Q&A: in sickness & in health

on pharmacies, medicines & health insurance

Q: Have you used a pharmacy in Spain?

Yes. Pharmacies (farmacias) are easily recognized by the bright green cross outside of the shop. Some maintain the morning & afternoon schedules so common here in Spain, but there are others that are open 12 or 24 hours. The mysterious and wonderful thing about pharmacies here is that you can walk in, claim an ailment, and be given something immediately. This is kind of like personalized over-the-counter drugs. “My throat hurts” “My stomach aches” and even “I’m hungover” will get you a box from the pharmacist and a suggestion on how to take it. Would that happen in the US? Don’t hold your breath.

Q: Are you covered by health insurance?

Yes, the program pays for health insurance. When we arrive we get a series of letters (3 or 4) that explain our health insurance in fits and starts. Basically, they pay for the doctor and any dramatic events like hospitalization. I myself have not used this service (knock on wood) but I am damn glad its there.

Q: How many sick days do you have with your job?

We don’t necessarily have sick days. If you wake up and feel like you got hit by a truck, you call your coordinator (or SMS because it is some hideous hour of the morning and they are probably still asleep). It is polite to notify your coordinator (as your boss) and also the teachers you are scheduled to work with that day. If necessary, you may need to tell your director. To my knowledge, you do not need to make up (recuperar) the days that you miss in case of illness.

Q: What happens if the person you’re supposed to teach with calls in sick?

In short, this is a field day for the students. It is not like in the US where the teacher has a Plan B or back up lesson plans for a substitute. The “substitutes” are actually teachers in our school that do not have a scheduled class. There are typically 2 or 3 at a time and they take turns as “guardia.” When the teacher is out, you are excused. You are not supposed to be in the classroom alone, although I have heard of this happening in other schools. A science teacher was out the other day, so I didn’t go to her class, and later spotted my 2nd years outside running amuck in the sunshine. Lucky devils! And you thought American students got excited about a sub…

Q: Is medication expensive in Spain?

No! I have purchased two medications that cost an arm and a leg in the United States. One prime example is birth control. That’s right I said it. BIRTH CONTROL. The first item of note is that the government health insurance will not pay for this (or other forms of contraceptive drugs). But don’t panic. A 3 month supply of name-brand Yazmin? 40 euros or 55$. Are you kidding? If you bought a SINGLE pack of Yazmin for one month (without insurance) in the US .. you would pay approximately 129$. I also purchased blood pressure medication and that was a whopping THREE euros. Needless to say I will stock up on all of this before I come home.

Q: Have you been homesick?

Ahh the ultimate illness. Thanks to the glory of skype, and google video chat, my homesickness has been significantly less than my previous long term trip abroad (6 months). I talk to my parents every day in some way, shape or form and I keep up with my friends in a hundred different ways. I hit a rough patch around Christmastime, as one would expect… the holidays are difficult to spend away from home. I don’t give a damn if you’re in the poshest place in the world sipping champagne and eating bonbons – it is not home and opening presents together on skype just doesn’t do the trick. My prescription for homesickness is weekly chats with the parents AND the best cure ever …. a pending visit 🙂 (20 days to go in case you were curious).


4 thoughts on “Q&A: in sickness & in health

    • Linda, it’s true! The prices I stated are also *without* the use of my government sponsored insurance – purely out of pocket. Can you imagine?


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