat insurance but I am not sure about that. Anyway, I was able to get an appointment at my wished date every time I called so far. Big difference to Germany! Next, they really want to make sure that I will actually show up. Maybe many people here take this appointment not as serious as Germans are doing. Hence, I receive two emails and then another phone call the day before the appointment to remind me of the date. Back in Germany, I don’t remember anything like that.
The surgery itself
My doctor has his surgery on the 12th floor in a beautiful and charming highrise. In order to get to the 12th floor you have to put the floor number on a little screen and an elevator will be assigned to you. The surgery has an old-fashioned interior concept and all the rooms are without daylight. I noticed this decor in several surgeries so maybe there is a pattern:-) I took some pictures so you can better imagine what I mean. When I entered the treatment room for the first time I was a bit surprised by the outdated look of the treatment table. Even the scale is old-fashioned and this added a bit to the oddity of the whole situation of an intimate doctor appointment in a foreign country.
My charming doctor
The whole communication with my doctor is way different to what I am used to backing in Germany. He is cheering me up in each conversation, giving out a lot of compliments (you are young, healthy, great shape…) In the beginning, this really irritated me but now I just like the pep-talk. Also, there is a lot more smalltalk and less focus on the topic of my health itself although I am sure that this is his main concern.
The deal with Privacy
I understand that Americans must be very confused when going to the German doctor. They will think: Wait, the doctor wants that I get undressed in front of him? Like ALL my clothes? What? Does he want to see my breasts for real? Where is my sheet to cover myself? No way!
For me, the feeling is exactly the other way round. Americans are very much concerned about the fact how much of your skin you should show in front of the doctor keeping it to the absolute minimum. When entering the room you will find a huge blanket to cover yourself and you are only asked to undress yourself button down. The doctor won’t be in the room while you are undressing yourself and will knock at the door waiting for your ok before entering. When you are visiting for your annual check the doctor will also examine your breast for irregularities. However, in contrast to Germany, you are asked to keep your shirt on but only unhook your bra in the back. He will then touch under the shirt but ABOVE the bra. While for me I am just confused and would be totally ok with just putting away my bra I can definitely feel sympathy for the Americans living in Europe and are most likely in shock at their first examination.
General treatment procedure
In general, it is my experience that the German health system is way more proactive than the American health system. As an example, I can name ultrasounds which are completely normal in a regular appointment in Germany – even more so when there are irregularities. In the US ultrasounds are hardly ever done although something really big is happening or you are in a later stage of pregnancy. Early pregnancy ultrasounds are not the norm and are costly as well. It’s the same with smears (hope that is the right medical term). I am not a doctor and I do not want to judge the treatments but only point out the differences. One doctor told me once “If I don’t want to know the answer – I don’t ask”. That is part of the medical approach here in the US. For me, I find it very interesting that both, the German and the US medical system are very much developed and have a great reputation but they still are treating their patient from a completely different angle. As a patient, this can lead to a hard time finding trust in a doctor and the system abroad. However, comparison won’t help you and it is sometimes healthier to just go with the flow.
That is my 2 cents on that topic. I hope you find it helpful and informative. Would be really great to learn about your experiences! It is a lot of fun comparing the cultural pattern to daily life situations!
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