Look, this might not be reading for everyone, but I promise to keep the details vague. Because after seven years in Austria I was recently reminded of my very first trip to the gynecologist, and it still makes me laugh.
In Australia I had gotten used to the ‘surprise’ Pap Smear. You know when you’re at the doctor on a Tuesday morning with a sinus infection to pick up a certificate for work and he or she looks at the computer and announces – says here you’re due for a Pap Smear, should we get that done while you’re here? So through your snotty nose and scratching eyes you weakly nod, and lie on that table to suffer the experience that is a Pap Smear.
After arriving in Austria this topic inevitably came up. Well no problem, I said, I’ll get that done the next time I’m at the doctor. Yeah… no. Because in Austria, your GP or Hausarzt doesn’t do Pap Smears. You have to go to the gynecologist for that. I’d always thought that people only went to a gynecologist if they needed specialist help with their nether regions or were having a baby! Apparently not the case.
So I got a recommendation from a girlfriend and off I went.
After the standard introductions and history check, everything was going very well and I was coping with the language barrier, the two of us struggling through a kind of Denglish with some helpful diagrams and gestures to complete the picture.
I was told to go into the little change room to ‘free’ my top half for my breast exam. And following that it was back into the change room to ‘free’ my bottom half for the Pap Smear. And I automatically moved toward the standard examination ‘table’ but instead was ushered to… the chair.
The chair. That one that I’ve only ever seen in old time movies where they show a woman suffering the indignity of childbirth strapped with her ankles in the air… yeah… that chair. Apparently this is where I would be having my Pap Smear.
And so I hoisted myself up and was ushered into the correct position, all the while he kept up the cheery banter, as doctors tend to do.
Apart from the way I was propped up, everything else was the same as I’d always endured. But then… cue the ‘surprise’ internal ultrasound… which I’d never had done before (again, something I’d always thought was relegated to people having serious medical issues or babies), and the doctor proceeded to show me in real time, what was going on inside me. Thanks, Doc.
There was nothing bad about it. It just wasn’t quite what I was expecting. And look, it’s probably easier for both parties in the stirrup chair. I’m well used to it now, but well… these are just the fun surprises you get to experience when you move to another country.
So if you’re new to Austria, and you’re not expecting it, now you’re prepared.