Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being Sick in Japan

So, sorry for not writing for so long. I've kinda lost my steam.

About three weeks ago I caught a cold. This is not unusual for me. I usually get three of four colds a year, so when I came down with one here, it was annoying, but not unexpected. It was a rather bad cold and I was miserable. In America I can just go to the store and buy what I want or need. Here everything is in Japanese (oddly enough!) and Japanese just go to the Hospital and get a prescription. That's right, you read correctly. Japanese people go to the hospital for a common cold. They have required health insurance here, and there is no deductible. So if they feel the least bit off they hurry to the doctor who meets with them briefly and then prescribes them some medicine. If you have allergies you go to the hospital. If your leg hurts you go to the hospital. So when I caught my cold all the Japanese people urged me to go to the Hospital.
 Being American, I would never go to the Hospital to be told what I already know. As a matter of fact I probably wouldn't go unless I were bleeding profusely, had been ill for some time, or was in danger of dying. Needless to say I was somewhat shocked when being repeatedly urged to go to the doctor. My insurance has a deductible, I would have to pay for it myself.
 My host mom got so worried that she called the School to have them talk to me. I was informed that I needed to get some medicine. Usually I will take some vitamin C, zinc, and Nyquil at night to help me sleep. Nyquil being illegal here I had to forgo it, then I will just suffer through the rest of the symptoms. I had been wearing a mask (as is expected in Japan) to prevent the spread of germs. (Masks are terribly hot.) I shared my view of the situation with the lady at the school, and she told me a story about a time when she had had allergies and had gone to the Hospital to get medicine so that her co-workers would not need to be discountanced by her sneezing. Her point being that my cold was inconveniencing those around me so I had better get some medicine to hide it. My response to that situation would have been that I was the one suffering and they should feel sorry for me, not annoyed.  I was also required to return the next day to prove that I was improving, and if not improving I would be required to go to the Hospital. Being the good international student that I was I then determined to buy some medicine. I went to get some medicine at the drug store then realized that I didn't have enough money, Oops!
 Fortunately for my bank account I was somewhat better the next day. I went to the drug store and got some cough medicine the next day. It was very effective, and when I didn't take the medicine some days later I coughed all day. I guess that I felt a bit miffed that I was the sick one and I have to be the one to think about those around me. It's selfish, I know, but it was how I felt. It seems to be to be a good attitude to have, but I am not sure that I want others to expect it from me. In Japan, I feel that there is a lot of behavioral expectation  projected onto people. I find it a bit oppressive, a whole culture that guilts people into doing what is expected.

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