Play dumb

It took me a long time to get properly established here, but lately I feel that living in Germany doesn’t bother me that much anymore. I have a home that feels nice and cozy, and is in a nice location. I am in the system now, so paperwork is no longer an issue (as long as we don’t move, have more kids, or switch jobs). I have more or less mastered the the language to a level where I can have reasonable conversations, professionally with colleagues and students, but also socially it’s getting there, albeit I rarely use it for that purpose. Don’t get me wrong, my grammar could be better, and my vocabulary is still growing every day. Generally, more open-minded individuals, such as my colleagues, appreciate the effort, and make me feel appreciated for it (thanks for this, it makes a huge difference!). However, there are also people that can make you feel like a complete moron about speaking imperfect language.

This afternoon, I took Rafa to the children’s physician. He’s had fever for four days now, and although it was up and down, and he was initially quite fit and active in the first two days, he yesterday stopped playing, and mostly just wanted to lie on the couch. He slept a lot. He also ate very little yesterday, and perhaps less today. He was very unlike the Rafa we know. As the symptoms got worse, not better, on the third day, I didn’t want to wait another day. Time to go see a doctor and fix this kid. So I walk in, and this physician immediately gives me this vibe of ‘you’re a horrible parent’. The entire tone was ‘how could you?!’ In my very best German, I explained the situation. Daughter sick first, but better after three days. Then son also got sick on that third day. Should be the same thing, most likely. Let’s wait and see. Fever up and down. Periods without fever as well. Kid drinks well, doesn’t seem to have pain in specific area, and no trouble peeing. Active, alert and mostly not lethargic. Slept a lot today. Ate well, until yesterday. Throughout my explanation, she looks at me as if I’m some idiot talking in a language she’s never heard. (Really, my German is not that bad.) Then she starts talking to me, and explaining to me what the next steps are, in a tone and language that made me feel like the toddler she’s treating. Of course, she repeats everything thrice, because this dumb and horrible parent is really too pathetic to understand. She also felt she had to repeat the fact that I had to pay for the blood test a couple of times. Like if I’m some crook that runs out without paying. Ugh!

It just pisses me off so bad. It’s such a common belief here that if you don’t speak the language perfectly well, it must be because you’re plain stupid. Meanwhile, they forget that for the majority of people that do not master German but do live here, it is most likely the third language they speak. This is not just true for academics, but for most others, too. (Reminds me of the Romanian movers that helped us, and switched effortlessly between Romanian, German and English.) People that take the efforts of speaking another language are not dumb. They’re fucking heroes! On occasions like this I’d love to say something witty and smart that proves to them that I’m not the moron they assume me to be. For that, however, I guess my German isn’t good enough. My German thinking is slower than my English or Dutch… And so instead I just play dumb. But I hate the feeling.

Anyway. Most important thing is, she ran some blood tests and figured out that my son has a bacterial infection, most likely in the tonsils. I got a bunch of meds at the pharmacy, including antibiotics, nasal sprays, and more potent pain killers. Two hours later, Rafa is already a different child. (He will for sure hate me for a while, because getting the liquid meds and antibiotics in, is quite the fight – and I haven’t even started with the nasal sprays.)

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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