Hello! (1)
Customs And Traditions, I Am An Expat, Intercultural Communication, My Expat Life

How To Talk To Dutch Doctors So That They Will Listen

Hello! (1)

For those of you not yet in the know about the Dutch healthcare system*, doctors in the Netherlands believe that everything can be cured by Paracetamol and bread**. I still remember the shock when I asked for the chicken pox vaccine for my kids and was told that such a vaccine does not exist. I know for a fact that it does exist, it’s just not done in the Netherlands because going through the chicken pox is “natural”. Dutch doctors and the Dutch in general are obsessed with all things “natural” or “normal”. “So it should come as no surprise that this preoccupation with “keeping it real” extends to all acts – birth being no exception!”- writes Colleen over at Stuff Dutch People Like. And it does extend to the rest of the healthcare system as well.

*This post is satire.

**Not really. I’m over exaggerating to make a point. Also, bread isn’t medicine.

I don’t know how many times I went to the doctor with a sick child only to be told to go back home and give them Paracetamol. My husband, however, always gets medicine when he needs it. I’ve been wondering how he does it. Many times, I send him to the doc’s office with whichever child is sick at that time and he comes back home, waving the prescription for antibiotics at me. For a long time, I wondered, how does he do it? What am I doing wrong? So I asked him. The insights he gave me are just too precious to keep secret*. Apparently, Dutch doctors require a special mode of communication.

*The following list IS NOT actual medical advice.

1) Tell, don’t ask

When calling to make an appointment, I used to ask if it was possible to see the doctor, pretty please. That was a big mistake. The result of which was that the secretary told me they’re full and if I was lucky, I may able to get a slot next week. My husband goes in and says, “I want an appointment ASAP.” The lesson is that if you want to be successful in getting to see your doctor, put your politeness aside and state your wishes loud and clear. Yes, you want your appointment RIGHT NOW. Yes, in 5 minutes is good. Once you’re in, tell your doctor what medications you need. You may still not get them but at least he understood what you wanted. Dutch doctors, like all Dutch people expect directness and will be confused by your attempts at being polite.

2) Never lose your cool

A friend of mine half-jokingly told me how you can get the otherwise calm Dutch people to take action and maybe even panic a little. When you call your doctor, say, in your calmest Zen voice ”Hello, is this Dr Soandso? I’m not sure but, you know, my child just drank a whole bottle of laundry detergent and looks a little bit blue. He’s not breathing either. So should I come and see you or is it not necessary ?” You need to say it in a very calm tone of voice or they’ll think you’re a crazy expat who freaked out for no reason. Speaking out is expected, but losing your temper is niet normaal.*

*Not actual advice. It’s satire. It’s meant to be funny. Also, do not try this at home.

3) Appeal to their expertise

The above example showed another thing you need to follow if you want to be successful in persuading your doctor to give you medicine. Even though Dutch doctors would never boast about their achievements, they still want to know they’re doing a great job at keeping people safe from all these bad medications. You can always ask your doctor questions like “So, I see I don’t need antibiotics. But maybe you can tell me why?” and listen intently to his answer. Try not to laugh when he prescribes bitterballen and Paracetamol. Then next time, the doctor may be more willing to give you real medicine at your next appointment.*

*Again, this isn’t actually medical advice. Please don’t follow it.

4) Choose your language and choose it well

My husband and I, we have a difference of opinions in this matter. I usually speak Dutch to show that I’m willing to adjust and expect the other side to do the same. My husband speaks English because he understands it and it puts him in a position of power. We all have our reasons for our choice of language but think hard about the consequences of each choice before you open your mouth.*

*This is a point you could actually consider, not from a doctor but from a linguist.

5) Use every trick up your sleeve

Take this simple advice from our book “Dutched Up!”* and, “when explaining your illness, double the amount of time you’ve been sick, triple your symptoms and that equals help.” I don’t care if you have to lie, bribe, threaten or kill to get your meds**. In tough times, an expat must do what she has to do in order to survive. Be cunning. Use your very cute child to get the flu shot right away instead of having to wait for weeks, I don’t care, really. You may lose your scruples when you walk into that practice door but you may gain meds and that is all that matters. Don’t worry; your conscience will heal together with your body.

*This is not a medical book. It was written by bloggers. Therefore, if you read it***, please keep this in mind. The advice mentioned in the book is not actual medical advice.

**This is a very very very bad idea. Don’t actually lie to, bribe, threaten or kill your doctor. Again, this is satire. 

***Please please please, read the book. And leave an Amazon review once you do.

6) Never refuse medication. NEVER.

If all your hard work pays off, you will get your holy grail: medication or an appointment with a specialist. And I don’t care if you went to see your GP for a digestive problem but were sent to a cardiologist, or whether you got the right meds or not, just take them and run before your doctor changes her mind*. Remember that if you refuse, you may never get antibiotics again, ever. If you feel that you were given the wrong medications, hang them on your wall like a picture. Just don’t ever say “no” when a Dutch doctor gives you medicine.**

*If a doctor gives you the wrong meds (which they probably won’t), point it out instead of running away. 

** Unless they’re prescribing bitterballen***. Then do say no.

***They probably won’t prescribe bitterballen though. Also, bitterballen is not actual medicine and I haven’t heard of any doctor who actually prescribed it.

You did all of the things I mentioned and it didn’t work? Well, you can’t always have what you want. And believe it or not, sometimes these weird Dutch doctors are right and you actually don’t need antibiotics and the Paracetamol will do the trick. You can even convince yourself that it’s actually a good thing and that at least they won’t over-medicate you here*. Then quietly, call your doctor back home or ask someone to stock up your medicine cabinet the next time they come to visit.**

*See? I’m not all against Dutch doctors, and neither am I arguing for liberal use of antibiotics. Sadly, this part was often left out.

** Remember when I told you about not lying to your doctor? Still valid. Don’t do that.

This post is obviously tongue-in-cheek and is to be taken with a grain of salt or two, but even if these tips are not necessary for you and your doctor is awesome, maybe at least you’ll have a good laugh.*

*It was meant to be funny, not actual medical advice. 

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123 Comments

  • Reply Ilze February 2, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Haha great advice. Obviously German doctors are not as strict as the Dutch (is anyone?) but the last times I brought Birdy in we got salt water 1st time around and nothing the 2nd time. My Latvian friends find this awesome as they believe that doctors back home prescribe too much…
    Ilze recently posted…Announcing New Series: Baby’s 1st Year German StyleMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 2, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks, Ilze. I know German doctors are less strict (or more strict, depending on how you see it) because when we took K to a German doctor he noticed immediately that her adenoid was too big and she had to have it removed. Dutch doctors wouldn’t even look into her mouth! And we tried to get M. vaccinated in Germany but forgot and now it’s too late and he already had it. Also, my Dutch doctor screwed my teeth and a German doctor fixed it. On the other hand, when I had a bleeding in POland when I was pregnant with J, the doctors were not nice at all! So much depends on the country!

      • Reply M July 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm

        Really think it´s funny people critise the Dutch so much on healthcare. I really really would love to meet your Bitterballen Doctor Olga, never met one in the Netherlands. About the language, I think it´s one of the few countries I know where doctors actually speak English and with a pretty good accent, still trying to find a German with a normal accent that doesn´t sound like the guy from Kelly´s Heroes. Germans are the worst in talking other languages, period.
        I live in Spain and healthcare is awesome here, my ex girlfriend actually got meds because she had a bad headache, great;)… But you are right, we Dutch don´t like meds.

    • Reply Maarten February 19, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      If you need actual help, of course you should get it / ask for it. But there is a reason why more and more viruses get resistent to antibiotics….and that is mostly because so many other countries give them out like candy! They should not be taken lightly as a cure! They’re not intended for even a heavy flu!

      I am currently 34 and only have taken antibiotics once in my life to get rid of a nasty infection. But I actively try to avoid it as much as possible. Not because we Dutch are like that, but it makes sense if you think about a bit more than just feeling crap and wanting it to go away.

      • Reply Olga Mecking February 21, 2015 at 10:43 am

        Hi Maarten, I know what you mean but to clarify, antibiotics are not at all meant against viruses but bacteria. And again, antibiotics should not be given against the flu because the flu is a viral disease not a bacterial one. We were always given antibiotics when necessary but the “requirements” were always very clear. It’s not that I always do whatever I’m told, I can pretty much tell when a doctor is being reasonable, but the Dutch system still confuses me.

        • Reply Kate July 17, 2015 at 10:42 pm

          Well, not sure you understood Maarten. He’s saying you really don’t need the medicine unless it’s a bad bacterial infection. Just because you have something that’s caused by bacteria doesn’t mean you need to kill it off by taking antibiotics. That’s the difference!

          Overall, the Dutch population is healthy and their way of restricting the use of antibiotics (while focusing on other things such as diet and exercise) seems to work. I live in the US and people get antibiotics like it is candy but I cannot say people here are equally healthy. The quality of doctors is good in the US (I would not say it is better than my Dutch doctors though; my American eyedoctor uses old tools and my dentist could use an upgrade, too). But the healthcare is rediculously expensive. So I would call it worse than the Dutch system, which is more hollistic.

          What I am sad about when it comes to some of the expats I know is that they get upset when their child is sick longer than a day because that means they have to take time off and they cannot longer send their kids to school. Traditional Dutch families take time off, whatever time is necessary, for their child to get healthy again. But expats, especially Americans, are not willing to do that because they are not used to getting (paid) time off. So that’s what I think is the real reason fir the differences here.

          What helped my husband – who also doesn’t want to wait two weeks for bacterial issues to go away – is to go to a non-Dutch doctor. We had a Hindu doctor from the Antilles, I think, and they will gladly give you pills.

          • Olga Mecking July 18, 2015 at 10:11 am

            Hi Kate,

            I understand that sometimes even bacterial infections are mild enough to go away all by themselves. Dutch doctors will only prescribe antibiotics when they have a certain set of symptoms (fever for longer than 3 days, no appetite, no peeing, and overall feeling of “niet lekker”). Of course the best way to test what caused the illness would be a smear test- then it would be clear whether it’s really a bacteria or a virus or parasite. But they don’t do it of course because that would require actual work. I think the Dutch system works for two kinds of people: the ones who are healthy and only have minor symptoms. Or the ones who are truly sick- that’s when the system kicks in and things get done. But you get people in between who have weird symptoms and the doctors send them away all the time because they can’t figure out what’s wrong. These people then suffer for a long time because of that. And they have to really fight and advocate for their right to be seen by a specialist. A friend of mine had the same problem- she had terrible belly aches, and the doctor first told her to take paracetamol. After 2 weeks they gave her antibiotics (because she was not eating and was losing weight and was vomiting) but they didn’t work. Only then (at this time, it was around a month or so), they finally checked for what it is and saw it was a parasite and only then did they give her the right medication. It’s ridiculous, she was obviously in huge amount of pain but they assumed she was a crazy expat who panics without a reason and it took a month of suffering for them to react.

          • M July 20, 2015 at 5:20 pm

            great response Kate! Really think you are making sense. I had astma as a kid (in the netherlands) and they couldn´t have treaten me better. But we never went to a Doctor just for kicks, something I´m seeing and hearing more about these days. Here in Spain it´s ridiculous, people go to see the doctor for a sore throat. And they´ll give you plenty of meds. Sounds pretty insane to me. My mom used to keep me in bed when I had a flu and just took care of me as good mom. Usually went away within a few days, no rushing, just let the body fix itself.

            I do find your comment a bit odd Olga. I couldn´t live in a country where I didn´t feel safe or taken seriously. And you stating that you have three children and they subscribe you Bitterballen, I wonder how you manage to stay alive in the Netherlands. It´s a miracle!

          • Liene October 27, 2015 at 7:04 pm

            Kate, just one question on which statistics you refer saying “Dutch population is healthy”, this is not an argument, just a questions, because they are so healthy why waiting time to any “regular specialist” like gynecologist – months and some like cardiologists, etc. many months. What are they busy with if people are so healthy? Not to mention that even to GP it’s sometime at least week waiting time and when I am there in a waiting room, their phone rings NON-STOP. Must be all those healthy people calling….

          • Olga Mecking October 28, 2015 at 9:44 am

            For us, everything was real quick, luckily. But in other countries people are healthy as well but they do get to see a specialist (like in Germany). Liene, maybe you could consider changing your GP, I’ve never had to wait that long to see him.

        • Reply Christiaan July 18, 2015 at 12:07 am

          Olga,

          I am by no means an expert however I can tell you from Personal experience what Maarten says does make some sense.

          You see antibiotics might be made to kill Bacteria but so is your own body, your body is an amazing thing and withtime it will kill most illnesses. Antibiotics dont only kill bad “things”. Sure get presecribed Antibiotics when its very serious however like Maarten i have been given Antibiotics once in my life.

          As a Kid I think I had to stay home from illness maybe once in 3 years and I can promise you this is not uncommon in the Netherlands. same for many adults, I lived by now 10 years abroad and I notice that for example in Slovakia people get prescribed Antibiotics very quickly however often they are back on them within a year for something else.

          In Short Antibiotics is very usefull but might sometimes be overkill like using a flamethrower in the garden to get rid of some weeds. Sure does the job however kill the rest around it as well.

          • Olga Mecking July 18, 2015 at 9:59 am

            Hi Christian, I understand that overmedicating isn’t a good thing and I know that antibiotics can’t differentiate between “good” and “bad” bacteria.Besides, in Poland you’re always given tablets with lactobacteria to protect your gut and to build up the good bacteria again. My kids are ill more often- especially in daycare, it gets better when they start school. And no, they don’t get antibiotics for anything but their problems are usually well managed (unless of course your doctor is an idiot). My problem with the system is that it takes so much fighting and advocating for us to get the medication we need- for an introvert polite person like me it’s hard! And don’t get me started about the Consultatiebureau, I’ve never gotten any good advice out of them!

      • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:14 pm

        But still, Maarten, you cannot treat EVERYTHING with paracetamol and some infections do require antibiotics.

  • Reply Karola February 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I have really enjoyed your article and I wish I had read it before my first doctor’s appointment with my daughters:) To be honest, now it seems a little bit funny but when a child is sick, contact with a Dutch doctor could become a nightmare.
    I will never forget when I went to a doctor with my 1 year old daughter with high fever lasting more then 3 days with no other symptoms of sickness and doctor asked me why I have came because children have fevers and that’s it. I told him that I am afraid of some bacteria infections such as meningitis, meningococcal (yes I wanted to sound a little bit dramatic as he was really sceptic to see my girl) and he told me that if the child would have meningitis or meningococcas, she would be dead already (100 points for interpersonal skills).
    When I have insisted that I want to make urine analysis, he wanted me to wait for additional 3 days. Fortunately I have not followed his instruction and gave the urine for analysis and of course bacterial bladder infection has been found.
    But it was more like a battle (also with receptionist). My advise is not to give up when we know that something wrong is going on with our child (this is not my orginal advise as I have received it from another expat Mum). Best Regards 🙂

    • Reply Kate July 17, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      The doctor wasn’t saying the fever wasn’t caused by bacteria… He was saying that the condition should get some time to improve itself. Just because it’s caused by bacteria doesn’t mean you should take antibiotics. If the condition doesn’t improve over time, then it’s time to go to the doctor and take medicine. Moms in the Netherlands don’t take kids with a fever to the doctor unless it’s above a certain temperature or unless it lasts longer than x amount of days. For diseases like meningitis Dutch people use tests such as bending the neck so the chin reaches for the chest: if that hurts, it could be meningitis. And like the doctor said: if it would be meningitis, you would know. It’s not like your occassional fever.

      • Reply Olga Mecking July 18, 2015 at 10:22 am

        Kate, yes I learned to recognize when to take them to the doctor- and usually this works well. The problem is that you really need to be persuasive for them to take you seriously (especially when you’re a woman), and I am more of the quiet, shy variety. So yes I will think twice and three times before I go to the doctor here, knowing that they will put me though some serious questioning in order to determine whether I am even worthy of being seen. And even then, they will most likely come up with the solution that will require them to do the least work. Most of the time, everything is fine, but just in case it isn’t, I would like to rest assured that it will be diagnosed and taken care of.

      • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:25 pm

        Like they were waiting of the condition of a cyst on my belly button to improve and in the end they had to cut it open AND give me antibiotics, which they should have done earlier. I would not suffer and it would not be necessary for me to go through all the pain. I have taken antibiotics like, 5 times in my whole life? I am not a fan of antibiotics. But I have heard of cases of people with cancer who have been sent home with a…paracetamol. Please do not try to find excuses. I have lived in a couple of different countries and I can tell you that the doctors here are just not good. Also, people “do not know any better” and of course, they try to avoid the eigen risico. So yes, they do not go to the doctor immediately or request to see a specialist. This doesn’t mean that some situations do not require immediate medical help, it is just that the people “do not know any better”.

        • Reply Jiji January 6, 2016 at 1:52 am

          I agree with you that they wait for asmall thing to become somethin big so old sch. Iam a nurse en last summer i met an middel aged lady who had cancer for 5 years en evrytym she went to her Gp hé wil send her home with paracetimol’s en how she should take every 4hours, until she one day fainted en when they took her to de hospital they found out dat she had agrowin tumor en it was too late, if they would have checkd to begin with she had more survival chance so dutch doctors can give a rat ass about our health until its too late. They are Cold bloded vampires who care about how much insurance company is gona loss if they send u wright away to hospital.
          I always pray to not get sick in this country coz u wil die ma friend.

          • Olga Mecking January 7, 2016 at 1:52 pm

            Oh wow, that is a harsh opinion of the Dutch healthcare system. The story you told about the lady- that was so sad. I’m sorry you had such bad experiences here.

  • Reply kim February 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Hi, really enjoyed this article. How frustrating!

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 12, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Thank you, Kim! It is very frustrating but at least I’m getting some humour out of it.Nothing works without humour!

  • Reply Catarina Queiroz February 11, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    From experience I agree with you… Never lose your cool is key! I don’t like going to the doctor and now living here, since they’re so “nice” and “available”, I run from them like from the devil lol. But I must say, besides being the devil my Dutch doctor isn’t that bad 🙂

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 12, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Besides being the devil my Dutch doctor isn’t so bad- you are so right! And it’s a good idea to run from them!

  • Reply Julia February 16, 2015 at 11:45 am

    You forgot one more tactic: if you don’t get what you want, try a quick jaunt over the border to Germany or Belgium.

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 7:53 am

      HI Julia, you are so right, thank you for the reminder! I think I’ll update the post to add this- super important and helpful at the same time.

  • Reply Natasha February 16, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Great article! As I speak Dutch fluently I asked my doctor nicely but firmly once what possessed her to think that I would be dumb enough to wait an hour to be told to take Paracetamol/ibuprofen for a painful sports injury. She told me her Dutch patients are mostly clueless and don’t look anything up themselves much to her irritation, so she treats them dumbasses. She has come to realise that North Americans care about medical advice and medication, which she found refreshing. We now understand each other well and she cuts to the chase now.
    Natasha recently posted…A space module in a shopping mallMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 7:56 am

      Hi Natasha, thank you for your kind words and welcome. It seems that you found a great doctor! And your question is a great one, sometimes it seems that Dutch doctors treat their patients (especially women) like idiots and we need to prove that we’re not. Whcih is ridiculous because the way I see it, when most people go to see the doctor, they have a reason for it.

  • Reply Odete Almeida February 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I almost lost my hearing if I would not have taken the decision to make an hearing test in a local shop and taken the alarming result to my house doctor. Only than he decided to let me go to a specialist. I was then diagnosed with a 60% hearing lost on my right hear and 40% on my right hear. I have now 2 protheses that allow me to have a normal life. So has you can imagine I’m now very demanding when visiting my house doctor.

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Hello Odete, thank you for sharing your story. Yes, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion, even if it’s at a shop. I’m glad your hearing loss was discovered.

  • Reply Sanne February 17, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    So I’m Dutch… Haha, here goes… I think it’s good that our doctors take overmedicating seriously. I think you’re just helping bacteria by using antibiotics all the time. If you’re sick paracetamol probably will do the trick. And if you don’t show up at your doctor’s office every other week demanding medication, you’ll have a good chance they’ll listen to you. That being said, I think roles in dutch households are divided in such a way that it must be *really* serious if the father goes to the GP’s with their sick children. I think that’s your golden ticket right there 🙂

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 8:01 am

      Sanne, I agree: overmedication isn’t helpful and prescribing too much antibiotics won’t cure the common cold or the flu for example. I agree with your comment about the roles in Dutch households- I see the same thing when my husband takes the kids vs when I take them. I am told to give the kids paracetamol (even if I talked about it with my husband), while he gets real meds. I agree, I should add: be a man or pretend into one to my list!

    • Reply Natasha March 4, 2015 at 10:07 am

      With the ‘alarming’ amount of Dutch kids on ritalin for supposed ADD/ADHD and people claiming to be depressed who are not, I actually think many doctors overmedicate if you believe the statistics and the media. And if a father has to go with his children to the doctor instead of the mother, implying that fathers are not primary caregivers, well that’s just sexist, sadly.
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    • Reply Evgeniya July 19, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Overmedicating is equally wrong as just waiting, but there is another way – to do tests to know exactly what is going on and to take decision based on that. That’s what I miss the most in Dutch medical system.

      It can save lifes if people do not wait. Recently one 6 yo died here from twisted stomach: she had pain, but parents gave her paracetomol and waited. And then it was too late. Keeping patients at home for a week first helps to decrease doctor’s load, and statistically makes sense (in the most of the cases it indeed is going away), but when you talk about your child, it is a different story

    • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      Sanne, overmedication should indeed be taken seriously and giving the correct medication if needed, should be taken seriously, too. The second one is not taken very seriously.

  • Reply rick February 17, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    What I wonder as a Dutchie is…..how is your child doing. ‘Cause your doctor hardly gave you(r child) any meds. ..and HEY your child is still there in good health. You should not put all these drugs inside a child ..like a vaccine … It is (unfortunately) completely normal to be sick every now and then.. After all your doctor was right not giving you any other (heavier)drugs than paracetamol…… You sound a bit like an American. ..I have amerikanischen cold HELP HELP.. Doctor save me now.!!.. go with it.. we re all sick every now and than, our body is a good healer itself…. (and I am not even talking about the costs if we have to pay for all the drugs ‘moms’ want)

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Hi Rick, thank you for taking the time to write this comment. It made me laugh and very grateful. Of course my kids are fine and of course I don’t go to the doc with every little cough they get. And we do get antibiotics when we need them. Anyway, how about you re-read the post, or at least scan it until the end where I say it’s tongue in cheek? It means the post is supposed to be funny and sarcastic. Sorry you didn’t get that you may have laughed instead of being so bitter. The fact is if you know kids, you know that not all illnesses they have are innocent and “normal” and some are dangerous and you wouldn’t want your doctor to ignore that. And you say I sound like an American? Why, thank you! I take it as a compliment.

    • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Why do we need doctors then? let’s fire them all, we will heal ourselves…Stupid profession, the medical one…

  • Reply Dan February 18, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Antibiotics DON’T fight illnesses caused by viruses. This includes influenza (flu), many common colds, sore throats, etc.

    Antibiotic over prescription is a serious problem. In India physicians prescribe antibiotics for everything and it is leading to the development of extremely resistant bacteria. Most people get fine without any antibiotics.

    Your article is misleading in telling people to request antibiotics. Dutch doctors are good and competent, trust their medical advice especially with regard to medications.

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 8:13 am

      Hi Dan, thank you for explaining it to me. I didn’t know that you didn’t need antibiotics to fight the flu. I’m just kidding. I know it and I don’t require antibiotics all the time. But sometimes I don’t know whether something needs more serious meds or not and would like a doctor’s opinion even if he doesn’t give me antiobiotics. In Poland, antibiotics are overprescribed as well and I agree that most illnesses don’t require them but sometimes you just don’t know. My article is not misleading. I said it was meant to be funny and tongue-in-cheek and it says that sometimes Dutch doctors are right and you worry too much. And mostly if Dutch doctors don’t believe that the illness in question requires antibiotics, they won’t prescribe them anyway because they’re not stupid. Relax, the article was meant to be funny.

  • Reply Dominika February 18, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Olga! Great article! I am also Polish, living in NL for 5 years. The Dutch health care system (or rather lack of it) is definitely the most discussed issue among me and my international friends living here, especially Polish. As you know, we are used to something totally different…I tried to adjust to their “natural” approach but in some cases it just doesn’t work. I could tell you many many stories about bad doctors which had crossed my path. I tried to talk, discuss, argue and finally demand things from them, but after a while I just gave up. I changed my health insurance to the most basic one and I just go to the doctor when I am in Poland (gynecologist, dentist, dermatologist etc.). Here it is simply IMPOSSIBLE to get directed to a specialist and when this miracle happens, they will actually make fun of you (happened to me and many of my friends) about overreacting…and then you will get a bill for 300-400€. For half of this amount I can fly for a weekend to Poland and get checked by a specialist who will treat me seriously instead of asking “Why would you do a cytology exam when you are 30?” or “Did you google your symptoms?” (FOR REAL!)
    I still cannot understand where this approach comes from and how something like this can happen in such a developed country. Good to know there are more people like me and I am not a crazy one by reacting like this 😉

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Dominika, thank you for commenting and sharing your story. No, you are definitely not the only one and definitely not crazy. I have heard some horrid stories myself and I know exactly what you mean, although luckily we don’t have any such stories ourselves. Good point about going to see your doctor in Poland, and good to hear something positive about the Polish healthcare system. I think this approach is very Dutch- they are in love with everything being natural, normal. And another reason is that they don’t want to overtire the specialists who would usually deal with so many (sometimes unnecessary) cases, the system makes sense if done correctly but I have my doubts as well.

      • Reply Dominika February 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm

        Yeah, you are absolutely right. The saddest part is that anytime I go to a doctor in Poland, especially the gynecologist, they actually tell me that during the international medical conferences, they always bring up Holland as the worst example, next to the UK. Well, you can’t have everything, so at least I am happy there are other positive aspects of living in NL, which can compensate.
        Good luck with your blog! I checked it after reading this article and I will visit it on a regular basis for sure. Cheers!

        • Reply Olga Mecking February 21, 2015 at 10:53 am

          I was told the same thing in a hospital in Warsaw when I had a bleeding with my second daughter, “Oh well, in the Netherlands, healthcare isn’t that great”… but then the Polish hospital wasn’t as nice as the Dutch one and the doctor didn’t even talk to me! I also love my life in the Netherlands! And thank you for your kind words about my blog. Would love to have you back!

        • Reply Willem February 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm

          Hi Dominika and Olga,
          For your information, the Netherlands again hold the top position of the annual Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) which compares healthcare systems in Europe. We find Poland on an impressive 32nd place! So let’s take the judgemnt of these Polish doctors with at least a grain of salt, shall we?

          • Olga Mecking February 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm

            Well, I know from experience that Polish doctors are not perfect and giving birth here was a much better experience than if I had to give birth in Poland, but I think all systems have their flaws, no? I’ll look into the report, thanks for letting me know!

          • Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:31 pm

            Dear Willem. It compares healthcare SYSTEMS. The system is indeed the best, as you can choose your insurance, every year, according to your needs. You can find this lux in healthcare only in the Netherlands. However, this says nothing about the quality of the doctors, and we are talking about the quality of the doctors here.

  • Reply The Dad February 18, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Sure the article is “kinda” joke, but in fact that’s the approach one needs to take.
    Had the same with our kid. Surprisingly, in MANY cases, staying in bed, drinking home made syrups and honey, using whatever-grandma-told-you-to, WORKS. In many kid virus cases. Sure, we have seen 40+ fevers for 3 days, when she was younger, but now…. no issue AT ALL. Children need to build their own immunity and the “Dutch approach” aims at it. On the other hand they seem to lack the EMPATHY and care – something that all parents seek from doctors.

    And I will give you completely different example of my own. I had a some pain in the mid of my chest for few days and finally went to see the doctor. I was IMMEDIATELY sent to the SpoedeHulp to do the heart check. They put me into a room, gave me hospital clothes, vein injections and plugged me into few machines for some 4 hours. Just like that, they did not even ask what is it. The examination did not provide any symptoms of heart problems, and I was released home. I called my doctor in hometown and.. he said I have stomach issues and need to stop drinking coffee, beer, eating fried steaks, and that spicy Asian food I love. Although it was major pain not eat/drink my favorite things, the pain vanished and issue was gone.
    So…you know.

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Hi The Dad, thank you for commenting. I AM using many of the home-made remedies you’ve mentioned in your comment. Yes, I agree Dutch doctors can be often seen as ignoring. I must admit that we have a great doctor who gives us meds when we need it and doesn’t give us meds when we don’t. But so much depends on finding the right doctor and it is very hard for people who are not Dutch, who often go to a doctor, and he turns out to be the wrong kind and they stop going to the doctor altogether because they think the system is bad. It isn’t, obviously. And I said in my post that in many cases the doctors are right.

  • Reply Sophie February 19, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Chicken pox vaccines are given as standard to children, including mine, in Amsterdam.

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 21, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Wow, Sophie, I’ve never heard of it and none of my friends’s kids had the chicken pox vaccine! I even called the expat clinic in the Hague and that’s where they told me that the vaccine doesn’t exist! I would love to know how you did it (although it’s too late now as they’ve all had it already).

      • Reply Izabela January 6, 2016 at 9:13 pm

        wow! what an extended discussion! I am new to Nederlands and already have experience some issues with the medical system. I agree with antibiotic policy( have been working in the dental field for quite time); however, testing should be done in many cases( and I do not talk about flu!) because uncontrolled infection can spread and cause more damage to your health! Making diagnosis just based on symptoms is just pure negligence.
        As for chickenpox vaccine. My daughter got the first dose in Canada and should have the second one soon. I was told by the consultatiebureau’s doctor that it can be ordered by my regular doctor at any time. I would have to pay for it. The Nederlands system does not include it as standard vaccination.

        • Reply Olga Mecking January 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm

          I know! I certainly haven’t expected such a response to this article (even though I knew it was going to be controversial). I agree about the testing- after all, while symptoms are sometimes obvious, sometimes they are not and then it’s good to know which bug exactly caused that illness and choose the right medication. And don’t even tell me about the chicken pox vaccine. They told me such a vaccine doesn’t exist!!!

  • Reply Vicky February 21, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Hi Olga! I agree with many things you’ve said in the article, except for one thing. In my opinion you should always check what your doctor’s describing if he/she finally describes something, because they might be wrong. If you eventually get some meds be aware of your own allergies and the often made mistake of ‘factor 10’. I have many examples of stories in which things went wrong, like nearly losing an eye (doctor tranquilized me with the anastetic I’m allergic to, causing a swelling that went from my shoulder up to my eye) or nearly being over- drugged on prednison (doctor gave me factor 10 higher, than necessary. I had a bad allergic reaction to musquito bites whiched caused my legs to swell up badly. However, if I hadn’t done the math, I most likely would have ended up in the hospital). I had several doctors over the years all having their own kind of knowledge-lacking. So…just saying, never take your doc for granted.

    Though your story of how to retreive some meds or care at all, was super recognizable. I never ever realized how the Dutch communicate with doctors, specialist, etc, up untill a Polish friend went completely over her head her son being ill for the hundred time within a year with high fever being sent home time and time again with orders to give him paracetemol and to keep him well hydrated. I, Dutch myself, looked at her in astonishment and I asked her, never ever demanded your doctor to go see a specialist? Your child needs those ear tubes?! Looking at her expression I realized she never demanded it… The next week she went to see the doctor, saw a specialist and the week after the child got the ear tubes. No more fever since then.

    Yes, the Dutch always have a direct way of communicating, slighty adapted to whatever profession or age you have. Good you wrote a book on those cultural habits nobody realizes unless it get’s difficult, awkard, penible, etc, it’ll definitely help foreigners out. Don’t be blinded by the fact that almost every Dutch person speaks well enough English, it doesn’t instantly mean they’ve adjusted to your culture on all terms, simply because they don’t know those terms they’re automatically responding to, which is called the Dutch culture. Be aware…

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 21, 2015 at 11:04 am

      I agree, they just give you the standard antibiotics and you have to tell them if you know that you’re allergic, it’s your job. And sometimes they don’t give you the meds because you don’t need them and yes, the doctor doesn’t know everything especially if you’ve just arrived and they have no idea about you and gives you the standard meds. And you are so right about being vocal and direct- I also had no idea how direct they are until I arrived in the Netherlands and had to run errands. I think if I didn’t learn to be more direct, I wouldn’t get anything done!

  • Reply Fred February 21, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I am sorry to say, a Europe-wide research project has revealed that the Netherlands has the sixth-highest infant mortality rate on the continent. Which is pretty appalling when you consider income per capita. Sloppiness has a tangible negative impact. I am not sure most optimists here realise this. And back in the good old days – or still today in some parts of the world- many children did not make it go adulthood. Let’s not forget the reality.

    – See more at: http://www.iamexpat.nl/read-and-discuss/expat-page/news/infant-mortality-rate-still-high-in-the-netherlands#sthash.Ee4RWKv6.dpuf

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 21, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Hi Fred, thank you for bringing that up and sharing the article. And there was another study showing that midwives working with low-risk women had worse statistics than doctors working with high-risk pregnancies, which is kind of ridiculous because it doesn’t make sense to consider some women low-risk!

      • Reply Fred February 21, 2015 at 8:39 pm

        Dear Olga,
        It does not make sense indeed! Maybe they meant “normal” pregnancies with no diagnosed complications. The problem is that many complications are difficult to anticipate …. In Sweden they have a great system where the midwives and doctors work together to make the birth (at the hospital) as pleasant and non-medicalised as possible while retaining the possibility of a medical intervention if anything seems to go wrong. I think success rates are very high.

        • Reply Olga Mecking February 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

          Dear Fred, yes that is precisely what they meant- that pregnancy is normal and natural and shouldn’t be treated as medical condition unless there are complications. However, it is very hard to predict complications- just as you say. Yes, the Swedish system sounds great (from what I’ve been reading about it), and I hear there is also a great deal of choice regarding pain relief which is kind of awesome, because in the Netherlands, while it changes, they expect you to have no pain relief at all. In Germany, they have a choice between a doctor and a midwife (sometimes you can have both) and you can also decide what kind of birth do you want.

  • Reply Mass February 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    You have to fight..

    Although I also want to be a natural as possible and fight without heavy medication, my story is one which shows purely how much you need to fight. I used to live above a shopkeeper who became a friend. After some time he started complaining of a pain in his leg. I didn’t see him for a few weeks and again when i met him he still had the pain in his leg. he said he went to the doctor and they really did the paracetamol story. I told him he needed to be forceful with them and push the doctor. Again I didn’t see him for a while the next time I met him he had gone back to India to see the doctor there. It turned out he had cancer in his leg and it had gone to far for treatment. He died shortly after. This story is no exaggeration please fight your Dutch doctor.

  • Reply Willem Pinksterboer February 23, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Olga,
    Your blog is funny, but slightly scary as well as you’re advising people to lie to their GP in order to get ‘real medicine’ meaning antibiotics. It sounds like you think you know when antibiotics are needed. How on earth do you do that? In your replies you confrm that you know that treating the flu with antibiotics is useless. That’s a good thing, but are you aware of the fact that this is also the case for sinusitis, ear infections, most throat infections? A high fever does not mean antibiotics are needed! Overmedication especially of antbiotics is one of the biggest threats to the public health world wide. Also, treating those infections with antibiotics increases the chance of re-infections tot appear. The Dutch way of dealing with this might in the end turn out to be the wisest. I remember one of my US physical therapy trainees freaking out over the fact that he didn’t get antibiotics for his cold. I laughed at the poor guy!
    Good luck and I hope you enjoy living in our stubborn little country!

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 27, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      Well it is true that for most diseases antibiotics are not necessary. And actually, I don’t expect antibiotics for sinus/throat etc infections. In fact, I rarely go to the doc at all, except when it’s for the kids who we all know get sick a lot. The doctors told me the signs of a bacterial infections: high fever (that lasts longer than 3 days), child doesn’t eat or drink, and feels generally bad, and when I told them these signs, they usually give antibiotics. The reason why I take the kids to the doctor is not that I want antibiotics but more because I am not them and can’t be expected to know all signs of every possible disease, and with kids it’s important to know it’s not a lung infection (to which the answer is not necessarily antibiotics). I agree that we should be cautious about antibiotics, but let us remember that they are life-saving and often necessary. You are right, I can’t know what disease I have or my children have but I expect the doctor to know better and my feeling is that the doctors here expect me to be very clear about my expectations. Other than still being slightly shocked about the Dutch healthcare system, I am enjoying life here very much!

    • Reply Tatiana March 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      >>The Dutch way of dealing with this might in the end turn out to be the wisest.

      If only this way would be only meds. But it is not the case. When you ask for additional test or seeing the specialist you don’t get it often too, and this is not “overmedication” caring, this is either banal laziness/stupidity or trying to save insurance money.

    • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Willem, it looks like you are not visiting the doctors often enough and that you do not have as much health problems as other people. And I wish you that you always stay healthy. But please, let people who do really have serious problems exaggerate a little bit, like the article suggests. It the ONE AND ONLY way to get treated in this country, believe me. I had so many bad experiences, you don’t want to know. I am telling you, the article is spot on. maybe you don’t like it because it says something negative about your country, but this doesn’t mean that what it says it is not true.

  • Reply Claudia Veenstra February 23, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    It’s funny to see how dutches often stand up to defend their doctors claiming that “overmadication is bad!”; yes, indeed it is, but the problem with dutch doctors is not just that they don’t give meds, they don’t even prescribe any analysis, or specialistic examinations. Sometimes they don’t even visit you…I know a man with a broken leg who was sent home with a paracetamol prescription TWO TIMES, by TWO DIFFERENT DOCTORS. Come on, that’s simply unacceptable!

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 27, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      I agree it’s definitely not acceptable! Sometimes routine evaluations and check-ups are life saving (my friend was diagnozed with thyroid cancer during such an evaluation in Poland only because she applied for a job and was asked to see a doctor for a routine check-up). The situation you describe is simply ridiculous. I have no words.

  • Reply SJ March 2, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Kind of sounds like more Dutch doctors are needed in the world. Salt for a sinus infection is much more effective than antibiotics 🙂 I know, I took 3 doses and it not change… that is until I snorted salt water. It was so gross, but it worked 😀
    SJ recently posted…A powerful new way to save money on accommodationMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking March 2, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Haha, SJ, thanks for the comment. Here they prescribe saline sprays and drops for the nose… if you have a real bad cold, they’d prescribe a special spray but warn you not to take it for more than a week.

  • Reply Eugene March 10, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Seriously, Dutch healthcare system is sick. So far – worst I’ve seen.
    Seriously, does it crashes the world of GP to prescribe immune-booster or anti-viral (not antibiotic, for those who doesn’t know the difference)?
    How many times U should chew it and put it into mouth of GP, that 8 days of fever – is not OK for viral infection, so immune systems needs some help (not talking about grapefruit and vitamin C, it’s a fu**** 21 century, for god’s sake).
    So, either hold the doctor at the point of a gun (I’d do that literally, to be honest, to make sure they un-der-stand), or go with the flow and hope no complications will come of 10-days fever.

    • Reply Olga Mecking March 12, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Hi Eugene, thanks for your comment. I really don’t understand this either, I must admit. But usually, with more than 3 days of fever, they give us antibiotics, but I’ve heard similar stories and they were equally worrying. I begin to wonder whether we are simply lucky to have a good doctor.

  • Reply We're Back! - ByCatarina.com April 14, 2015 at 11:00 am

    […] I was fed up with the “just wait and you’ll get better naturally” attitude of the Dutch doctors. I complained about the treatment we were getting, which was basically none (on one of the […]

  • Reply Jasper van Capelle May 18, 2015 at 12:07 am

    I’m dutch and I think you are insulting the country you live in. If you do not like our country , please go away . Simple as that. Overmedication is wrong and evil.

    • Reply Olga Mecking May 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Jasper, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you feel offended by my post. I’m not saying over-medication is good, just that under-medication is just as bad. And besides, did you read the whole post, including the part where I say it’s tongue-in-cheek and funny? Or did you miss it? Or maybe you have no sense of humor?

      • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:45 pm

        Noone is allowed to say anything than positive things and opinions about this country. If you don’t you should leave (according to Jasper and millions of other Dutch people with the exact same response to people who say something that is not positive about the Netherlands).

    • Reply Tatiana May 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      Hi, Jasper.
      I think with such comments you insult the author. If you do not like what you read, please go away. Advices like that are rude and unwise.

      • Reply Olga Mecking May 25, 2015 at 1:52 pm

        Hi Tatiana, thank you for your comment. I didn’t feel offended by his post- he has the right to express his opinion. However, telling expats to leave if they don’t like it is not OK. I think I need to write about this.

        • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:46 pm

          Please do, it is a standard answer to everyone that dares to say something negative about the Paradise (the Netherlands).

    • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Jasper, every time I read people saying something negative about the Netherlands or sharing their experience, they get the very same answer from Dutch people. So Dutch people are direct but they don’t like it when they hear a kindof painful from others, right? Please tell me, do you really believe that you live in Paradise? If you do, maybe you have not visited other countries (see Scandinavia).

  • Reply anat June 15, 2015 at 9:16 am

    go to belgium! these people are dangerous lazy paternalistic morons.

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 15, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Thanks, Anat! Sounds like a good idea in theory, although it’s way more difficult to do in practice!

  • Reply lus July 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    I read almost all the comments and I didn’t miss the fact that the Dutch do not believe that there is sth wrong with their healthcare system. But hey, guess what, there is!!!! A couple years ago I lost my best friend. 25 year old student living in the Netherlands. She was complaining about her vision, especially her side-vision, headaches and she had to throw up almost every day. Now a simple google search result is more than alarming. Everything leads to brain tumor. She went to her huisarts (the most ugly word in Dutch vocabulary) and told her about all the complaints. After listening to her for some minutes the doctor’s advice was to go home and have as much orange juice ad possible, since according to her my friend didn’t have enough vitamin C. I guess the doctor just tried to take a guess instead of taking such serious complaints into account. My friend left for het home country, a southern European country, which according to many north Europeans is underdeveloped but apparently has a much better healthcare system. They immediately sent her to a MRI test and diagnosed her with brain tumor. My lovely girl is not with us any more. It was too late to do anything about her disease… And you, Dutch ppl who are trying to say that regardless the ‘rumors’ your system actually works? How ignorant and arrogant at the same time! I wouldn’t share this heartbreaking story if not the comment above from a Dutchman who has the nerve to say: Is your child alive now? See, the GP was right not to take your complaints seriously.
    It’s sad, very sad, because the health insurance is very expensive in the NL. You pay god knows how much money and you don’t get any service. While a lot of Dutch will look down on Belgium, this country has a much much better system and much more serious approach to the health of their patients. And just to mention – what you pay in the Netherlands for one month for your health insurance, you actually pay for an entire year in Belgium. But this is no solution of course, if u live in the NL you cannot go to Belgium to doctor every time you are sick.

    • Reply Olga Mecking July 18, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Hi Lus, I agree- locals don’t always see when there’s something wrong with them, it takes an outsider’s perspective to see that. Thank you so much for sharing your story- and I’m truly sorry for your loss. This is so sad.

    • Reply Katia July 19, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      You are wrong, my dear, the Dutch do not look down to Belgium, they actually go to Belgium for healthcare much more often than you think, and it is easier than you think, if you have a good insurance. I have an insurance that covers twice the Dutch tarief and we go to Belgium for serious health problems. I suggest that you do the same.

    • Reply Liene October 27, 2015 at 8:21 pm

      lus, this is so awful!! I think doctors should be charged and prosecuted for such neglect and revoked their diplomas and licenses !

      • Reply Olga Mecking October 28, 2015 at 9:46 am

        It is such an awful story, isn’t it?

    • Reply Cristina January 12, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      Lus,
      I have to admit, I’m a little bit puzzled. Were did you find such a cheap insurance in Belgium? I suppose you’re only taking a baseic hospitalisation (no dental, etc) insurance into account? Did you actually consider also the amounts you’re paying every month to the social security in Belgium. Quite a large chunk of that goes, actually, to the mutualities (7.5% from the employer brut). If you actually add all that up, it doesn’t exactly come cheap (unless you have a quite low income).

      • Reply Cristina January 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        Sorry, I replied quickly and I clicked the send without reviewing. So, please read Where instead of Were and basic instead of baseic .

  • Reply Isabel July 18, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Love your post and completely agree…if you want to get meds expat politeness and “the whole truth” need to go out the door! Although in my experience this mostly applies for “everyday” illnesses. When sh@*! hits the fan the Dutch health system is efficient and trustworthy. Quality of life in the Netherlands is great if you learn to be direct and follow rules 🙂

    • Reply Olga Mecking July 18, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Hi Isabel, thank you for your comment. I agree- this has been our experience as well- if all goes wrong, that’s when they actually do something.But prevention is virtually unknown here and you basically have to have proof that you’re really sick so that they’ll do something. I agree that adapting makes things easier but some expats have more troubles with that, being introverted and having learned to be very polite.

  • Reply Mae Rizaga July 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Hahaha, this article is very true in a funny way… Been with alot of allergies in my skin and my huisarts on the first appointment just told me to take a look at it (lookibg if i have taken weird food or things, although i knew totally all the things im allergic into) and just have paracetamol. After a week i went back again coz its getting bad, so prescribed me with a normal cream….went back after a few days coz it’s getting worse, so she prescribed what she called stronger than the other cream and just come back after 10 days….like i was, come on! I want a good derma on this…on a sunday we decided to call the huisartsenpost to take a look on my worsening itching skin, but just said, buy in the drugstore an antihistamine med and have paracetamol, again good heavens! Following monday i bombarded the receptionist of my huisarts that my situation is no joke, so the doctor took me in again and gave me the strongest med i ever took (like i cant sleep and my eyes got blurry) and that’s when she referred me to the specialist… What is funny after that, after some tests with no concrete findings, no meds even, it all boils down to saying to stay away from the whole lists of substances she saw on the plasters and on googling from a doctor’s website…in the end, i just have to call her when it’s itching so bad i cant sleep… Hahaha, thanks doc! I can only laugh about it now especially after i found out it is my sweat that makes my skin itchy… Weird! But i’l call u doc when i can’t handle it! Hahahaha (sorry for posting my funny experience, i just can’t help it)…
    My point is, not in all situation a paracetamol can help you. And of course, try to call them almost everyday so you can see your doctor! Hahaha

  • Reply LJK July 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    oh man how true this is.. took 3 yrs to get our daughter’s asthma diagnosis because she wasn’t 6 yrs old yet. You can’t have it before age 6, duh. /sarcasm

    Healthcare in NL is very frustrating.. I could write a book on it!

  • Reply Alice July 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Hi,My expats friends adviced me to go to a GP doctor after hours service, usually in a hospital. We had many sickness with my kids and after 4 months of non stop cough, sinus problem,fevers, no sleeping for me for all this time! I understand infection and medicine/antibiotic market, working for years in microbiology/reseach labs or pharma labs developing medicines.But this was too much for me to handle anymore.I went to see my local GP and…adviced to cut an onion and leave next to a bed of my kids.I was speechless. Than my friend told me that in this case they call in the evening after hours service.I called and..Eureka.yes.somebody actually did some testing and found the case of it!since then I do not go to my local GP and if something trouble me I call evening to a hospital!always get proper help there

  • Reply Nina July 18, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    When I read your post and the comments I get an impression we do not live in the same country. It is true I do not go to the doctor if our kids have fever less than 5 days. I believe it is a normal thing. I am with them at home, I take care they drink a lot and take lots of rest, no iPads etc. but taking a real rest. When we really needed medications we called our doctor, explained the condition, got an appointment and we always found a solution with which I was happy. Me personally I am not often sick, but lately I had a problem and with my doctor we together decided on all the steps, I was sent on all the checks for which we decided together and it was clear they might tell us something. I was never rejected from the doctor, instead we made decisions together and such approach gave me very positive feeling about the system. The same goes for the birthing, I could not imagine better as it was, I had a possibility to chose where to birth which I could never had in the country where I am coming from. So yes I do think the post is funny and should be something to laugh about and not to be taken too seriously. However, could be misleading as well, there are also people like me who are happy with it and in fact appreciate it. PS I always do speak with our doctor in English., where I always say it is for me very important to understand you good and that you get from me the right information.

  • Reply Sarah July 19, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Having now lived in five different countries as an adult, I could not agree with you more about how dismissive Dutch doctors are. And as a native English speaker who speaks Dutch fluently, I also agree with your point about language: when I spoke in Dutch I was powerless, and never got my needs met in a consultation. Using English totally shifted things in my favour.

    And I’m sorry you are getting so many irrelevant comments from defensive Dutch people. I admire your patience in responding to them. They apparently have yet to experience different medical models, and to appreciate the pros and cons of different systems.

  • Reply Taylor July 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I am really wondering whether this thing about Dutch directiveness is just an excuse for their terrible levels of service…

  • Reply Sam July 20, 2015 at 12:27 am

    In my opinion the main problem here is you cannot choose on yourself, it’s controversial that you can easily apply euthanasia to yourself but not swallow some antibacterial pills. I have had a lot of antibiotics when I was a child but my dutchie colleagues get sick every month..probably because they think biking in the rain doesn’t hurt. So please bike as mutch as you like but let us decide (more) about OURSELVES

  • Reply Julia July 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

    You are right, you really have to know how to talk to Dutch doctors. I remember how I was trapped once at a gynecologist. I had a streptococci, she said that almost everyone has it, so it was ok and first she didn’t want to give me anything, then I explained the danger of a streptococci and she gave me the lightest antibiotic. Of course I didn’t cure, but she insisted that it was gone, or that I just had to live with it. I was lucky because after few months I got a bad infection and my GP gave me some strong antibiotic (as he was pretty scared of what I had) and like this everything came back to normal. My GP also took 2 weeks till he was sure he could give me medicine, and I was ok with that, as I also don’t want antibiotics whenever I get some fever, but he taught me that if it really persists, then there is a problem and we solve it :).
    I guess we also have to be aware and realistic about what we have, or might have.
    My GP knows that I stress badly and he sends me and my family to analysis whenever we don’t agree on something and he was always right with everything :D.

  • Reply Dear Dutch Healthcare providers July 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

    […] in I Am A Mom, I Am An Expat, My Expat Life, Pregnancy And Birth 2 Comments   Dear Dutch doctors and other Dutch healthcare providers   For a while I believed that your system worked out […]

  • Reply Jessica Huisman July 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Two years ago, a glass vase broke in my hand, leaving me with 4 cuts in my hand and arm. I was living across from a doctor at that time, but since I moved there just before, he wasn’t my regular doctor. However, considering the fact that I was bleeding quite seriously, in no condition to drive and home alone, I decided it would be wisest to just cross the street and ask them for help.
    The assistent told my they could not help me, since I was not a regular there. They made me walk 3 km, to go to my regular doctor. I did need several stitches in the end…
    So, even when you are born and raised in the Netherlands, you still can be surprised with how… ehm… unhelpful a Dutch doctor can be… Or at least, his assistent was…

    • Reply Olga Mecking August 2, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Oh Jessica, I am so sorry. This is ridiculous- couldn’t they just have helped you with your arm? Oh and the assistants, they’re gatekeepers to the Menherr Doctor, so that no one but really no one bothers His Medical Highness. I mean it’s not that Dutch doctors can’t be right, because they can but their responses are often more than unhelpful.

  • Reply Mark Rendeiro July 29, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    What most exhausts me with over 13 years of being turned away, talked down to, and otherwise ignored by doctors, is never having a doctor who remembers my name or gives a shit about me. I dream of having a doctor who treats me like an intelligent human who might have something of importance to address. OH AND OF COURSE – paying good money (with always rising premiums) for this useless health insurance.
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    • Reply Olga Mecking August 2, 2015 at 11:42 am

      Hi Mark, I am sorry for your experiences. This can happen easily here especially if you’re not used to this type of treatment. And yes, doctors can treat you like a kids sometimes, it’s infuriating. And the money is a problem as well- I mean if we pay can’t we just get good treatment for it? And besides, why would it even depend on the money at all?

  • Reply James August 9, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    I recognize every word that has been writtten here. And let me tell you this: the doctors do have a reason for sending ‘seriously’ ill people home. Because they aren’t seriously ill. As a matter of fact, the Dutch made fun of other countries where they just describe whatever the patient is asking, ‘because they should decide over their own bodies’. Fact is, patients can not. They don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. So trying to make a statement by saying that ‘Poland says that the Dutch doctors are not very good’ is pathetic. Saying you know your child best is pathetic, too. As long as you don’t work in the hospital as an actual doctor, you don’t know. But if you think you do, then please feel free to go to your native country for medical assistance. Just stop critisizing Dutch doctors who in most cases try the very best they can, and have studied for at least 10 year (a top notch education programme, after the American and British system), when you (as a mother?) may have occasionaly read about a subject once or twice and think you know better, because you’ re influenced by scary stories about childrens death rate etc. I would not want to know the death rate in Poland… And to be honest with you, after so many whining mothers, the next whining mother wouldn’t improve my mood. Most of the parents, men or women, can not logically and medically analyse symptoms. Bye.

    • Reply Olga Mecking August 9, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      Hi James, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. If people aren’t seriously ill, then I don’t have a problem with them being sent home. If, however, they ARE seriously ill AND doctors send them home, well that is a problem. And it does happen. Usually, I have no problems whatsoever trusting my doctors. I’ll be the first to say “ask your doctor, don’t try to cure this yourself”. And the first one to say “the doctor should know better”. I have never said I know my children best. In fact, I wrote once that I don’t know whether they’re seriously sick or not and that’s why I take them to a doctor, knowing that it’s probably nothing, but it’s better to have an expert confirm it.
      However, please explain this: in the Netherlands, I take a my child to a doctor. Doctor gives her some medication that doesn’t work. I take my child to a doctor in Germany. What happens? They prescribe medication that actually works and you know why? Because they actually take time to do an examination and find the cause of the problem and work on that. BAM, problem solved, child cured. It’s not one time this happened. I’ve had it many times. In the Netherlands they went for the easiest solution first- “to see what happens, if it doesn’t work, come back.” in Germany, they actually looked into the problem and the medicine they prescribed weren’t always antibiotics at all! Preventive medicine doesn’t exist here. They’re looking for typical symptoms. IN many ways they’re right, I agree with that. But when your case isn’t very typical, then you have a problem.

  • Reply Daniel August 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Dutch healthcare system is the worst!!! i have been in the netherlands for 7 years now, i have asked several times for a blood work checkup, since the last i did was in my home country 7 years ago…the docs all tell me the same “but are you feeling sick?” My answer was always, not really but how about prevention? i can have something wrong with me which will only show symptoms in a few months/years and when they finally hit me, maybe its already too late? Is it so costly to do general blood work exams every 2 years or so?

    I fully understand and agree that they dont want to give you antibiotics all the time and also because antibiotics will only work for bacterial infections not viruses.

    • Reply Olga Mecking August 11, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Hi Daniel, my point exactly! You don’t have to feel sick to be sick! And prevention is non-existent here. Ridiculous!

  • Reply Nena Ra August 16, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Even if I understand your point, I would not agree that the best thing is to take every medicine predcribed by your Dutch GP. Better to take a lie detector, voice recorder and a lawyer. They give off-label medicines to very young children that cause serious metabolic disturbances, which are not allowed by WHO. In such a way, chronical deseases are easily created, assuring a constant and secure profit. When you finally discover what happened and caused the desease, they jutify their actions as acting in a perfectly ‘legal’ way and blame the genetics. Dutch healthcare is a dangerous terrain for a foreigner. In my opinion, it should be avoided by any means.

    • Reply Olga Mecking August 17, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Nena, the point about taking anything prescribed by your Dutch GP was humourous! I agree that sometimes they prescribe medicine that doesn’t work, but then I don’t think they’re in a conspiracy. The point about avoiding them though- yes, I can agree with that.

  • Reply Nena Ra August 18, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Sure, we all need some humor 🙂 Anyway, conspiracy is a strong word, a profit-driven medicine would be a more appropriate and a politically corect term. All the best!

  • Reply Lars September 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    “when explaining your illness, double the amount of time you’ve been sick, triple your symptoms and that equals help.” I don’t care if you have to lie, bribe, threaten or kill to get your meds.

    How can you expect a doctor to make a decent diagnosis of your illness? Doctors study over 10 years to be able to weigh the symptoms and decide whether or not you need medication. And it’s not an exact science. To say you have to change symptons and duration in order to get your meds sounds to me as if you know better.

    And to be honest that last sentence sounds like a junkie looking for a shot.

    I get your point, Healthcare here is definately different than in other countries, but this point no.5 you are making is (in my opinion) ridiculous and dangerous.

    • Reply Olga Mecking September 23, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Dear Lars, thank you for your comment. I can’t believe anyone would actually take this post seriously. This post is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s sarcastic, funny and yes, exaggerates to make a point. Seriously how could you think this was actually a guide meant to provide information when it was clearly meant to provide entertainment.

  • Reply Life in the Netherlands, talking to Dutch doctors. October 3, 2015 at 3:50 pm

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  • Reply Sunny Piedmont October 8, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    It makes me laugh that, just like Dutch doctors, those angrily defending the system here seem to just robotically cluck about the evils of overmedication while completely ignoring the details of what everyone else is actually trying to communicate. Arrogantly wagging the finger at the other commenters in agreement with the author, who seem to come from a variety of different countries and therefore have experience with other healthcare systems as comparison, is also quite myopic and dim….hmmm, reminds me of something.

    What they really don’t seem to understand is that you come into their office to ask for their medical assessment of symptoms- because THEY’RE the doctors, right? All they seem to conclude is that you are trying to get antibiotics for a cold (or in their words “probably just a virus,” or even better “a pain”).

    Good advice to just go to Germany for treatment form now on-the 5 years I lived there the doctors were usually always very analytical when it came to complaints and made sure to take a closer look if they deemed it warranted. Like an ultrasound of the kidneys after recovering from a very bad infection I got trying to cure what felt like a mild UTI the Dutch way-with lots of water, rest, and homeopathic syrups, because it did not give me a fever until it was very serious. As it turns out, I am prone to a pattern of negative UTI test results and no fever that progresses if not treated with antibiotics into something much more serious. When I went to a Dutch doctor today with the start of these symptoms and tried to explain my history, she dismissively told me to wait to see if it got worse and that for it to be serious I needed at least a fever- like trying to communicate with a chicken.

    • Reply Olga Mecking October 9, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Yes! I don’t know how many times the Dutch doctors didn’t know what to do but the German doctors did! And the difference is that when German doctors think you don’t need the meds, they will tell you so AND explain why. Dutch doctors will just dismiss you or tell you it’s normal. And I agree, people can’t be expected to know everything about medicine and whether they’re sick enough or not. It’s the doctor’s job!

  • Reply Sam November 8, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Ha, fantastic!

    This has definitely struck a chord with me, I hate going to the doctors here. Our doctor who is really a lovely man makes me feel like an idiot for going, his answer to every thing is “even afwachten” (just wait and see).

    My other half (who is Dutch) goes to the doctor and he comes back rattling with pills!

    • Reply Olga Mecking November 9, 2015 at 8:32 am

      Hi Sam, thanks for your comment. I know it’s amazing how the Dutch (and men) get the doctors to do whatever they want while women/locals get the “oh you’re hysteric treatment”

  • Reply Natalie November 12, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Had a much needed laugh while reading this. I’ve lived in the Netherlands for just over 6 years and for me their medical system is a joke. I once went to a “good” hospital in Den Haag for pain related to an ovarian cyst…they told me to go home and just rest. I knew they were wrong so I drove down to Germany the next day and was in emergency surgery that afternoon. Had I listened to the BS info from the Dutch hospital I would have lost my ovary at age 26. Now several years later and I’m pregnant with my first baby and I really see what a joke their system is. My husband and I have deicided to go to the U.S. to deliver the baby. Can’t wait to be around doctors that actually have medical knowledge.

  • Reply Miu June 13, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I just found this post. It’s a funny read. Funny when it is familiar and you can relate to it. For some who grow up with these things and it’s the ‘norm’ it may not seem funny and even offensive as I read in the comments made by Dutch people (or claim to be).

    Not giving medication at every visit by default is good! However it is appreciated if the doctor would explain to you why they did or did not give it. And what made them decide on what your problem is. Patients these days are savvy information miners.

    And because they are excellent information miners, that with the internet, sometimes people come in already ‘convinced’ what their problem is and only want doctors to confirm it (hand over the medicine) then refer them to specialist. This would annoy doctors — hey they spent 6 years studying and then more years interning and we think we know better after reading WebMD for 1 hour?!. We respect that, so when we do go to doctor, we (still) read up on theories of our problems but we let the doc make their analysis first then ask why they think that and if X or Y isn’t a possibility.

    One of the problems I see is that some doctors are very strict with their 10 minute an appointment rule. It takes them that long sometimes to analyze you. In winter it takes you ~5 minutes to take all your clothes off to get examined! So then they only give 30 seconds for summary medicine/not/specialist/etc. Then out with you! One advice if this is your issue is to ask for double appointment (if they allow it).

    • Reply Olga Mecking June 14, 2016 at 9:31 am

      You know, anywhere else I’d totally believe that doctors have the training and knowledge to make the right decisions for the patient. I was just so sick of them not listening to me (how come they didn’t even check my daughter’s throat when it was so obvious she should have had her adenoid removed straight away?). It shouldn’t be my job to check my symptoms, but I have to because otherwise they don’t listen.

  • Reply How to get your doctor to do what you want July 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

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  • Reply Prasenjit December 28, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Dear Olga, Nice article. I live in Leiden.

    I am suffering from Chest tightness and short breath for last 10-12 days. In the meantime I went to the doctor 4 times (3 different doctors) including once with emergency at hospital. They gave me paracetamol (although I have no fever) and a vitamin D capsule. If you go through this website: (http://www.symcat.com/symptoms/chest-tightness) you can see some possible reason for my sickness. But even after repeated request to all of the doctors they did not performed basic tests as mentioned there, like X-Ray or a simple spirometry test to see if it is due to asthma. 2 times already I called them to make an appointment because I felt seriously ill, but they rejected saying call us only when it is an emergency. Right now I am planning to go back my home country immediately to survive. So if anyone in the comments above claim this is a normal treatment – I have no words to tell.

    • Reply Olga Mecking December 30, 2016 at 11:15 am

      I’m so sorry, no one should be treated like that.

  • Reply Henriette May 1, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Dear Olga, please stop worship German doctors. As a Dutch expat I have been living in Belgium for 4 years, Germany for 8 years and now in Saudi Arabia for 4 years. I give birth to two of my three children in Germany and I was totally not impressed with their tests, prescriptions and comments. Suggesting to a multi lingual family to speak only German is ridiculous. Prescribing antibiotics for every single ear infection is ridiculous. Whereas my son at one point developed eczema due to allergy to peanuts he was actually prescribed a medic containing…arachide oil. Until now, after so many years outside the Netherlands and relocating to Central Asia I still have to find the best system. Saudi Arabia’s comes pretty close. But Germany certainly not.

  • Reply dutch doctor mama May 30, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Perhaps you can watch this short clip and get the idea of the way dutch doctors think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqQ-JuRDkl8&feature=youtu.be

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