Sick in London

November 19, 2014

Being sick is never pleasant. But being sick away from home is worse. And even worse than that is being sick in a foreign country. This is especially bad when you want to go exploring. Unfortunately, even if I was feeling well, I do not think I would be out and about. I, along with my fellow classmates, am starting to get very stressed out. I have a research paper, two presentations and five finals to work on.

But I guess I should have seen this coming. I mean this is a study abroad semester, not a travel to your heart’s content semester. I have to admit, I wish it was the latter. (Though I have been enjoying most of my classes here.)

Having strep throat in London has started me thinking about some more differences between the US and England. These differences are less obvious. I mean it is easy to hear unusual words walking down the street or to order distinctive food. It’s not quite as easy to contrast the health care system and attitudes unless you are truly experiencing them.

For one, the British tend to use the appropriate, official names of medication. They do not call medicine “Advil,” but something else entirely that I cannot remember. When I went to the doctor, she asked me if I had taken certain medications. I stared at her blankly until she translated them into their brand names.

The British also have a different word for strep throat. They call it tonsillitis, which sounds much more intense to me. In fact, some people have not been as lucky to come across people who will translate for them. I heard, second hand, one American went to the chemist (not called pharmacists here) for strep throat antibiotics. When he asked for it, the chemist had no idea what he was talking about. I’m glad I didn’t have to go through that. I’m also glad to be in a country that, though different, is probably a lot more similar to the US. I don’t think it would be fun to have to navigate a completely different system.

During my playwriting class a few weeks ago, we discussed doctor visits. Our British professor was horrified to learn that doctors (actually nurses) always weigh you in the US, no matter what you are coming in for. They do not do that in the UK unless you wish to discuss a weight issue. I can confirm this. They did not weigh me or even take my blood pressure at the doctor’s office in London.

The last huge difference that I’ve noticed has been the British attitude toward health care. The British have the NHS (National Health Service). I have heard at least three different people raving about the NHS. One guy said it is what makes him proudest about being British. One woman said that she considers the NHS to be the jewel in the British crown. These are wonderful sentiments, especially when compared to the very negative press coverage ObamaCare frequently gets in the US. Of course, I know not everyone in the UK agrees with the people I’ve talked to, but it still pleases me to hear support for the NHS.

On a completely different note, I would like to share pictures of London because I’m sure people don’t want to only think about being sick while abroad. Below is a picture from the completed poppy memorial for Remembrance Day (November 11) at the Tower of London. And beneath that is a picture of one of the amazing fruit and vegetable displays in Borough Market.




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