It's good to be the US

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm currently sick with a head cold and was reminded how much more "comfortable" it is to be sick in the US than in Hungary! I had the foresight to bring a small supply of medicine with me to Budapest but by the second time I got sick I had exhausted my supply of cold pills and soft kleenex. I went to DM, a German-owned drugstore that is common in Europe (and one of the few places where plastic shopping bags are FREE!) to look for any type of cold medicine. It turns out that in Hungary you have to go to the pharmacy to get any kind of medicine, even things that are over-the-counter in the states, such as ibuprofren. And even then each box only has a few pills in it. Until recently even vitamins were behind the pharmacist's counter.

Typical magyar patika, identified by a green cross
I went the the patika or pharmacy (which are separate stores, not like Walgreens, only with a counter and then a few pharmacists behind the counter) and attempted to explain to the pharmacists who spoke German, but very little English, what I needed. But oh no, you can't just tell them what you need, you have to explain all your symptoms so they can "diagnose" you first. To make a long story short...there's no such thing as Nyquil, Dayquil, or cold pills in Hungary. The pharmacist offered me all sorts of strange drugs that I declined and then finally I saw a word I recognized - ROBITUSSIN! It even came in a glass bottle - how weird is that? One of the benefits of socialist healthcare is that medicine is really inexpensive. At one point my roommate was really sick (it got to the point that her parents had to mail her drugs from the US...which arrived like 2 weeks later despite the hundreds of dollars her mom spent to next-day the package), and filled several prescriptions from the private, English-speaking clinic for around $30. Hungarian hospitals and health care is a whole other scary story...thank God our program covered visits to a privately owned clinic. Being in that clinic was probably the only time when I actually felt like I was in the US and not in Hungary.

While I was sick I also couldn't find Kleenex with lotion (or any type of softer tissue) or vaseline for my chafed nose. Oh and Tylenol also does not exist. I wrote down all the active ingredients, took it to the pharmacist and she came up with nothing. My roommate and I found out later from a Hungarian doctor at the clinic that they have a drug that is similar to Tylenol, but with different ingredients (or whatever you call the stuff in medicine). It's called Panadol.

There was ONE good thing about being sick in Hungary though - drinking tons of the hot sugar lemon tea that I could get at the school bufe for like 50 cents. However, I am still baffled as to why steaming hot beverages are served in thin plastic cups because a) hot beverages in plastic cups scald your hands and b) hot beverages melt plastic cups.

I'm glad I got sick and remembered all these strange little differences between Hungary and the USA! And praise God for the two aisles at CVS with endless choices of cold medicine!! :) Now because I'm getting a little's a picture of the street I lived on in Budapest. I walked this way every day to and from class, to go to grocery store (the large gray building on the right, behind the green newsstand), or the Ferenc korut metro stop. Éljen magyarország!! Long live Hungary!

Raday Utca, home sweet home for 4 months!


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