Today, I finally got around to going to the doctor's to get something done. What that was is not the issue, but more that something that I could have done unbelievably easily in London was a nightmare here - my own doctor isn't trained in that procedure, and therefore I had to find one who was (there are fewer than 20 in NYC, apparently) and, of course, who takes my insurance. I was told repeatedly that certain places wouldn't, or certain doctors, despite those very doctors being listed on my insurance provider's website as being those magic words - "in network."
Finally, I found one, and rocked up at his office today. He was great - helpful, fun, hot - which always helps - and his staff and nurses were wonderful.
And, about 80% of my visit was done in Spanish. No, really. I had this wonderful Colombian nurse who spoke to me in Spanish. And it somehow helped to create this warm environment in which I felt well taken care of. Partly, I think, because Luz reminded me of some of the lovely women I taught in Spain, but also partly because this was a safe place for those who struggle in everyday life while surrounded by English. Everyone knows a story about an English-speaking person who tries to claim he's embarrassed at the doctor's in Spain but manages to say he's pregnant (embarazada being a truly false friend), or the Spanish speaker who took eleven pills instead of once (confusing "once a day" with once, as in the number - I believe this was in an episode of ER, once). But the doctor's surgery must really be a scary place if you're not sure about your insurance (I never am) and you don't have the linguistic skills to cope.
Undoubtedly, there are those for whom this is just more justification to harangue people about their lack of English, but really, this isn't a matter of principle, at least not there. I really, truly support speaking the language of a country not for Lou Dobbs type reasons, but because I think women particularly can get isolated if they don't speak anything that means they can be independent of their husbands or fathers.