German Pharmacy, Apotheke, vs Drogerie
The first thing you will notice about the German pharmacy or Apotheke, is that they are not like the drugstores back home. They do not sell the latest in video technologies or the brand new-up-to-date carpet cleaner. No. German pharmacies sell medications and only medications.
Apotheken (plural for Apotheke) sell prescription drugs and over the counter medications, although you will see much of the "over-the-counter" drugs in sealed display cases. You have to ask the pharmacist for what you want, you can not pick it up for yourself. Even Aspirin.
Which, by the way, you can also find in what is called a Drogerie, or Drugstor, not to be confused with the Pharmacy. Drogeries don't really have an equivalent in North America, Britain or Australia.
The German Drugstore is a shop where you can buy products for body care (such as shampoo and tooth paste) but also house cleaners and diet snacks.
Except for a few rare over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as Aspirin and throat losanges, there are NO medications at all in the German Drugstore. In other words, it would take the German Pharmacy (Apotheke) plus the Drogerie together to make the equivalent of a North American Drugstore.
On the other hand, the German pharmacist has more latitude when it comes to prescribing medications and it is quite often faster to go directly to the Pharmacy, explain your symptoms to the pharmacist and get the proper medications in no time.
Another point is that, because a good part (all of it for children) of the cost of prescribed generic medications is reimbursed by health insurance (government or private), medications are somewhat cheaper than in North America. You will also find that there are lots and lots of Apotheken - everywhere! The German Pharmacy is to Germany what the Boulangerie is to France.
I remember in Trier, the oldest city in Germany, we had counted five or six Pharmacies in a radius of less than one kilometer around our hotel. So, not to worry if you need drugs, you should have no problem spotting one.
One important point is:
As with most shops and banks, the Apotheken are closed in the evening and from Saturday afternoon (1 or 2 pm) until Monday morning, as well as during public holidays. But you should see on the door a notice with the name and address of the nearest Pharmacy that is on duty for the weekend, or look in a local newspaper. They take turns for weekend duty shifts, so there is always a list with dates and names of pharmacies on duty for emergencies.
Last words on German Pharmacy and pharmacists: I have found them very knowledgeable, and quite a few speak or at least understand English, and they were always ready to help.
the German National Emergency number for doctor (and fire): 112
For the police: 110
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