Ever since Halloween, my right foot has been really hurting. In a small space at the base of the toe next to my little toe there has been an agonising pain that sometimes comes avec a bruise, sometimes with swelling. Thinking I’d just pulled a muscle in my foot, and since it’s not sore every day, I didn’t think I needed to go to get it seen to.
After about two weeks, I woke up and found it really hard to walk on my foot so I thought the time had come – I must go see the doctor. I have a really nice GP that’s pretty much opposite my apartment, and they speak English too (the female doctor’s son is in Cambridge so we often talk about that, and she tells me every time I go about how terrible the NHS is and how her son always comes home to Frankfurt every time he is sick.)
So, here’s the first lesson about German healthcare – you have your private healthcare plan which you pay into every month, but every quarter, if you go to see the GP, you have to remember to take 10 euros in cash to pay. I don’t know what this is, or why it is. But it is. I have forgotten my 10 euros a few times. Once, they sent a letter to my house reminding me to pay it, and I had to do a bank transfer online. Other times, they just get me to pay it the next time I’m there. But it needs to be paid.
So my GP tells me I need to go see the orthopedic doctors the other side of town. I confirmed with her that in these cases, one must go to the GP first and not just straight to the specialist and she said that that was correct. It would be nice to cut out the middle man, but I guess it’s better this way. In Japan, you’d just go to the specialist. I don’t think they even have GPs there.. maybe general doctors, but no one who refers you as they do in Germany (or in the UK).
It is a massive white whine, but I was quite put out that I spent more than 3 hours waiting around in the doctors. I waited, then I was taken to a room where I spoke with a nurse, then waited in the room for the doctor, then waited in the waiting room again, then had my x-ray, then waited, then spoke with the nurse and then spoke with the doctor.
It’s a massive white whine because in the UK, this process would have taken 3 weeks, not 3 hours. I should have been happy, but I was grumpy. Sat looking at an x-ray of my own foot for 20 minutes, when the doctor came in I said about how my foot didn’t look broken as I’d feared. “Are you an expert?” he asked me. “Uhm… no…” “What is your job?” “Uhm… Japanese translator…”
He stared at the screen, enlarged the picture, and announced that my foot was not broken.
He made some vague gestures and talked about how his English wasn’t so good and that he didn’t know the technical term, but I had “flat feet”.
.. Flat feet.
All this pain, is because my feet are flat.
I looked down at my prized 10 euro Primark shoes – prized because it’s been a year since I bought them and they are still going strong. I knew in my heart how I had wrecked my feet. He turned to me again with a massive needle in his hand. While the nurse pinned me down and stroked my head, he stuck that needle in my foot and put what felt to be a burning acid in my foot.
My remedie is shoe insoles, which are (for 30 euros) being made specially for my feet.
On the whole, I like the German medical system. It works. There is no faffing around like in the UK, and I trust them not to rip me off with things I don’t need like in Japan. It’s one of the many things that makes me think that Germany is by far the best place to live right now.