When you need to see a doctor in China

Being sick in a foreign country can be exhausting. Different rules, different processes, different language. In this post I give an overview of the health care system in Germany and China. I also detail my experiences of seeing doctors in China.

When you need to see a doctor in China
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko / Unsplash

Life happens. There will be a time abroad, when you feel sick. Sometimes it's just a cold and you merely need a few days off. Sometimes you are really sick and need to stay in hospital. I was "fortunate" enough to experience both. In this article I want to share how doctor visits have worked out for me and what the differences are to most of the western world.

The structure of health care in Germany

First, let's briefly explain how health care in Germany works. I will focus on that cause I have a good overview of it.

Seeing a doctor

When you are sick in Germany you will first go to one of the specialized doctor's practice led by one or multiple doctors. First, you would go to a general practitioner. That's enough when you have a cold or need simple blood work or a checkup to be done. If this doctor needs a more specialized opinion she will refer you to an expert in the field.

As doctors are oftentimes very busy (especially specialists), it will take a long time until you have an appointment, especially when you need different opinions from different doctors. In this case, you might need to drive around the city to visit multiple experts. Also communication between those doctors can be bumpy as they often don't talk to each other but communicate in writing in the form of reports.

When you are really sick, need surgery, find yourself in an emergency or the doctor's practice is closed (during night or on weekends) you will go to a hospital. You might also go to hospital if your doctor refered you to a surgent that works in a hospital. You will need to make an appointment with this surgent directly. In that case you would be an ambulant patient / out-patient.

After surgery, you would normally go to your doctor's practice again, not to the hospital. You might as well be a stationary patient / in-patient in hospital if necessary.

Health insurance

When it comes to health insurance, there are two options based on your income. The first option is joining a public health insurance. In 2024, when you earn less than 69.300 Euro per year you have to be insured by public health insurance.

In Germany, there are many providers of public health insurance. They only differ in a few percent of their benefits (and monthly cost) as the majority is defined by the government. You pay based on your income - the more you earn the more you pay - up to a threshold of currently 62.100 Euro income per year. When you are a permanent employee you will share the costs for your health insurance 50/50 with your employer.