Down with the sickness

When you are ill in a foreign country, you don’t just feel sick. You often also feel overwhelmed. Even if you happen to be in a country where the language is the same as your native tongue, the health care system is invariably completely different. You probably have health insurance, but you don’t really know the protocol for actually using it. You can find a pharmacy, but God only knows what things they are selling in there. If you happen to be in a country where they speak a language that is NOT your native tongue, things get even more overwhelming. Even if you speak passably well, it is still more than likely that you will end up in a clinic somewhere with absolutely no way to describe your symptoms without resorting to little kid vocabulary, a la “pee pee” and “poo poo”. There’s probably a different set of weights and measures. The money is different. I could go on and on.


Fortunately, although I am currently sick, it’s not the kind of illness that will rush me to a hospital: I have a good old-fashioned cold. But even navigating the world of cold-treatment here is Spain has not been challenge free. For example:


When your sinus feels like it is going to explode from pressure, the actual, I-swear-I’m-not-making-this-up word for it is “constipado”.

People here are convinced that I have gotten sick because I don’t wear a scarf, and that if I don’t begin to wear one I will become hopelessly diseased.

The decongestant medication that my neighbors were so kind to lend me has 4 active ingredients, 3 of which I do not recognize. The one I do is pseudoephedrine, so  I am relatively confident that I am swallowing the correct pills.

I have also never heard of the brand name of these pills: Frenadol PS.

I can’t find any hand sanitizer. I mean, not that it matters. Yesterday a little girl wiped her face on my pants so I don’t know how sanitizer would have helped.


The good thing about being sick in a foreign country is that illnesses are the same everywhere: you get them, you feel terrible, and then they go away. I will now be napping to make that process hurry along just a little faster.


5 Responses to Down with the sickness

  1. Pingback: An update or five « An Academic In Spain

  2. Being ill in another country really sucks. I remember that last year I was sick and my boyfriend’s mother (who is Spanish) gave me a thermometer to take my temperature. So naturally I put it under my tongue…much to her chagrin, as I came to learn. It’s normal to put it under one’s arm, not under one’s tongue.

  3. Todd Fogle says:

    Hola from Huelva. I don’t know much about the cold medicines msyelf, I don’t even know if I could by the equivalent of aceitomenaphen (spelling) / tylenol. As for the hand sanitizer, I have seen it in the supermarkets here in Huelva such as Carrefour and el jamon, near the soaps and shampoos.

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