So, I had to see a medical professional last week--one that I had never seen before. It was a bad experience. I saw it coming when we drove up. I didn't say a word to my husband, but I knew what was going to happen.

We walked in and I was immediately impressed with the office decor. It was very nice. There were 2 people behind the front desk. My husband went up and announced my arrival. Wait--let me also say that my husband is a first generation, American born Cuban. Though Spanish is his first language, he is truly bilingual. If you heard him speak Spanish, you wouldn't think he could speak English without an accent. If you heard him speak English, you would never think Spanish was his first language. He is absolutely fluent in both. But I digress...

The receptionist gave me the expected "first visit" forms to fill out. I did so and returned them to her. She checked and told me that I had missed a couple places where my signature was required. She told me all of this in English. Then she said that the doctor would see me. She said this in English, too.

We all went to the exam room. The doctor was a gorgeous Latina. The receptionist was there as well. The doctor asked if I spoke Spanish, I said no. She asked if I understood Spanish, I said no. She asked both questions in English. And that's where the story gets bizarre.

From that point, NOBODY in the room spoke English, including the husband. All communication was directed to him, in Spanish. After every volley of conversation, he would have to tell me what was going on. If I asked a question in English, they would turn to him and answer in Spanish. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I looked at him and announced that I was ready to go.

How can you run a business and refuse to speak the language of your client/customer? Was I being unreasonable to expect to converse in English with folks that speak English and know that I don't speak Spanish? Was it cultural--did they only talk to my husband because he's the boss of me? And even if that is so, why did they not speak to him in English? Please help me with this one...

Your comments--priceless!!

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8 Responses
  1. LUVA Says:

    That was and is very disrespectful of staff to conduct themselves in that manner. I don't knock anyone's culture but when you're in America, speak English. You handled that well because IF anyone carried on a conversation with my husband/man after asking if I knew or understood Spanish, would have been put in their place by a few choice words. I'd also let that kind of behavior is unacceptable. Hubby also should have nipped that in the bud the moment they started speaking to him in spanish. What ever happened to "Hey/UM this is my wife, do you mind addressing us in English?". They wouldn't get my business anymore and would be reported to Consumer Affairs.

  2. Sinfully Says:

    WOW!!! That was truly unprofessional. Once it was established what your primary language was, ALL communications should have been conducted in that language. About 70% of the patients in my OB practice are spanish speaking (spanish is their primary language). If they are bilingual, I ask for their communication preference. If the husband/boyfriend/baby daddy is english speaking and his wife/girlfriend/baby momma is not, then I conduct my communications in the patient's primary language. The operative word being the PATIENT! Now I'm not totally insensitive to certain cultural practices where the male figure is 'the boss', but the patient is my primary customer. I hope you express (in wrting)your dissatisfaction with this treatment. In this day and age of choices, people need to understand that your business (i.e. money) will be going to someone who will respect something as basic as language and communication.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    It's Miami. To be quite frank, get used to it. While it would've been great if they spoke English, consider that the whole room probably spoke only Spanish or understands it better. It's easier to speak the language of the majority and then translate for the rest than vice-versa.

  4. catladysd Says:

    Totally unacceptable behavior. Bad enough in the nail shop when you are wondering if they are talking about you, but for a doctor to conduct herself in that way is appalling. I think i probably would have gotten mouthy and asked them to speak to me in english.

    I have had cultural problems with doctors from the middle east, their bedside manner is quite lacking and they seem to have no respect for a woman's intelligence or knowledge of her body, so i avoid them at all costs.

    I think i would write a note to the doctor and tell her how uncomfortable it made you feel and that you will be seeking another physician.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I'm wondering how the experience would have gone if it were you alone. It seems from your story that the doctor was capable of expressing herself in English. I think you treated very unprofessionally and I would never see that doctor again!

  6. cmiles Says:

    How rude, a note to that Physician would go out immediately how disrespectful that was to you as the patient. I would be seeking another specialist who understands respect for their patients.

  7. Katz Scratch Says:

    What an interesting story. The first point of interest for me was your statement "I knew what was going to happen." Am I too assume that life in Miami has conditioned you to this method of doing business? Or, did you ask your husband to select your medical provider because of his vast knowlege of the area and have experienced him picking spanish speaking professionals before?

    The final point of interest for me was the second question asked by the physician..."She asked if I understood Spanish". THAT is the most important point in your story to ME. It wasn't enough to ask if you spoke it; she had to be CERTAIN that you would NOT understand what she was about to say. Bet you felt invisible; like black folks do in Boston. If you read Ralph Ellison's "The Invisible Man' now, I imagine it would have an even GREATER impact. What a thought provoking piece you wrote today. Thanks

  8. Anonymous Says:

    My words to this doctor would have been I don't speak Spanish and I don't conduct business with my husband as my translator. If you are able to conduct business in English I will be more then happy to do business with you, however in these circumstances I cannot do business with you. Have a great day and "Hasta La Vista Baby" They were rude and gave inadequate services for professionals.

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