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Joseph, Louise and I were rushing this morning to the eye doctor (ophthalmologist) to check if Joseph is also color blinded  like his mom. The appointment was at 8.30, I woke up at 6.30 after a long working weekend to catch some deadlines for my writing.  We were there on time but I was tired and pretty cranky already with all the rush. Kids were behaving well at the waiting room, I was beginning to calm down.

After a short wait, Joseph's name was called. The caller was a gloomy looking female, and I had a bad feeling about it. She was waiting impatiently when I was tidying up the books and legos before heading to the room. Inside she barked some instructions in German asking Joseph to sit at the exam chair. I put Louise on a chair next to her desk and ready to assist Joseph. She was shouting at me telling that I have to stay seated with Louise. My presence too close to my son will just make him confused, that's what she said. As she kept on saying everything in rapid German, it was usually a sign for me to start confessing my Deutsch ability to my conversation partner. Most Germans I met appreciated this type of confession and they would usually speak slower German (if not switch to English).

Below is what happened. Sorry for my terribly wrong German.

Me: "Ich spreche mehr Englisch und ...." (I speak  more English and ...)
Her: Warum??? (Why?)
Me: "Mijn Deutsch ist slecht. Ich versteche kleine Deutsche aber ich vertal het von Niederlander" (My German is bad. I understand a bit German but actually I translated it from Dutch)
Her: Ich spreche kein Englisch! Ich kon alein Deutsche. ( I speak no English, I can only speak German)
Me: Ok. Spreche langsahm, bitte (Just speak slowly, please)
Her: Ja ja!

Gosh, this woman is even crankier than me, I thought.

Then she examined Joseph. Although Joseph's German is improving very well within one year living in Munich, he still doesn't understand many terms. There was one exam when Joseph didn't get what she meant. She kept on saying "Nein .. nein!" each time he did it wrongly and poor Joseph (who never liked to make mistake) began to stress out. Of course I jumped in to help my son by translating what she said into Indonesian. I could see that Madam Cranky felt very uncomfy surrounded by a foreign tongue. But hey, Joseph was feeling more relaxed and could do what she wanted. So just bite your own tongue, Madam!!

After a  series of test, she came to me and said in English, "I cannot decide if he's color blinded or not because he's too young and not yet able to trace. You have to bring him back withing one or two years." (Hey, madam speaks English!)

I answered, "Ok."

Suddenly, she was again talking to me in rapid German:

Her: Sie moest Deutsch lehrnen! ( You have to learn German!)
Me: Ja, mein kurs geht in Mei (Ya, my course will start in Mei)
Her: *she replied in English* Too late! You're supposed to do it before!!! You live here in Germany!

WTF!?!?? I could feel blood was disappearing from my face, especially my lips. I was staring at her and ask

Me: Habben sie ein probleim mith mich?? (Do you have a problem with me?)
Her: *quiet for a second* Sie wohnen nur in Deutschland. Sie moest Deutsch sprechen, kein Englisch, kein Niederlander! (You live in Germany. You have to speak German, not English, not Dutch!). *She continued in German and said more or less: It's a problem for me to speak to people like you who don't speak German!

I was trembling, holding Louise tightly on my lap (she was beginning to shout also) and said

Me: Ich habbe zwei kinder! ( I have two children) *then I continued in English*. My husband is not German, we will be here for 3 years only and so far we have no plan to immigrate to your country!
Her: *quiet and keep on writing*
Me: If you have a problem with me, fine!  I will report it to your supervisor!
Me to Joseph (in Indonesian): Joseph, ayo turun dari kursi, kita pulang! (Joseph, get down and let's go home!)

I was standing. Carrying Louise and holding Joseph's hand,  ready to go to the receptionist to complain.

Suddenly she told Joseph: Joseph zitse, bitte. Ich moest du augen nogmall checken (Joseph, please stay seated. I have to check your eyes again). Ok I let her finish her job. While checking Joseph, she was talking to him in a much friendlier tone. Aha ... Madam Cranky was chickening out!!

And then she turned to me, with softer eyes and a slight smile, saying in German that it's good he doesn't need any glasses but he needs to return withing one year for the color blind exam. Before leaving, she was talking kindly to both kids and gave them some candies. She handed me a letter to be given to Joseph's pediatrician, also with a light smile.

I was still pissed. However, suddenly I could see her better. She's actually a person with lots of issues.  My guess is, she's uncomfortable with how she looks and has been suffering from it all her life.  A little Asian woman, who talks a foreign language to her children, speaks rather fluent English but not yet good German is enough to make her feel threatened. To get rid of her own frustrations, she tried to press me,  maybe to make herself feel better. But sorry madam, you're not supposed to mess up with this fragile looking mom. You bark, I bite!! 

With this in mind,  I decided to just rest this case. No need to see her supervisor. She's just another frustrated woman with enough problems. I kissed Joseph, and told him how a great job he did.  We left the practice and decided to never return.


( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 20th, 2009 09:21 am (UTC)
Dealing with a Xenophobic: A Good Way to Start the Week ..... Not!
I think it's a classic example how this person think she's superior (she's an ophthalmologist, you're just a patient). And when she found out you couldn't speak German she felt more superior.

In her head she thought you must be married to a German, a migrant, and you must be lazy/stupid for not being able to speak in their language.

Then she's surprised to find out that you're not married to a German, you speak in many languages, and you are not afraid to speak your mind.

Good for you San. You have done nothing to deserve such treatment. You could speak German but I know how fast when Germans are talking. It's not difficult for her to speak slower and you requested it nicely.

If it were me, I'd demand to speak to her supervisor right away and will complain in writing, and change my ophthalmologist right there and then!

Apr. 22nd, 2009 07:52 am (UTC)
Re: Dealing with a Xenophobic: A Good Way to Start the Week ..... Not!
She's a piece of work, isn't she? I've given her enough lesson for the day and I felt good about it. There is no need for me to ruin her life :D.
Apr. 20th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
good respon Santi!!
To such a german, you should really stand up !! Don't ever return ...

regards, Anky
Apr. 22nd, 2009 07:53 am (UTC)
Re: good respon Santi!!
Iya, mbak Anky. People like her are everywhere and we should empower ourselves to stand-up!
Apr. 20th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry that you have to deal with those kind of people. Sadly, these people are everywhere! Most Danes are also like that (xenophobic, that is). It's good that you tell her off like that, she must realise that learning language is not always a priority to some people, especially like you said you would only live in Germany for 3 years. Besides, you already know how to communicate, it's not like you're completely flabbergasted when she asked you in German :(
Apr. 22nd, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
Hey, you're right .. I'm actually not a complete idiot in German. But well, Madam thinks I was making her morning difficult so even if I were speaking fluent German with her, she would still find tons of other reasons to say bad words!
Apr. 20th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
the bright side...
I thought (while smiling broadly) it was good that you were cranky too on that day. Sometimes when we are in a good mood, we tend to let bad things pass easily :)

Apr. 22nd, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
Re: the bright side...
LOL Dev .. I just met my 'guru kehidupan'.
Apr. 20th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
I am proud of you, San :)
Apr. 22nd, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
Thank you, Cin.
Apr. 20th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm cheering so hard for you ! You are a lot more patient than I do, I guess...hahaha...If it was me, I will scream back, will point to her that she DOES talk english, and it's not like german is the most important language in the whole world.
And never to go back there, is a wise wise decision...:):)
Apr. 22nd, 2009 08:01 am (UTC)
LOL In .. it was hard for me to control myself but glad I didn't shout or anything. If I were screaming, my brain would be blocked and stupid uncontrollable emotional remarks would come out of my mouth.
Apr. 21st, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
If it was me, I'd probably cry in anger as soon as I got out of that place - not able to stand up for myself as always. Gosh, how obnoxious is that woman???

You know, I usually let things like that go, but since I have kids now, I am becoming much more sensitive about my "otherness" here. Sometimes I get annoyed even when I talked to adults who are nice but are rather "dongo" about cultures other than their own. I met ppl who were surprised when they knew that I have "a job" (apart from pushing the stroller around the shops), and when I said "I tutor at uni bla..bla...", their immediate response would be: "Oh...you teach Indonesian?" Aaaargh. As if that's the only thing I am capable of teaching. But anyway, maybe I do look like some impoverished immigrant, so I don't blame them. LOL!
Apr. 22nd, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
Most of us Asians were raised not to speak-up our minds. We are generally passive (although some might be passive aggressive) and some jerks from other cultures consider our silence as powerless. They are wrong!

Oooh ya the stereotyping. Even when you told them what you do, they just won't let go and keep on putting you in a box. LOL. I pity them.
Apr. 21st, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
I think in this part of the world lots of doctors are cranky (for whatever reason, I really don't understand it myself, but beware of librarians, waiters, receptionists and doctors!! They just have the cranky gene, it's part of their job description. ;-) But if they are xenophobic as well that just really tops it. How completely outrageous and unprofessional!!! I am so sorry that you guys have had to be scapegoats for her crankiness & xenophobia. Really, what is this, a language exam or an eye exam? And how efficiently is this woman able to check your son's eyes if she doesn't accept him responding in English or Indonesian? Did she consider it a *wrong* response when he answered in English? I would mistrust her results and get a second opinion elsewhere - - try talking to other parents at Joseph's school and asking around whether they know someone who doesn't freak out when a *foreigner* walks into their clinic ... of course s/he might still end up being cranky (a little), hehe :-)
I hope you're feeling better now.
Apr. 22nd, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
I guess you're right, Alice. Doctors etc deal with different kind of people and soon most of them just choose to give others a hard time.

Joseph answered everything in German, it's just he didn't get what she wanted. Apart of being a xenoph, I think she did her job well. I know Joseph needs no glasses and I don't mind going back to ANOTHER eye doctor within a year of two for the color blind test.

Yeah I guess I should ask around for a non-xenoph ophthalmologist. LOL.
Apr. 22nd, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
I have sooo many experiences where ppl scolded me cos I dont speak french. (my french absolutely sucks)
But then, where I work we do not use french, where i study, we do not use french, my husband is indonesian so at home we do not use french. I cant think of any other place where i have to use french except supermarkets etc.
I know it's a lame excuse since ive been here for 8 years, but hey, brussels is the capital of europe and it's an international city, i get by without even speaking the local lingos.. so i just ignore them..

Apr. 22nd, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
Setujuh .. although it would be nice to speak the local language fluently it stays our right to choose not to learn it. Ignoring those people is the right thing to do for your situation, Rim .. I would definitely do the same.

I'm a language lover and looking forward to my German class next month. Although my German is still very bad, I like to practice it to get a sense of belonging to this country. Most Germans appreciate my efforts but those who hate foreigners would try to show their superiority by giving me a hard time (ex: they would speak faster on purpose, get pissed when I was slow to understand them, etc). I usually just ignored those people.

However, this xenophobic eye doctor was verbally attacking me. I just had to protect myself (and my kids) by giving her a counter attack. LOL.
Jun. 1st, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
Me: Ich habbe zwei kinder! ( I have two children) *then I continued in English*. My husband is not German, we will be here for 3 years only and so far we have no plan to immigrate to your country!

anonymous and San, i think this dismissive attitude towards the local tongue is what bothers so many locals. while it's true that you don't need much of the local language to get by, or maybe you won't be living long there, i think that using this in an argument against xenophobes only angers them further by confirming their fears about foreigners who don't care about their country overrunning it. perhaps a more diplomatic response would be to point out that you are doing your best to acquire the local tongue and it's not coming as easily as you'd like. if they give you further problems, ask them if they've ever mastered another language. just my humble opinion on the matter.
Jun. 2nd, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
Hi Lis, if you read the entry more carefully, the paragraph below actually came before the one you quoted:

Her: Sie moest Deutsch lehrnen! ( You have to learn German!)
Me: Ja, mein kurs geht in Mei (Ya, my course will start in Mei)
Her: *she replied in English* Too late! You're supposed to do it before!!! You live here in Germany!
end of quote

She was the one with the dismissive attitude towards a foreigner who is actually ready and willing to learn the local language. That kind of impoliteness anger this particular foreigner (me). Thus there is no way I would have granted her a diplomatic reply and glad I have given her a shock therapy.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 09:17 am (UTC)
wow, i admire you mbak!
you don't expect that kind of attitude coming from such "intellectual" people. yet, it's about the person, not the profession.
i guess one part of being a foreigner is standing up for any judgement the local people pointing you at!

Apr. 25th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC)
Setujuh. I don't like confrontation but when somebody attack me, I should protect myself and my kids. Some locals think foreigners are parasites .. they 'forget' that we also pay tax!
Apr. 24th, 2009 03:14 pm (UTC)
Most female physicians are bitches. I have two at work. They're just unbelievable. Hard to please. One of them spoke down to a family from one of those former USSR countries... a country that ends with -stan I believe. Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan, I couldn't remember. She blatantly told the mother not to speak to the patient who's the son, in their native language. I understand that my doctor would like to be able to hear them speak in English to make sure that they'd understand the medical treatment she offered, but no need to be rude.
Apr. 25th, 2009 07:14 am (UTC)
I really wonder why they went to med school in the first place if they hate dealing with people.
Apr. 25th, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
Two thumbs up for you San.
People every where are the same.
She must have negative perception in her mind.

I like the way you handle it ...

Most of Indonesian don't have the guts when they have to confront with westerners...
Apr. 25th, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)
We should wear T-shirt bearing this sign: "I might be physically small but don't you dare mess up with me!!!"
Apr. 27th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)
Well I've always thought that the Germans belong to the most open-minded European country when it comes to speaking English (as opposed to those bloody French who usually pretend ne parlent pas anglais).

Reading this post gives me another thought abt the Germans too, hehe
May. 1st, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
Nope. Most Germans want foreigners to speak their language, just like most French do.

I've unsuccessfully tried to leave comments on your blog. Does your e mail still active? My message didn't go through.
May. 10th, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
Wat a bitch!!!!!!! But we always see these types of people everywhere. Those who have personal issues and can't seem to shake it off once they are at work, and ending up upsetting everyone with their moody bitchiness. You did a good thing, threatening her about reporting her to her supervisor!! LOL -Therry-
May. 10th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Beyotch...
Gosh, Therry, my heart stopped for a second when eyeing the title of your comment. I thought somebody was cursing me! LOL.

Yes, some people can be such pain and should get some shock treatment!
Jun. 1st, 2009 07:13 am (UTC)
bravo! good on you!

you gotta be courageous in the face of this kind of ignorance and intolerance.
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
We do!! Don't let those people walk on us!!
Jun. 1st, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
You were quite wonderful! I think I would have lost it as much as I would tell myself to calm down. People no matter what's their job position or whatever find it easier to put down others and not take the time to try to understand the other person. I'm not that good at talking in my native language outside of my family so sometimes I feel like I'm being criticized but I hate it more when I feel like other English speaking natives are being condescending as if I don't understand English or the American culture or whatever.

The woman seems like a hypocrite but hopefully she'll go back to the incident between you to if she comes across another patient that's not good in German. French is so much easier for me and hearing German baffles me -same with Dutch.

If I ever face similar situations in the future I'll keep in mind what I read on your lj.
Jun. 1st, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, I also learn it along the way :D. I think having kids help me to shout back at those jerks as all I have in mind is to protect my kids and show them that we should defend ourselves!

Speaking a minority language in public is challenging. At least people will observe us for some seconds or if unlucky we might even encounter xenophobics.

Yeah, just bite those xenophs when they bark!
Jun. 2nd, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
I don't think males can be color blind. Maybe I'm wrong though.
People like that are so ridiculous. Who made them superior?
Jun. 2nd, 2009 10:28 am (UTC)
They actually make themselves look stupid,right?
Jun. 5th, 2009 01:55 am (UTC)
Colour blindness is actually more common in males than females, so it was good to check Joseph. :)
Jun. 3rd, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
I just ran across this on the LJ front page. Thank you very much for the links to the OPOL page, it might come in extremely handy if I ever have kids.
I've been living in the southern united states for 10 years now and the way I got back to the xenophobes was by knowing and speaking the language better than they do :P. I guess when I start learning the next language I'll have to develop a better coping mechanism.
Jun. 3rd, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
LOL .. I don't know if I will ever speak German better than those xenophs. It's nice to meet you!
Jun. 5th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
Wauw. Sommige mensen...

Nou ja, mensen zoals dat heb je overal. Echt heel erg onbeschoft. En trouwens, je probeerde het toch? Dan moet ze niet zeuren ook. Ik vind het heel goed van je dat je voor jezelf opkwam, laat je vooral niet kisten door die xenofoben.

You go, girl. :)
Jun. 5th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Je hebt gelijk. Veel mensen denken er zijn meer xenofoben in West Europa dan in b.v de V.S. Maar we kunnen ook die gekke mensen in de VS, Congo en Indonesie vinden. Zeker moeten we terug bijten :D.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 7th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
Most Germans are like what you wrote, but we could be unlucky sometimes wherever we live :D.

They have the Bayerischse dialect, spoken by the older generation.
( 42 comments — Leave a comment )

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