Moving to another country is awesome but scary in itself. Especially if you don’t speak the language.
This fear is mostly overcomable in supermarkets, on the street or in other normal social situations. We have our mobile phones, translators, hands and feet to help us out and bring the point across.
But what if you get into a situation where grabbing your mobile phone doesn’t work, no translator can be reached and hands and feet are not able to be used? How do we feel when we are in a situation, we feel uncomfortable to begin with? Telling the police your phone is stolen, without your phone to translate, being suddenly yelled at for something you haven’t figured out yet or at the doctors office, where phones and sometimes even hand and feet are not to be used…
That one, I had the (dis)pleasure a few times now since we moved here. Our health insurance office does provide us with a list of doctors, who speak english.
Thats of course a good thing, but the requirements to be listed as an english speaking doctor seems to be a bit lower than I personally would grade them.
So it came to be that I was sitting on a dentist chair with a guy that seems nice enough but his english encompassed 10 sentences all not really related to dentistry.
“Make tiny” was then his command to open up a bit and “More heavy” I assumed is wider and he didn’t complain as I extended the space between my teeth. Luckily, for everything beyond that, his assistant could help with sufficient english knowledge to scare the heck out of me.
“Now we just use the big injection, to make you no pain” And all I herd was big injection and my body stiffened up, sweat ran off my forehead and my pupils became as big as needle heads. Doctor and assistant didn’t quite know what to do with that. By now they seemed to feel as helpless as me with the non communication, but they found soon resolution and told me to “Relax” as they tried to untangle my cramped fingers from each other.
I tried a smile, which felt quite false and reminded me on Arnold Schwarzenegger in the ‘Terminator’ movies and I let them move my hands to my side and thought as instructed “Beach, woods, rabbits” – though it did nothing to calm me down.
As the needle entered my gums, I managed to get even more stiff all over my body and now I felt like the girl in ‘Exorcist’ and the Dentist got a bit nervous, because I seized to breath on top of it. “You can breath through your mouth” his assistant reminded me after a short exchange between the two of them. No, I couldn’t. I was entirely unable to move or breath by own accord.
By now the room must have decided that I will be the worst patient this week, if not ever but from the moment the needle left the stage, the doc will not have any problems with me at all anymore. The Assistant wiped my forehead and everybody just laughed a little nervous. “Want to take your pullover off?” – “No thanks, Im just afraid of needles.” It took a while till my answer registered with the both of them, they made the connection in between answer and question and another delayed nervous little laughter echoed through the room.
Ever noticed how many strange details you hear or see if the situation feels awkward?
The fingerprint mid-center on the lamp, the strange music channel in the back ground and so on…I felt awkward, because i am in their country and they probably think im just another of those ignorant expats that come for the sun but couldn’t care less for the language, culture and people living here. They probably didn’t think any of this and just felt helpless in easing my anxiety.
As I hinted on before, the rest of this appointment went quite smooth for the dentist. Soon they relaxed and started chatting to one and another.
For me, this was the hardest part and just underlined how alien I still feel in this country. I understood a word here and there. I cold make out when it was private chit chat and when they said something about my mouth from the tone they used but I couldn’t get the gist of it. Also I never heard anyone warn me that yet another doctor or assistant entered the room and I got a bit shocked every time some other head popped into vision and looked at what Dr. Juan was doing there.
Them laughing was the most uncomfortable. The devil on my should asks “What if they laugh about you?” – “So what!” my angel answered. “As long as your teeth get fixed, you shouldn’t worry” and I agree, but the devils words echoed more loudly in my head and made me ever so slightly more insecure. But soon Dr. Juan would sing along with the radio again and I would fade back in my waiting-for-it-to-be-done state of mind and the bitter taste of insecurity faded again. Music was and is the universal language it seems….
This is of course nothing new to me. But as I moved to the Netherlands, I always had Arnold with me to doctors appointments or other official business, so he could translate or calm me. It is a step harder if you have no-one to ask, to take a long or to practice with in the evening that speaks the language fluently.
On the other hand, it does motivate me more to go to that Spanish lesson even if I don’t feel like it or do my exercise. I do see some improvement already. I hear now that the Spanish actually have words that build a sentence as opposed to the moment I moved here and its sounded like one long word. I also can here and there understand words or common sentences on the radio, but as usual, I have very little patience with my progress.
I am confident however, that I will learn it sooner or later. For now, Adios and don’t forget to brush your teeth 🙂