Learning Italian: At the Gynecologist

Continuing on from the super successful post on Learning Italian: You said what?, I thought it only fair to share another one of my embarrassing moments from my expat life Sardinia. This story involves vagina’s and doctors, so if you are easily offended I suggest you click here and if you’re one of millions of weirdo’s who gets giggles out of others’ follies then by all means please read on.

At the Gynecologist the first time:

We had just driven an hour into Sassari and we were lost. All the buildings looked the same, they looked like pale, sick apartment buildings not a doctor’s office, there wasn’t even a sign. A young woman came walking down the street and stops in front of us “Lèi e Jennifer?” With a rather perplexed look on my face I nodded yes. “Sono dottoressa Venere.”

I followed her into the cold, dusty archway and whispered to my husband “This is a little weird.” He nodded and continued on my heel.

Dr. Venere opened an ancient wooden door to reveal a small apartment turned into a gynecologist office: one tiny bathroom, one bedroom and a living room/waiting room, it felt like I was in the doctor’s apartment. The red sofa stood out against the white walls in the waiting room and she said to my husband “Lei signore resta qui.” Dr. Venere pointed to the luscious sofa and gave my husband a wink. Yes, a wink! I decided to ignore it.

She gestured for me to follow her and I obeyed her stern look. She opened her bedroom door and in place of a bed was a canary yellow gynecological examination table complete with remote control and pillow.

Togliti i pantaloni e sedersi lì.” Say what? What she say? I’d only been in Italy for a year and my grasp on the Italian language consisted of: Io, pasta, pizza, ciao, mi piace, tu and spagetti. The examination table reminded me of Big Bird and I was scared.

Pan-ta-loni. Pants? Yes, she wanted me to take off my pants, right! She can’t check out my vagina if my pants are on, why isn’t she leaving the room?

The doctors in Canada leave the room when a patient gets naked and provides a lovely, white paper robe. I gathered enough courage to ask her “un vesitito? one dress?” as I pointed to the recyclable white paper adorning the yellow chair.

She looked at me quizzically, pointed her pen at my waist and motioned for me to remove my pants and sit down as the procedure was about to begin.

Santorini, Greece 2005 by Jennifer AvventuraI was mortified.

How could I do this without a dressing gown? I’ve never done it without a dressing gown! WAH! Cue internal freak out and escape plan.

She was staring at me, I was staring at her, and the Big Bird chair was staring at my vagina. Somebody help me!

I did what I always do in situations like this – throw caution to the wind and just do it. After all, this is Italy, and I learned a new word that day: pantaloni = pants.

Are you an expat? What was different on your first visit to the doctors?

Stay tuned for more horror stories from the gynecologist’s office.

© My Sardinian Life/Jennifer Avventura. All rights reserved 2010-2013. All pictures, unless otherwise stated, are property of My Sardinian Life. Do not use without written permission.

About Jennifer Avventura

Canadian Freelance writer living in Sardinia, Italy. A serial expat who lived in Australia, England and Cayman Islands. She eats Nutella with a spoon and hides under the bed during lightning storms. When she's not out running 6k you will find her sitting at the computer - writing her novel and searching for worldwide waitress work.
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37 Responses to Learning Italian: At the Gynecologist

  1. Team Oyeniyi says:

    I saw your tweet and was expecting…………. news! LMAO

    Very amusing story and I have to say Australian doctors leave the room too – drives me nuts, actually, because such a stupid waste of time. They take ages to come back.

    Listen, you are going to poke your damn fingers in there anyway, so just wait here while I strip off and get this over with! LOL

  2. Pecora Nera says:

    Lol, Italian hospitals are not for the faint hearted.

    Mrs Sensible went for a chest X Ray in Alessandria. The MALE radiologist told her to take her top and bra off and stand in front of the camera. Mrs Sensible asked for a gown and a place to change. The doc said he had seen lots of naked women and she should hurry up…

    My wife went into school marm mode, and the doc finally agreed that she could leave her t shirt on, but she needed to remove her bra. So she did the amazing bra shuffle, the one where you pull it out off the arm holes whilst leaving the T shirt on..

    Later while we waited in the corridor, my wife explained to the other ladies waiting for their x rays what had happened and why the radiologist was now in such a bad mood. The old ladies in the corridor started to ask.. how do you do the bra shuffle and will I be able to get my large support bra through my arm holes… We cause a bit of an uprising and no doubt spoiled the radiologists day…

  3. ggnitaly84 says:

    HA this is an awesome post jennifer! I remember the first time I went to the gyno (public hospital) in Italy and it was pretty much the same thing but in a cold stainless steel room, I was also shocked about the whole ‘pull your pants down and throw up your legs’ but when in Rome. You just roll with it! :)

  4. Haha, this is very familiar. I was really confused the first time I went to see my doctor (a general one, not a gynacologist)and she announced she was going to visit me – I didn’t realise that the ‘visit’ was an internal examination…

  5. Anna says:

    Aww, poor thing.
    When I was studying in France I needed to get an extensive note from the doctor’s confirming that I didnt have plague, malaria and yellow fever, so that I could get a student visa for the subsequent semester in Spain. The supposedly ‘English-speaking’ doctor (accd to my school’s directory) didnt speak more than 2 words of English, and after 2 months in France that’s how much French I spoke. Malaria was simple enough to explain, she guessed the ‘fever’ part when I said ‘jeune’ (yellow), but for the life of me I couldnt figure out the word for ‘plague’ and ended up LITERALLY doing an interpretive dance for “Black Death that killed half of Europe in the Middle Ages.” We did figure it out in the end!

    • On you’re language? Did you say something bad in your comment that I’ve missed? I can just imagine jumping around with hand gestures trying to explain the plague! :) This morning I went to visit the local women’s doctor and she gave me a full lesson in safe sex. I was like wtf lady, I’m married and nearly 40! :)

      • Anna says:

        Oh dear. Still, it’s beater than me going to a Russian doc here, asking about hormonal birth control options:
        HER: but you said you arent sexually active right now. so there’s no need to discuss.
        ME: I’m 32 so inactivity is not a permanent state
        HER: well, when the ‘state’ changes, come back and we’ll talk.

  6. I know…no shame (or privacy for that matter)! In their defense though, I guess they figure they’re going to see your bits anyway so what’s the point of turning around or leaving the room when you take your pants off, right??! I could tell you MY gyno story (which was not supposed to be MY gyno appointment because it was a GENERAL practitioner)…but I WON’T! lol!

  7. At least the doctor was a woman, but still, it does seem strange to us from the Western world when doctors don’t leave the room when we’re getting undressed. What a hilarious story, Jennifer! :-)

  8. Terrific post Jennifer. That made me laugh. I would have mortified too. We Canadians like a little privacy before spreading them :)

  9. Rosemarie Kleinberg says:

    Jennifer

    I am impressed, you did far better than I would have done! You think that all doctors would have the same methods, but that tells you how little I know. I guess on my next visit I would take a towel!!!!!! Great story, we are learning so much about living in another country other than the U.S and Canada! Have a wonderful day!

    Rosemarie

  10. Debra Kolkka says:

    I had a baby here 40 years ago, you can’t scare me.

  11. Keren says:

    :-) I once spent an hour on the gyno bed listening to my gynecologist preaching about how much he loves Jesus whilst observing my ovaries and uterus … it was priceless… I said, “I am definitely in Italy”.

  12. TBM says:

    Oh my, I would have been beet red and frozen in terror!

  13. joesard says:

    …the caption up here says “your comments are greatly appreciated, thank you” but I’m a guy so anything I say or comment in this field would put me in the doghouse indefinitely and without bail. On the other hand the post is intriguing because it demonstrates that women care for their health so much more than their male counterparts, regardless of the (embarrassing) circumstances. The lack of tact and privacy could be simply shrugged off as cultural differences or funny things that happen in foreign countries but in my opinion it would be better to point out that these situations could and should be thought out a little more. Patients are people with feelings and fears and not just objects to cash in on. In this neck of the woods (Southern Italy in general) the medical profession is something that demands respect and reverence from the humble population and Dr. Venus’s arrogant attitude is what a developing society must oppose and shake off if it wants to have a better future. Ok I understand that making a fuss with your tweet exposed (typo is intentional this time) is not recommendable but to get your own back, perhaps with a slightly more sarcastic cut to your blog, could help get the message home. I admire your respect for the gynecologist, renaming her, but heck “Dr. Venus” of all names, no-body would have been the wiser if you used Dr. Starnazza (Quack) ;-)

  14. joesard says:

    Yikes! I knew it, I was sure I was going to get my self in to trouble :-( (feeling like a stupid moth flying around the light bulb)

    • You should know better. Did you tell your wife what you said? I’m sure she’d slap you up the back of the head. ;) You’re lucky I don’t offend easily, but then again you’ve been around this way before so I understand … ;)

  15. joesardard says:

    …tell my wife are you kidding? now that’s hitting below the the belt. She’s a 100% Islander, fabulous cook and mum, but she also sleeps with a Patada cut throat knife under her pillow (just in case…. and you know what I mean)..
    So please please accept my most profound, deepest and humblest apologies AND a case of 1964 Turriga ;-) to wash away the offense. Cross me heart ‘n hope to die i’ll never mention that 4 letter word again!!! (sort of)

  16. Pingback: Learning Italian: At the local doctor’s office | My Sardinian Life

  17. Pingback: Learning Italian: The verb to like | My Sardinian Life

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