One of the worst experiences as an expat is illness. This is the fifth country I've lived in, and I am shocked every time I visit a doctor in a new country.
It isn't that the care is bad, it's just different. You need to learn how to talk to the doctors, what to say, in what urgency. My first time sick in Germany I thought I would die when the doctor asked me to strip in front of him with nothing to put on and nowhere to hide. Twenty-seven years and three countries later I am sick again. I didn't want to see the doctor because I had predicted he would say, "Two weeks of bed rest and a lot of tea and honey." I don't know how they think a Mom with kids and no family close by can do this?
After a few days in bed, my husband said, "Tomorrow go see the doctor!" I went, and he said exactly what I had forecasted, "Bed rest for a week or two and lots of tea and honey."
I have now turned to the international Mom's Nyquil, Advil PM, Neosporin smuggling committee. When we expats fly home, we come back with our suitcases packed full of the strangest things from Halloween Candy, to brown sugar to our preferred meds. We buy them in bulk and fill our suitcases. Friends and family help us out when they are visiting as well. My Mom was searched at the airport for the strange items in her bag. It wasn't anything illegal, just an enormous quantity of brown sugar for baking my chocolate chip cookies. I was out of medicine and luckily, a friend had a good stash and could help me out.
So if you are abroad and feeling a bit frustrated with the medical system, I promise you that you're not alone. I have been frustrated many times, and you'll survive too. It is not necessarily worse, just different and you've just got to cope.
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife