Having now read about Germany’s pre-mediaeval understanding of disease, you will probably no longer be surprised to learn that their ideas about curing diseases are no less unscientific. It will probably not surprise anyone at this point that homeopathy—the idiotic belief that if you put something poisonous in water, then take it out again, the water becomes an antidote for that poison and anything with similar symptoms to it—was both invented in Germany, and is also highly popular here. Germans, being a highly nationalistic people (as we saw twice in the early 20th century), certainly prefer to throw their money away on local quackery rather than the foreign stuff.
Despite having a fairly good (and, of course, needlessly complicated) public healthcare system, German medicine is plagued with all kinds of pseudoscience, which doctors, insurers, and especially pharmacies support. Not only are homeopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicines, acupuncture and other such woo highly popular in Germany, but all of those treatments are also available for your pets! Picture it so:
You spent a few seconds too many standing under a ceiling fan, and now that you have an infection, which your German colleagues insist is draft-induced, you have arrived at the pharmacy with a prescription from the doctor. Let’s assume that a miracle has happened, and you’ve convinced your doctor that you don’t want Natural Brand Herbal Remedy X, and what your doctor has prescribed you is actual real medicine, to treat your actual real disease.
First, there is the high probability that you will be walking into a very popular pharmacy chain whose name literally translates as “preferably natural,” which tells you a little bit about their position on real medicine. Whether or not this is the case, it is still very likely that when you get to the desk, the pharmacist will look at your prescription and start to shake her head.
“Are you sure you want to be putting chemicals in your body?” she asks, incredulous. “We have a number of homeopathic remedies to treat this, and they are much better for your body.” You will, I hope, refuse, at which point she will probably start telling you about how the pet formulation of the particular brand she recommends has been working great on her horse. Germans, you see, love nothing more than a good anecdote, which they consider a suitable replacement for any and all forms of real evidence.
But you don’t even need to have a real disease to go to the pharmacy. Perhaps the reason Germany has such a fascination with fake medicine is they’ve managed to conjure up an equal number of fake illnesses to go with it! We’ve already learned about the dangers of air, but perhaps the most mysterious of these airy illnesses is the Föhnkrankheit, a very specific made up disease which is caused when wind blows over a mountain, down the other side, and onto you. The wind goes up the mountainside and cools, but—and here’s the twist!—as it comes back down the other side it warms up again, becoming a Föhn, a name for a thing so unnecessarily specific that it could only possibly be German! This magical process imbues the wind with evil juju, causing the sufferer a general sense of malaise and unease that is just perfect for homeopathic or herbal treatment!
One of the more dangerous sounding made up diseases (and one often blamed on the Föhn like some kind of made up illness Inception) is a Kreislaufzusammenbruch, literally a “circulatory collapse.” In any other country in the world, if your circulation collapses, you fall over and die, but not so in Germany, where a collapsed circulation makes you juuuuuust dizzy enough not to come into work today, but not enough to cause you actual bodily harm. You see, young auslander, all manner of vague and unusual symptoms can be blamed on vague circulatory problems, and we all know that the cause is stress. Tell your boss you’re having a circulatory collapse, and they’ll frown, wish you the best, and give you a stress-free week off work to recover. Vaguely defined diseases which are serious, but not serious enough to see a doctor about, are, you will find, a very common theme in Germany.
Coming from an Anglophone country as I and probably you, the reader, do, where employees are treated like mindless robots banned from having emotions whose only purpose seems to be to cost the company money, you would be forgiven for thinking that Germany being about the only country in the world to take stress seriously is a good thing. And you’d be right, except Germans don’t take stress seriously at all! Germans treat stress the way American teenagers treat the word “awesome.” Teenagers bandy around the word awesome like it actually means “something mildly amusing,” and Germans have about the same relationship with the word “stress,” using it to mean “something mildly annoying.” An array of made up diseases are caused by stress in Germany, and a number of real diseases are blamed on stress despite having very real, and sometimes much more dangerous, causes.
Or maybe Germans really are more stressed than their Anglophone counterparts despite having better working conditions, a lower cost of living, more housing security and a no-fuss approach to marriage that doesn’t break the bank. After all—between apartments that you practically have to build yourself, a nationwide refusal to adopt modern technologies that the rest of the world has had for decades, a general fear of anything that is mildly convenient, a national commitment to unnecessary rudeness, unhelpful customer service staff who see customers as an inconvenience and are determined to make sure they know about it, archaic forms and arbitrary rules that no one really knows the purpose of anyway, and a language that seems like it was built to be a complex interactive puzzle—as you will learn in this book, if there’s one thing Germans know how to do, it’s how to add a little extra stress to a situation that really doesn’t need it.
Up Next: “Let Me Correct You on Your English,” said the German to the American
And soon to come:
If You’re Too Incompetent to Succeed at Life, Become a German Public Servant!
All the special little ways German bureaucracy can make your life more miserable.
A Wohnung Need Not Necessarily Be Wohnable
Why finding a new apartment should be the most awful experience imaginable.