The Apotheke Way

It wasn’t until I came down with my first cold in Germany that I realised the remedies I usually buy weren’t available at the supermarket check out or the corner shop. More surprisingly they weren’t available at the Drogerie (drugstore/chemist) either. I’m not simply talking about the brands, the actual products; anything with any actual medicinal value was nowhere to be found. For over the counter medicine Die Apotheke (the pharmacy) is what you’ll need.

Now I have to explain that there are some elements of German life that I am really happy with, whilst some of my fellow foreigners have more opposing views. One of these is the Apotheke. What makes the Apotheke such an opinion divider? Customer service, price and quantity are the most hotly debated. Personally, the fact they close at lunch time for an hour or so and a wednesday afternoon (days will vary) took a while to get used to but I’d only count that as a mild annoyance. Continue reading

What to Do if you Get Pregnant in Germany

PHOTO: Erin Porter

Pregnancy Test Vending Machine

When I first found out I was pregnant in Germany, I freaked out. I was married and happy, we were kinda trying but I was still terrified. I suspect I would have been apprehensive no matter where I was, but there were so many questions about how this would go in Germany.

I dug into the German-Way archives and their experience calmed me. I had seen the mobs of hip, strollered woman parading around Prenzlauer Berg. I could do this. I did do this. And you can, too. Here are the first few steps of what to do when you find out you’re pregnant in Germany.

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10 Ways That Europe is Different from the USA

First, let me tell you about the inspiration for today’s blog post.

Recently a friend suggested that I read what turned out to be a rather disheartening rant published by an online expat website. (The names shall remain anonymous in order to protect the guilty.) The writer, an American lady, was complaining about her life in Germany, a lament brought on by a recent visit to her local Apotheke (pharmacy). She was whining about the fact that she had to take the extra time and trouble to consult with a German pharmacist (in German of all things) in order to obtain a medication that she could have bought over the counter in the US.

Bikes and pedestrians

Germans and other Europeans walk and ride bikes more often than Americans.
PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Several people left comments pointing out that the German system actually provided the benefit of helpful, professional advice that would have required a visit to the doctor in the US. True, you can’t just go to a supermarket and buy a bottle of aspirin in Germany, but you can go to your local Apotheke and get sound advice about which pain reliever would be best for your situation. While living or traveling in Germany and Austria, I have made several trips to the pharmacist to get help with a medical problem. In every case, the pharmacist either provided a good solution or, in one case, told me to see a physician. (What I thought was a sprained finger turned out to be a broken one.) Continue reading

Moving to Germany: The Top 10 Things to Consider

Moving anywhere is a challenge. Even a short move across town can be problematic. An international move presents additional complications, but a little preparation will mean fewer hitches. Even if you are fortunate enough to be using the services of a relocation agent, you should be aware of the following ten factors to consider when moving to Germany.

Berlin apartment parking

Having a car in Germany can be a mixed blessing. Here: apartment parking in Berlin-Friedrichshain. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

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1. Get Oriented
By “get oriented” I mean get to know the culture, the language, and the place where you’ll be living. This may seem obvious, but I am constantly amazed by how many new expats fail to do this. You’re moving to a new country with a culture and a language very different from what you’re used to. Don’t arrive in German-speaking Europe without at least some basic preparation. This is what our German Way site is all about! You’ll find all sorts of help here, and here are a few tips on what you need to learn: Continue reading

Rx for Drugs in Deutschland

German Apotheke logo

The official German Apotheke logo.

One of the more important items on the pre-departure checklist for expats or travelers headed to Germany concerns any prescription drugs they may require during an extended stay. Those who need certain medications can bring their own prescription drugs with them when they travel to Germany — in their carry-on or checked luggage. That’s not a problem. The hassles only begin when you want or need to “import” your own prescription drugs to Germany from the U.S. or some other country. I have some personal experience with the complications that can arise when you have your own medications sent to you in Germany by a friend, spouse, relative or anyone outside Germany. You may also want to do this, since your U.S. prescription plan may not cover you in Germany, but it is fraught with peril.

First, let’s talk about how you can avoid such complications and related hassles up front. (In other words, what I should have done, but didn’t.) Then I’ll tell you what happens if you don’t follow this advice! Continue reading

Of blood pressure and other medical matters

While I was living in Berlin for about ten months, I had cause to go to two German physicians — both women. Fortunately, my medical matters turned out to be minor, although my eye scare had me concerned for a while. Besides the Augenärztin (ophthalmologist), I also saw a general practitioner lady MD, to whom I was referred by an Apotheker when I had my U.S. prescription problem (a long story for later). Between the two doctors, I visited their offices over a dozen times over a period of months.

I could write a book about the entire German medical thing compared to the U.S., but the one thing I want to discuss now is Blutdruck. Not once in all my times at the doctor — not the first visit, in between, or the last — did either doctor ever measure my blood pressure. Not a single time. In the U.S., you can’t get out of a doctor’s office without this blood-pressure ritual. Continue reading