This is sick!

Actually, in Dutch we can also use the word ‘sick’ as a positive adverb. Once you are sick, it feels quite illogical to use it in that sense.

For me, being sick abroad is almost my second nature. I must have seen almost as many doctors and hospitals in my country as I have abroad. I must emphasize that in the Netherlands, going to the doctor or hospital is taken up as a more drastic measure. if you have a cold, the flu, or are just not feeling well, we might go to the GP but normally we just suck it up and huddle up in a blanket. As a consequence, most of our conversations about feeling sick are relatively low-profile. ‘I am not feeling very well.’ ‘Something’s been in the air lately so I think I caught that too.’ ‘My whole body feels listless, I need a good rest.’

In China, that is quite different. On the one hand, the chances of having food poisoning and/or diarrhea are much larger here. Therefore, you might just hear somebody say very casually: ‘That hotpot did not go well, I had diarrhea for 3 days.’ The dutch, not the most prudish but still, would feel a bit uncomfortable directly stating that in a casual conversation. The same goes for constipation.

Another difference, is the amount of medicine. I now happen to have a cough and a cold which has already kept me in the cough-sneeze-breathe state for almost a week. Almost all Chinese will ask me if I have taken any medicine, and if so Chinese or Western medicine. In the Netherlands, we almost tend to pride ourselves on our ‘toughness’ and ability to bear sicknesses without any medicines.

I do have a feeling in China apothecaries and/or doctors still receive commission over medicines. I recently was in the hospital for someone else who had a hole in his head and he received four different medicines for the next 4 or 5 days. It seemed like a bit of overkill. I had the same when I had ‘a simple’ pharyngitis and also received about 5 different medicines.

However, sticking to my Dutch roots and trying to survive on as less medicines as possible is also quite a challenge. But who does not like a challenge?

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