>So you’re packing and moving to Europe? Pack a suitcase of over-the-counter drugs to bring with you. Not that Europe doesn’t have excellent drugs to go with their excellent health care — it’s just that you won’t know what any of them are, and you can’t browse the drugstore aisles with your limited language skills because you can’t buy any drugs off the shelf here. Not even aspirin. For any and all pharmaceuticals, you go to the apothecary (here, Apotheke), where you have to ask a kind and informed professional for assistance. With a line of customers behind you, listening out of boredom. How comfortable do you feel explaining, in your new not-yet-mastered language, your intimate minor medical problems to a room full of strangers? When they snap out of their standing-in-line reveries, hearing you struggle to communicate to the nice young pharmacist exactly what your problem is (be it fever, skin rash somewhere, hemorrhoids, contraceptive foam), will they snicker at you? Will they go home and tell their family over dinner about that ridiculous Ausländer in line today at the Apotheke?
And that brings me to another important part of living in a foreign country. You will make a fool of yourself. You will misunderstand people, make big mistakes, put off important things because you don’t know how to handle them, be forced to rely on the help of others for many, many things, until you get a handle on the language, the local customs and the system. Don’t worry about it, that’s just the way it is. Let it happen, and learn to laugh at yourself.
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