German Culture: German Healthcare

That title may sound a little more conclusive than this blog will actually end up being- but, I thought as I lie here sick in bed for the 4th day in a row that what better time than to write to you about the cultural differences we have found with German healthcare.

There’s two important things to consider when learning about German healthcare.

Germans are on a socialized system, so healthcare is much different and much less expensive even without insurance. However, you are required by law to have insurance. Here is an example. We took Chris to the doctor to be tested for a virus a couple of months ago. After the doctor’s fees, office visit fee and fee to send off sample to be tested the total came to approximately 60 Euro which is about $80. That was without any insurance claims. That was the total. Period. Also, we walked in and waited for less than 30 minutes without an appointment. Now, that may be different at hospitals or in bigger cities but it was very nice. We were in the doctor’s office total for less than an a hour.

Now here is the downside:
Germans are stronger than Americans. I know its hard to swallow that but its just simply true. They walk more often. For example, when you have an Sunday afternoon meal at someone’s house, it almost always consists of a walk together afterwards for minimum 30 minutes to an hour. Germans also take way less medicine than Americans do, especially antibiotics. You cannot purchase medicine in the grocery store or even in what is similar to a Walgreens here. In the grocery store, the closest thing you can buy to medicine are Vitamin tablets. In the Walgreens type store, you buy toiletries, laundry soap, even print out pictures, but no medicine. Medicine can be purchased at an Apotheke which means Pharmacy. The Apotheke is completely separate from any other type of store and all the medicine is behind the counter. It operates like a pharmacy in America in that everyone there is trained to understand your symptoms and make recommendations. Not for antibiotics, of course, but for things such as Ibuprofen for a fever or different types of decongestants for sinuses. All of my experiences at every Apotheke have been really positive and every person is really knowledgable. However, I don’t know this to be completely true, but it seems to me that the most potent medicine that they carry is 400 gram Ibuprofen pills, which you have to admit, is completely foreign to Americans. So what is recommended?

Lots of rest and time off of work. You can easily get a doctors note for this.
Eat lots of fruits and veggies. This is preventative but also important while you are sick.
Drink lots of fluids, particularly hot tea. Chamomile tea is the tea of choice when you are sick here. So much so that Germans, generally, do not drink Chamomile any other time except when they are sick.

For nausea:
Drink Chamomile tea and eat Zweiback. Zweiback literally means twice baked and is kind of like melba toast. Saltines don’t exist here so that is not an option when you are sick to your stomach.

For Sinus Infection and/or Cold:
Drink Tea.
Blow your nose a lot.
Take Sinupret, which is a medicine that can be purchased at the Apotheke. Sinupret is not like Sudafed or anything that Americans would be used to taking. As far as I am told, and what I can read on the package, it is an all natural, herbal medicine, in pill form of course. It is supposed to help with decongestion and running nose.
Talk a hot bath in Eucalyptus oil. You can buy a big bottle of Eucalyptus oil at the Apotheke and it is recommended to soak in a very hot bath with this oil for 20 minutes when you have a sinus infection or cold. This is by far my favorite recommendation which I have no trouble following.

Those are really the only two things I can speak on since those are the only types of sicknesses that I have had so far since I have been here. Americans that come from the south (i.e. Texas, Oklahoma) generally have a problem with sinus infections when moving to Germany. It is a much wetter climate and well, your body just has to get used to it. In the 5 months that we have been here, I have had 3 or 4 sinus infections. One was right when we got here, and one is right now!

Now here is the shocking part: I haven’t been to the doctor once. Not for a single one out of the four infections. I know. Crazy, right? Or not. This time, I have only had the infection for 4 days and if I go to the doctor right now, he will hand me a list that looks very similar to the list above. Like I said before, antibiotics are not taken here the way they are in America. They are more of a last resort. The hard part about this is that you do have to suffer through a few more days being sick in general because you have to let your body work through the sickness and heal you, which is hard to do in the working world of America. The great part is that your body can do it! And I feel a lot better (in the end) knowing that my body took care of itself naturally, and now has built up an immunity all on its own. So, I feel a lot less dependent on medicine, in general and hopefully, soon will be sick a lot less often.

So, that is my take on German healthcare. And any Germans reading this that would like to add their advice, it would be very welcomed