Doctor Visits: USA v. Germany

We all have to go to the doctor once in a while. Yes, even you, Vinn, who has not been to a doctor since he was about to go to college. I have been to my fair share of doctors for various reasons and today I experienced what it’s like to go to the doctor in Germany.

 

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Similarities: 

  • Doctors are never on time. In the States, I sat in waiting rooms for over an hour after my appointment time until the doctor was ready to see me. The dermatologist was always the worst. Well, let me tell you, my appointment today was at 9 AM and I finally saw the doctor at 9:50. I have always wondered why it is acceptable for doctors to be late. If you showed up to a job interview or a meeting 50 minutes late, you would not be hired and probably fired.
  • You are only with the doctor for 15 minutes. After waiting for an hour, you finally get to meet with the doctor, but you’re only there for 15 minutes. I do feel like this is a good thing because that means I’m healthy and don’t need to speak to the doctor at length, it just sucks that the travel and waiting time are three times as long as the actual appointment.
  • You speak with the doctor first before anything. This is specific for the type of doctor I visited today. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. I think it is always nice to speak to the doctor, especially in his or her office, prior to anything that requires removal of clothing. Since today was my first time meeting with this doctor, I really appreciated the sit down to discuss my medical history, what I hoped to get out of the appointment and anything else on my mind.
  • The majority of the exam. In an effort to be honest and transparent, the majority of the actual appointment/physical exam was exactly the same as my previous doctor appointments. I appreciated that I knew what I was getting into.

And now that we’ve covered the similarities, let’s chat about the differences:

  • Patients saying hello and goodbye…to each other. I’m normally a friendly person and will nod hello to someone if we’re waiting together. And maybe strike up a polite conversation if it’s a particularly long wait. I noticed that the women in the waiting room would walk in and say, “Guten Morgen,” or good morning and goodbye on the way out. I found this to be a little odd and the weirdest part was that EVERYONE responded!!
  • There weren’t any gowns. Normally at the doctor, you change into a paper gown, which is awkward anyway. But here, there weren’t any gowns and you basically change behind a curtain and then walk out. It was a whole other level of awkward.
  • You go every 6 months, not every year. To this doctor specifically, I would visit on an annual basis. Well, in Germany, you go every 6 months. Ugh. All of this effort twice a year instead of once is not exciting.
  • There was an ultrasound. I have never had an ultrasound on that part of my body EVER so that was interesting. I thought you only had that when you’re pregnant. I was nervous when that happened because I thought, “Uh oh, am I pregnant?” No news to share.
  • Insurance doesn’t cover birth control pills. Leave your opinions to yourself, but I’m just sharing the facts. There are 2 types of insurance in Germany: public and private. Because of Vinn’s job, we have private insurance, which is great. Well, private insurance doesn’t cover anti-babypilles (this is the German way to say birth control pills) at all and public insurance only covers until a woman is 20. I found this to be so interesting. I’m not sure how much the prescription will be, so we’ll see.

I think that about covers it. I find it fascinating the cultural differences in general and especially in the medical community. All in all, the doctor appointment was fine and everything went as expected, it’s just the little nuances you don’t think will be different that matter the most. I wanted to write this to remember what it was like to visit the doctor for the first time and to give insight into what it’s like in Germany!

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