The Unofficial Ultimate Guide to Dealing With Dutch Doctors
You, or someone you know, have probably encountered it before. You head to the doctor’s office and tell them your symptoms. They examine you, but it often ends with dismissing symptoms, or the prescription of the inevitable cure-all: ibuprofen.
We have heard so many stories like this from our audience. Many expats have indicated their doctor or GP doesn’t listen to them or take them seriously. That got us wondering about the cultural differences that may be at the heart of the issue.
The Dutch approach to medicine is different than many other countries. For example, prescribing antibiotics is not as common in the Netherlands as it may be in other countries. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few handy tips to help you navigate this unique cultural phenomenon.
Try not to lose your patience. While you may have struggled with the Dutch healthcare system, but it is still one of the best in the world. It has a strong education system with close ties to industry. This helps to create a versatile and accessible health sector.
As a result, the Netherlands boasts an average life expectancy of a whopping 81 years. This puts it in the top 20 nations worldwide.
Befriend Your Doctor
Like any other service interaction, a little respect goes a long way. Remember, doctors in the Netherlands are under immense pressure Many are short-staffed as they try to deal with the demands of an aging population. It’s important to show appreciation in this context, so always thank your doctor for their time and help. On top of this, believe it or not, being friendly may improve your experience.
Bear in mind, in the reserved Dutch culture, expat charm can be a refreshing change for some Dutch doctors. Use that to your advantage. Be friendly and warm. In a country where people often speak English to expats by default, people do appreciate it when you make the effort the other way. If you have picked any Dutch, you could try greeting the doctor before asking “Mogen we Engels spreken?” And while even a simple thank you goes a long way; you could even try a small joke – laughter is good for the heart after all.
Following on from this, good communication with your doctor is essential. Your doctor may not know what is important to your individual needs. If you don’t ask questions then, a doctor may assume you don’t want or need more information. If you are not satisfied with a response your doctor gives, make sure to voice your concerns.
You feel your body is giving you signals, and you’re sure something is wrong. Ask them what else your issues or symptoms could be. Try to get them thinking about other possibilities, and prompt a deeper discussion. Even if you will be fine, peace of mind is also important.
Change Your GP
If you are still not getting anywhere with your doctor, it’s time to look for a second opinion or change doctors. There’s no harm or shame in shopping around. After all, you are paying for this service via your health insurance!
Researching the local practices is simple enough. A quick Google search for doctors in your area will bring up nearby clinics. This will include hundreds of reviews from people who have used their services. At the same time, there are many dedicated comparison sites to find top clinics via your postcode.
Look for a GP with Expat Experience
Doctors in less cosmopolitan parts of the Netherlands deal with internationals less often. They may find it more difficult to express themselves in English then. This is especially the case if they are having to explain things in great detail.
Learning Dutch before your next trip to the huisartsenpraktijk might take too long. In this case, seeking out a doctor who deals with internationals regularly is your next best bet. They will be more able to understand your needs and better know how to communicate with you.
The clinics we have had amazing feedback about include:
- Husairts Praktijk Amstelved (Amsterdam)
- Huisarts Leiden (Ask for Dr. Bracken, she is amazing!)
- Expat Doctors Amsterdam (Amsterdam)
Note: If you know others in other parts of the country, please let us know. Contact us via [email protected] and we can add it to the list.
If the Dutch healthcare system does not fit your needs after all this, it’s not out of the question to look elsewhere. It might surprise you to hear, but many other internationals already do! You’re in an EU country bordering several other leading healthcare providers. Some neighboring countries may provide procedures unavailable in the Netherlands. Some may offer more comfort – particularly to expats going ‘home’ for particular care.
Keep in mind though, you should speak with your insurance provider. You could need different health insurance to get treated ‘abroad.’ In this case, why not check out Cigna? The award-winning firm works with more than 1.6 million hospitals and professionals. This enables Cigna to provide access to medical support in over 200 countries.