This article made me chuckle.

When I spent a year living in Germany in 1996, I was always surprised at the number of ailments my German colleagues had. Similar to the Italians in the article, there were all sorts of new maladies I was at risk from – afflictions and hidden dangers I had never known anyone in the UK to worry about.

The main culprit always seemed to be the weather. ‘Es liegt am Wetter’ (it’s due to the weather) was the constant explanation for a myriad of problems, from aching joints to general malaise.

I once had an unusual headache for a few days, something I’d never had at home before, so I went to the doctor for the first time in years. To my astonishment, he told me that the weather was to blame and gave me some tablets. After taking one of the tablets, which I had assumed to be some kind of pain killer, my headache disappeared instantly and I spent an oddly blissed out afternoon, free from pain and free from a number of other worries that had been bothering me.

On closer reading of the packet, it turned out that I hadn’t been given a pain killer but some kind of valium type medication that helped relax muscles, as well as the worries of the world. I threw the rest of the packet away and adjusted my pillows, which helped get read of the headaches. The weather stayed the same for a while and didn’t seem to cause the headaches to come back.

Another constant culprit for illness was people’s circulation. ‘Aah, Kreislauf’. I had never heard of anyone back in the UK having circulation problems, especially not healthy adults and young people. Apparently this was something that affected my new German friends and colleagues greatly. The main solution appeared to be having a glass of Sekt with breakfast. Driving to work after drinking didn’t seem to be a worry.

I found the Germans to be much more aware of their general health. They also seemed to have a much healthier lifestyle – lots of cycling and walking, fresh food, etc. People generally looked slimmer and stronger. Kids cycled to school in all weathers. Despite this, everyone seemed to be ill more often, or at least claimed to be.

What astonished me was the number of people who smoked, especially ‘educated’ people. It was rare in the UK to see professionals smoking at that time. I found it bizarre to be lectured by, for example, a biology teacher, on the merits of some herbal remedy or other, when that teacher smoked forty Marlboro a day and was a regular drinker. It wasn’t unusual for doctors to smoke. The father of one of my friends smoked filterless Rothhaendle in his office at his local medical practice.

The health resources people got for free also astonished me. Civil servants seemed to have spa visits every year or so, paid for by the government. It was actually in employees’ interests to develop various vague and hard to diagnose problems, such as backache, so that the government would pay for a nice free holiday to a spa in the Bavarian mountains ever couple of years. I couldn’t believe it. How this was all paid for was a mystery to me.

I spent a pretty healthy year as a language assistant and was able to avoid the dangers of the weather, circulation problems, thankfully.


One Response to “Maladies”

  1. Yori Says:

    QUOTE//I threw the rest of the packet away and adjusted my pillows, which helped get read of the headaches.//UNQUOTE Duh sounds like Ale’s at Duty Free beer to me!

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