Seeking medical help can be nerve wracking at the best of times, even more so when the doctor is diagnosing you in a different language! If you’re an expat living in Germany but your Deutsche is nicht so gut, you might do well to brush up some on the relevant local lingo.
We’ve put our heads together with BDAE, a health insurance provider specialising in insurance packages for expats living in Germany, to shed light on some of the most common and bizarre German medical terms.
It might look similar to a rather rude English word, but Facharzt is the German equivalent of a specialist. Problems with each and every part of the body are handled by different types of Facharzt. From head to toe, with Psychologe (psychologists) to Podologe (podiatrists) and everything in between, the German medical system has a Facharzt for every part of your body.
Some German doctors don’t translate the diagnosis from Latin medical terms, a (not-so) fun practice known as Fachchinesisch. If you’re one of the few expats that arrive in Germany armed with a medical degree, congratulations! The rest of you had better brush up on those Latin skills so that you don’t start planning your funeral when you’re diagnosed with an acute coryza (otherwise known as a common cold).
Expecting to be able to find a doctor on the internet? You may have more luck finding a needle in a haystack. The majority of German doctors don’t have a website or an email address.
Waiting for that familiar ping of an SMS reminder 24 hours before your appointment? Don’t count on it. With a lack of digitalisation of medical services in Germany and Fernbehandlungsverbot (the prohibition of doctors to treat a patient without seeing them), you’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned way.
4. Götter in Weiß
Doctors and physicians in Germany are exalted as Götter in Weiß (Gods dressed in white) and occupy an enormous amount of respect within German society. Not every medical professional has the title ‘Dr’, but those who do generally insist on being referred to as “Herr Dr.” followed by their surname.
Hausarzt is a family doctor, otherwise known in English as a GP. If you fall ill during your stay in Germany, this is your first port of call. A warning: make an appointment before showing up. There can be long queues, and it's not unheard of for patients to wait six months for a check up or routine appointment and you don’t want to be stuck in a Wartezimmer (private practice) waiting room for any longer than necessary. In Germany, there aren’t many public health centres, so it is extremely common for public patients to go to these private practices for treatment (Hausarztprinzip).
Although igel is the German word for ‘hedgehog’, make no mistake, IGEL-Leistungen aren't anywhere near as cute or fun as those spiky little fellows. In fact, it’s short for Individuelle Gesundheitsleistungen which is a document stating that you must pay for medical treatment yourself. We did warn you it wasn’t fun.
If a surgeon makes a minor error, such as accidentally cutting off the wrong leg, this malpractice is referred to as Kunstfehler. This uncharacteristically poetic German word literally translates to ‘art mistake’, although you probably won’t feel like a masterpiece as you hop out the hospital on one leg.
So, you’ve ended up in hospital and the prospect of sharing a room with the guy who snores and the woman who has her TV too loud doesn’t fill you with excitement. Not to worry! In German hospitals these shared rooms, called Mehrbettzimmer hold a maximum of three people but usually there are only two patients per room.
In 2009, Germany abolished compulsory Rentenalter (retirement age) for doctors to combat the shortage of medical professionals in rural areas. As there are no age restrictions, it’s increasingly common to be treated by older physicians, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself being treated by an 80-year-old doctor, especially outside of the big cities.
Zwei-Klassen-Medizin means that if you’re a Privatpatient (private patient) rather than a Kassenpatient, (a patient covered by the national health insurance scheme) you receive special treatment, such as shorter waiting periods and treatment by senior physicians. You can only become a private patient if you are self-employed or earn more than 59,400 euros per year.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by BDAE