My cultural hospital shock

culture shock Beijing

After 3,5 years in China, I no longer blink when the taxi driver spits out of the window and I smile oh so friendly when an elderly lady tells me to put socks on my baby when it is 32 degrees Celsius outside. But when I’m in a hospital, culture shock still hits me full force.

No it’s not the hospital’s facilities. We have a good insurance and therefore frequent “international” hospitals with nicer facilities than back home. Hospital staff is generally friendly and has had very good education. Usually, waiting for the nurse takes about 3 minutes. What is my problem I wondered?

After 4 days in hospital when delivering my second Beijing baby, I conclude my culture shock has to do with V&C&E:

Vulnerability, Communication and Expectations  

I prefer to avoid hospitals. Being there means there is something out of the ordinary going on with me, or worse, there is something wrong with my kids. So, I’m out of my comfort zone, making me vulnerable and nervous (and when pregnant throw in a heavy dose of hormones too) – and admittedly not necessarily my smiling, civil self .

I communicate in my non-Chinese way. They communicate in their Chinese way. And despite both conversing in English, it sometimes seems we are on different planets rather than the same room. Why is this hearing aid twice as expensive as that one, what are the differences? Why should my labour be induced after 24 hours whereas in my home country it is considered safe to wait 48 hours?

My expectation is to have my questions answered in a knowledgeable way. My expectation is that staff I haven’t met before introduce themselves before checking my underpants. Chinese staff’s expectation seems to be that I do what the doctor tells me without asking questions. Having been raised with the notion it is good to ask questions, this can obviously clash.

Next time I’m in hospital I will try and manage my expectations. And luckily I have found some very capable and communicative doctors in Beijing- though not necessarily Chinese ones.

Read more about the four phases of culture shock on Wikipedia: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, Mastery


Pregnant in Beijing, now what?

Beijing has good hospitals, no need to worry about giving birth here.

Living in Beijing and want to get pregnant? Or think you’re pregnant already? Here’s six steps to take when your embarking on the baby rollercoaster.

1)      Check your insurance. Not very romantic but unfortunately necessary. This is something I only found out after moving here: many international health care providers do not cover pregnancy related costs for the first 10 months after you’ve  joined the insurance plan. It is also wise to check the amount covered and whether you have to make any personal contributions, as prices in Beijing hospitals vary enormously. And check whether you need any pre-approval for hospital visits from you insurance company too.

2)      Take your temp: If you’re not pregnant yet, but would like to be, the local pharmacies also sell special “baby thermometers” which indicate two numbers after the comma and you can use them to find out when you are ovulating. If you’re experiencing trouble with your period after stopping birth control pills, look into acupuncture and other Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment, as they may be of help in regulating them. Also, start taking folic acid pills.

3)      Buy a pregnancy test at the local pharmacy (Chinese name). or rather, buy two in case you do not believe the first one.

4)      Find a hospital: Positive test? Make an appointment with a doctor in a hospital covered by your insurance plan. A good list of hospitals and costs can be found in the Beijing Kids October 2012 issue. The most popular but unfortunately also most expensive for Beijing expats are Beijing Family United Hospital and Amcare.

5)      Stock up on pregnancy multivitamins. Your doctor can give you a prescription, but should you have any friends of family visiting by coincidence (or expat friends travelling back home), you can also ask them to bring a supply for you. Also see this article with healthy eating tips.

6)      Join an e-group such as Beijing Mama’s for more information and tips on where to get what for kids in Beijing, as well as playgroup information etc. Also check  Beijing Kids for a list of shops.

The kind people at Beijing Kids have 10 more tips, check them out here.