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Getting Down with the Sickness (in Korea)

29th December 2014

Being Sick In Korea

Today I’m taking my first sick day in Korea. I have managed to not take a sick day for 3 years and I’m very happy about that. I hate sick days. Having spent a lot of timing being sick when I was younger I do everything humanly possible to avoid the dreaded ‘day off’. In Korea it seems they hate a ‘sickie’ as much as me. They are rarer here than a blue steak.

I can only talk about the school system since that’s where I have worked but the way it goes around here is there is a nurse’s office in your school with a bed and when you are sick you lay down in between classes. They only time you take a sick day is if you are stupidly infectious or if you can’t physically move.

Today I am suffering from the flu combined with a sickness bug and due to having no voice, no stomach and no will to stand in front of hundreds of angry students, I am at home.

IMG_1009 So what happens? Well my teacher knew I was sick so she wasn’t surprised when I called in to say I was being a giant fool. I hung up and laid in bed unconscious to the world but in Korea sick days are different. In the UK when you ring in sick that is normally the end of it. If you are sick for more than five days you have to get a doctor’s note. In Korea teachers tend to call you throughout the day to check in on you and will often take you to the hospital. As a British person who only goes to the hospital in a life and death situation this can be scary. It can initially seem a little weird but when you step back from it and realise these people are family orientated and know you have no one then it is very sweet. Even if I just want to hide under the covers.

The doctor normally sees you in ten minutes and prescribes you more medicines than you could ever imagine you’d consume. Today I stayed in and was given a drip to replenish my electrolytes. It was all so easy and painless.

In the UK we don’t pay for health care but here you do. I remember the first time I realised that the safety cushion of my NHS was gone, I was terrified. I thought they ask for my kidney in exchange for some headache tablets. Luckily it’s a lot less than I expected with the added bonus that being a teacher provides half of our insurance.

Today I went and had two drips of electrolytes, an anti nausea injection, and a consultation. It came to 35,000 won or 35 dollars (20 pound).

All the doctors that I’ve met in Korea have spoken some English since they are very educated people. They have also been just lovely and kind so if you are feeling under the weather don’t you worry about popping to your nearest doctors, walking in and making an appointment. If there English isn’t great then luckily with sickness charades is quite effective.

I hope you don’t get sick in Korea but if you do it really isn’t the worst country to do it in.

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