German Language Blog

Das deutsche Gesundheitssystem – The German health system Posted by on Jun 21, 2011 in Culture, Language, Traditions

Some days ago, I realized that I have Zahnschmerzen (toothache). So, I went to see a doctor. This incident made me realize how important it is to know some basic phrases with which you can express that you are filling ill. Moreover, I would like to take the opportunity to explain how the procedure of seeing a doctor takes place in Germany. This comprises some general remarks on the German Gesundheitssystem (health system), too.

All people in Germany are medically insured by law. That is to say, even when people are unemployed they need not worry about their health because the Arbeitsamt (job center) will pay the monthly fee for you.

Germans are a kind of ‘hypochondriac’. When they feel ill they immediately go to see a doctor, as this is quite easy in Germany. You only need to arrange an appointment and immediately a doctor would examine you. Of course, the wait for an appointment may depend on the kind of doctor you want to contact. For example, the idle time for eye doctors and orthopedists can amount to several months. Anyway, the excessive consultations cost the government a lot of money, so, politicians passed a new law to have more control over the excessive consultation rates. Now, people have to pay 10 Euros Praxisgebühr (practice fee) per quarterly period if they want to consult a doctor.

Whenever Germans fell that something is wrong with them they first have to see their Hausarzt (prime care physician) who is usually a Allgemeinmediziner (general practitioner). There they pay the 10 Euros and if the general practitioner thinks the patient needs more special support, he will commit the patient to a specialist.

Unfortunately, the politician’s idea on having control over the excessive consultation rate backfired. Now, Germans see the practice fee as a kind of a complimentary ticket, so to speak, in order to enjoy medical examinations to the full, especially old people and people who are chronically ill.

Below you can find some phrases and words that would help you to interact with a German doctor.

After you would have entered the Sprechzimmer (doctor’s office), the doctor would ask you:

Was fehlt Ihnen? – What ails you?


Was kann ich für Sie tun? – What can I do for you?


Regarding your un-wellness you can say:

Ich habe Kopfschmerzen. – I have a headache.

Ich habe Fieber. – I have a temperature.

Ich habe Zahnschmerzen. – I have a painful tooth. / I have a toothache.

Ich habe Magenschmerzen. – I have a stomachache.

Ich habe Ohrenschmerzen. – I have a earache.


Vocabulary of the text

die Zahnschmerzen – toothache

das Gesundheitssystem – health (care) system

das Arbeitsamt – job center (you can also say Job Center in German because the German Arbeitsamt adopted the English term to polish its square image, so to speak.)

die Praxisgebühr – practice fee

der Hausarzt – prime care physician

der Allgemeinmediziner – general practitioner

das Sprechzimmer – doctor’s office


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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Marita:

    You forget that you can buy private health insurance in Germany much like in the US. The more the private insurance company pays to the doctor the shorter your waiting time – much like in the US.

    Once you leave the mandatory state run system however, you’re not allowed back in. The state run system is usually a much better deal though and doesn’t have any exclusions, like a private insurance has. The only drawback is that you may have to wait a while to get to see a doctor.

    Germany is also much more focused on prevention and alternative ways to treat people. You can also attend free health classes and learn how to prepare healthier meals – all for free.

    I’ve been living in the US and Germany about the same amount of time and the benefits you get under the state run system in Germany are much preferable to a private system, that can pretty much exclude anything and stick you with the bill.

    Another advantage of Germany’s system is that they will pay any costs related to re-training for you, if you can’t do your current job due to an injury or illness.

    That means you can go back to a technical school or a college without any cost. Germany is very efficient in this way: they don’t want their people sitting at home when they could be productive 🙂

  2. Joe Vieira Jr.:

    Great idea! I feel somehow still connected to Germany even after a year out of that country. So I usually read posts about their culture and language.

  3. Internetauskunft:

    Now you do not have to pay the Praxisgebühr about 10 Euros anymore.