Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

Getting drugs

August 29th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Germany, Health

When you want aspirin in the United States, you can get it at any of the following places:

  • Pharmacy
  • Supermarket
  • Convenience Store

You can sometimes find it in vending machines. In New York City you can even buy it at a newsstand. The same can be said for a lot of other medications for things like cold symptoms, allergies or an upset stomach.

When you walk into a U.S. drugstore, you see something like this:

Fill up your basket, if you’d like.

Admittedly, all these choices can make it overwhelming to pick the right product, but you can always ask the pharmacist if reading labels is too exhausting. Those of us who know what we want are all set.

To buy these drugs, you simply

  1. bring the product to the cashier,
  2. pay the cashier.

This arrangement seems fairly workable to me.

That’s not how it works here in Germany. Here’s what you see when you enter a German drugstore.

Why are all the products behind the counter?

The only thing in front of the counter is crap like bath products and Ricola. Not a bottle of Advil or Pepto-Bismol to be found anywhere.

At first I thought perhaps Germany has a huge shoplifting problem, thus the need to put so much inventory behind the counter. But it becomes clear the moment you actually ask for a product that this isn’t the reason. The person behind the counter will ask “what is it for?”

So my second theory was that Germany has a huge problem with nosy drugstore cashiers.

Conny View definition in a new window assured me that the people working there are actually quite trained in medicine, and not merely cashiers. I countered if that were true, they’d know what aspirin if for, and they wouldn’t have to ask me.

Turns out that’s not why they are asking either. They are trying to be “helpful.” That means instead of just picking up a tube of Preperation H and hoping the self-service register at the corner CVS is working, you must be prepared for a “consultation” with the nice person at the counter, and just hope your neighbor doesn’t stroll in and stand behind you.

I’d appreciate the theory behind these consulations more if there weren’t so many damn homeopathic remedies being offered. If people want to spend money on placebos, that’s certainly their business, but there’s no way a person who’s received any medical training should recommend such a product. I have an endless supply of all possible varieties of homeopathic remedies for free in my house. It’s called “tap water.”

Though I suppose in both Germany and the US, it boils down to the same issue: you have to be actively responsible and diligent with your own health care, and you can’t just take the word of drug companies,pharmacists or anyone on faith.

I’ll confess I’m complaining about the Germany way of doing things because I have to talk to someone to buy any medication, and I’m just embarassed because my German is still close to useless. I’ll just have to send Conny in to pick up the Pin-X and let her deal with it.

One Comment so far ↓

  • markus

    Great blog entry about the pharmacy situation. In the older days you couldn’t even get condoms in a supermarket and had to go to the pharmacy. Try that when you live in a 5000 population town heh.