Friday, March 18, 2011

"Some Americans, they look nice, they dress up in grown up clothes, but they act like they are five years old."

In the past week we met two Danish doctors as we paraded Riley around the Danish medical system because we are first-time parents and had no clue what to do when our baby got a fever and moaned for four days nonstop.

On Sunday, we got to visit our local hospital and the on-call doctor for the urgent-care type service. The waiting room was sparse with uncomfortable wooden chairs and no paintings on the walls, but it was very clean. After a short wait, we were called into a room that was half doctor's office with desk and half exam table. The doctor was nice, but stern. He made sure to charge us 300 kroner first (about $60) before talking to us about our infant. Hospitals and doctors are not used to billing anyone because the government covers health expenses, but since we have diplomatic status, we have to pay cash for our doctor visits. They aren't equipped to process any other form of payment.

In the US, the first thing they would have done at the doctor's office is take Riley's temperature. Not here. The man took my word for it that Riley had a fever. He looked in his ears, nose and throat, said he thought it was viral and sent us home after examining our infant Tylenol and saying they don't use that here in Denmark, but he had heard of it. At some point during our exchange, he said something about us being first time parents. And there was some Googling of the conversion of Fahrenheit to Celsius.

So off we went with our sick infant. On Wednesday, when the fever came back with a vengeance, I decided it was time to go back to the doctor. This time, we went to the practice in our neighborhood that we'd located the week before. We called in the morning and they gave us a 2:15 appointment - a little late for my liking since I was convinced we had a major medical situation on our hands.

The waiting room at our doctor's office is a little nicer than the one at the hospital. The chairs are still not especially comfortable or welcoming, but there are magazines, toys and even a Lego table. We waited with little Riley, who was burning up and whimpering until it was finally our turn. We saw the male doctor as he seemed to be the only one in that day. The first thing he did after instructing us on where to sit was ask us how the socialism was working for us and whether we were afraid of becoming communists yet. Hmm. It was said in a joking way, but seemed a little odd, perhaps a bit anti-American? We told him we were enjoying his country. He then somehow made reference to Sarah Palin.

This was the second time someone I have met here who is not American has brought up she-who-must-not-be-named in conversation with me. It was the second time American politics came up and our friend from Alaska got top billing both times. To me, this is very alarming because it means that her message is somehow being conveyed to the rest of the world more loudly than other American political messages (granted, my sample size is small). The first person to mention her to me (an Icelandic mother in one of our playgroups) thought our first lady was still Hillary Clinton, but could fairly accurately quote Sarah Palin's recent breastfeeding flub. Now our doctor was bringing her up. I was quick to say that I find her to be non-representative of the US and rather embarrassing, to which the good doctor responded: "Some Americans, they look nice, they dress up in grown up clothes, but they act like they are five years old."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The doctor was very good with Riley, very kind to us as patients, still didn't check his temperature, but said he could tell he had a fever from his rosy cheeks and that the illness should go away in, "some days". He looked over the infant Tylenol and said, "Oh have you been giving him some icky American medicine? We don't have this here." But then told us to keep giving it to him as indicated. Overall, in spite of the clear mocking of our homeland, we like this doctor. He assured us that in another couple of kids, we wouldn't be bringing them in for fevers, but he was also compassionate about our concern and didn't make me feel like an idiot for bringing him in. Nope, not an idiot as a parent, but because I am American, I could tell that for him, the jury is still out.

Postscript: Riley is improving, the fever has been gone for a couple of days and he even laughed and played today. 


  1. Every time I go back to the US, I stock up heavily on store-brand liquid Tylenol and liquid Motrin for the kids, and DayQuil and Nyquil for us. (We have three kids.) For a fever, I alternate the Tylenol and Motrin at about 4 hour intervals, and the fever disappears. Having a local doctor here in DK that your kid knows and likes is important, especially when you find one that doesn't taunt you for being American, or a first time parent, or just a weirdo foreigner in general. We're on our 3rd doctor, and are finally very happy. (It took me a year and a half to find one that didn't ask me if I was a nurse every time I asked a question about an illness.) After hours, you can call the general doctor on call - lægevagten. :) Mary

  2. Terry says you are lucky to have Sarah Palin mentioned in conversation and not G. Bush. Terry had to constantly defend American"s when he would be in Europe during that time.

  3. Gosh, I admire your patience with these people. I would have flipped over tables! "THIS IS FOR BRINGING UP POLITICS FIRST!" ;)

    And I agree, what's with the not-checking stuff?

    I had a post operative infection and the out-of-hours doctor asked me if I had a fever. I said "I think so, I feel hot and cold.." waiting for her to whip out the thermometer... she just said "Oh ok. Fine."

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