X-rays and results on the same day

One evening, I accompanied my husband who went to have a chest x-ray. The general practice here is to go to a radiology lab with a doctor’s order in hand to have the x-rays taken. An appointment rarely needs to be made as most welcome walk-ins.

Once we arrived, there was only one person being seen, so we didn’t have long to wait. It only took a few minutes to have the x-ray taken and then another five minutes to wait until they were ready. The radiologist then read the findings and all was well with only a cost of 45.00 Euros. What was also very different, was the fact that we were able to take the x-rays with us, not that we would need them, but after all, we did pay for them!

Back home, this is unheard of, unless of course you are seen in an emergency room where you can have the x-rays taken and the results given on the same day. I always wondered why they make us wait to have routine x-rays done and then having to make an additional appointment weeks later to get the results. Forget about even touching the x-rays after the fact, much less taken them home with you!

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Blood draw

This morning I went in to my doctor’s office to have some blood drawn. Usually, here in Greece, people tend to get the order from their doctor and then go into a lab where they don’t have to long as wait to have blood drawn. Since I didn’t get my lab order prior to, I decided to just have it done right then and there.

Luckily when I arrived to my doctor’s office, I was in shock to see that there were not 30 women waiting to be seen like last time, but only two. I was relieved as I had left my daughter with my husband at work and told him I would see them sometime within the next few hours. He planned an entire afternoon with her just in case I didn’t return early. After a few minutes, one of the ladies waiting went in to be seen when the other came out. The lady that was waiting called over the other patient to ask her the procedure for an exam. She basically wanted to know what clothes she could leave on…etc..etc. She was relieved to find out that she didn’t have to remove all her clothing and went on to discuss a bad experience she had with another doctor. Of course, I was only able to pick up bits and pieces of this conversation since I am not that fluent in the language. Once her informer left, she walked over to me and started talking away. All I could do was smile and act as though I understood all she was saying. She seemed quite relieved with the information gathered and was anxious to get her exam over with. She went on and on and for the life of me, I was not able to shut her up. I tried looking away, acting as if I were watching TV, but there was no end in site. Once the other patient came out, she went in still talking and continued with the doctor. Since they were behind closed doors, I couldn’t make out all she was telling him, even though her voice was as loud as a big rig truck coming towards you out on the freeway. Her voice grew louder and louder. From the doctor’s comments to her, I could tell he just wanted her out of there. After her exam, he kept telling her goodbye in a polite manner but she just kept on and on. He finally had to walk to her to the door but she still didn’t get it. At that point, I got up and walked around her straight in his office and it was at that point that she finally realized that her visit was over.

My doctor was relieved that the patient was gone. He was in a hurry as it was lunch time for him. As he gathered the items needed to draw my blood, he kept on bursting out laughing every so often and nodding his head in disbelief as to what the previous patient told him. I’m sure he would have told me what she said but we have somewhat of a language barrier problem. That, and the fact he was in a hurry to get out there before another woman with an even better story showed up.

Medical care and costs

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Charges for routine medical tests here in Greece usually depend on the doctor you see and his reputation in the community. However, charges are cheaper when compared to that in the U.S., even if one does not have insurance (example: doctor visit 30.00 euros – teeth cleaning 40.00 euros). ER services and Ambulance rides to public hospitals are free. Of course, avoiding hospitals is the best plan anywhere. The tradition of nursing as a profession is not well developed and hospitals depend on families for much care. Doctors are highly trained – many in the U.S. Pharmacists can get whatever you need and most drugs do not require a prescription. Costs are, by U.S. standards, reasonable.

**Note: one thing that has amazed me since I moved here has been the hospital ER services. When going in for any kind of emergency, you don’t see a regular ER physician but instead you are sent to a doctor within the hospital who specializes on the illness or problem you have (example: when I fractured my finger, I was sent to an Orthopedic).

One of the biggest concerns for those who are planning on moving here is insurance, but there is no need to be, unless you have major medical problems. Most of us who have insurance do not use it the majority of the time. Doctors here have insurance day while other days are not. For the convenience of not having to wait in a room full of people on insurance day, we opt to go on non-insurance day and pay the 30.00 euros out of our pocket.

Emergency surgery here is not as expensive as in the U.S. either. I had an emergency c-section due to complications during labor, stayed in a birthing center for an entire week, in my own private room, with catered meals three times a day and two nurses of my own 24/7. The total bill for that was 1500.00 Euros. Very cheap, but then again, it was the location that mattered. In Athens a three day stay in a hospital after a regular delivery costs about 3000.00 euros.

Shopping

Shopping in Greece is a very different experience compared to that in the U.S. For starters, stores here are not open 24 hours and are closed on Sundays.The first and most obvious difference while shopping at the supermarket is when you have to insert a 50 euro coin piece to unlock a cart for use. The cart wheels swivel, making it difficult to get around especially if your cart is full. As you go through the check out line, you put your purchases on the counter and as they are checked through, you bag your own groceries. You then return the cart by locking it to the others and that’s when your 50 euro cent piece is returned to you.

Besides the supermarkets, there are specialty shops such as the butcher, bakery, produce and fish. The bread and desserts, are by far, the most enjoyable products in Greece along with the cheese of course. The breads are baked daily and you can smell that fresh bakery fragrance once you begin your approach. The desserts and pastries are also baked daily and they are very proud of these products, as they should be. Prices in specialty shops are usually cheaper then in a supermarket.

As for prices, if you attempt to live solely as you might in the U.S., prices are high. Fresh fruits and vegetables come from nearby and are usually great. The range of foods available used to be narrow but have widened over the last few years and it includes many American items or their equivalents. Of course you can’t get everything, but as time goes by, you learn to live without. Generally, food is fresher because it is seasonal and doesn’t travel as far than in the U.S. Location plays a big factor as can the season.

Shopping for clothing is another thing all together. There is not a great variety of products – what you find in one store, you are sure to find in another. Location plays a very important part on how much you will pay for an item. In one part of the city, an item might be a few Euros higher while in another, it is a few Euros lower. The same goes throughout the country.

Greeks are very fashion-conscious and buying more expensive appeals much more to the consumer. In the U.S., we prefer comfort over style, while here in Greece, it is the total opposite. Fashion is very important here and there is a large consumption in brand name clothing. Popular styles go in and out very quickly (one to two months). Clothing for babies are not made for comfort either (where are the snappy crotches?).

Walking and driving

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Walking in Greece is hard work. In the states, people move aside to give the right away to the person who is coming towards them, so one might expect Greeks to do the same. But instead, they march straight ahead down narrow sidewalks with no notice of people coming toward them. Every approach is a contest of wills, a guessing game and/or a collision. No need to panic though, just step out of the way and let them go by. Come to think of it, perhaps they do walk the way they drive. It is a rare occurance for Greeks to give the right away to another car. This causes all kinds of arguments that then cause traffic jams. It is not uncommon to see drivers create two lanes where one is supposed to exist. Driving etiquette is non-existent in Greece. Drivers will not think twice to cut you off or tail you. Luckily, there is not the violent road rage phenomenon you see in the US. In congested traffic, many Greek drivers don’t believe in turn signals, pedestrian right of way, or even stoplights. If there’s a traffic jam up ahead, it’s perfectly acceptable to drive on the sidewalk in order to bypass stopped cars, especially if you’re on a motorcycle. Seat belts are rarely worn. My favorite has to be the overuse of hazard lights which is fairly common. Whenever a driver wants to stop in the middle of the road to have a chat with a friend and can’t be bothered by getting out of the car, or decides to double park while waiting for someone, out come the hazard lights. They seem to guarantee the driver who switches them on some sort of immunity and all fellow drivers will give you the benefit of the doubt and let you get on with whatever you are doing. No one beeps their horns or shouts at you if the hazards lights are on.

Parking in just about every major city can be a nightmare. Major traffic problems here are due to a large consumption of cars and lack of parking. Parking on side walks is common and double parking as well. If someone blocks the street, horns are held continuously until someone moves the car – this can take minutes.

There is full service at gas stations which includes washing your windows, checking your oil and tires. There is no self service stations in Greece.

Crime

Crime in Greece is one of the lowest in Europe and is one of the safest countries in the world. This is not to say that crime does not exist. It certainly does. However, the majority are petty crimes as armed violence and random assaults are fairly uncommon. Gun control is strictly enforced and possession of firearms of any type, except those licensed for hunting, is forbidden. This may play a large part as to why crime is not as high as in other countries where owning a gun is legal.

You don’t see police often in the streets, nor do you see them on freeways or roads much while traveling. The only time they may be out in full force is during a holiday when traffic is congested due to Greeks traveling the roads.

Siesta

The first thing you will find is just how different the pace of life is in Greece, compared to that in the states. Like in many countries that run along the Mediterranean, the Greeks like to observe an afternoon siesta, and the business day includes a two to three hour lunch break for this very reason. Different parts of Greece may vary when it comes to the hours of siesta time. For Example, local business hours are as follows: On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, most businesses open at 9:00 AM and close at 3:00 PM for rest of the day. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, most businesses open at 9:00 AM, close at 3:00 PM and then reopen at 5:30 PM and close at 9:00 PM. Sundays are a day of rest. Supermarkets, restaurants and taverns stay open throughout the day. Also, during the months of July and August all merchants stores are closed on Saturdays due to vacation time here in Greece.

There are a number of reasons why siesta time may have been put in place. It has been said that Greeks are family oriented and use this break in the middle of day to spend time with family. Greece also has a huge night life and those who go out take the the opportunity to rest up for their long evening ahead. The majority of businesses in Greece are privately owned and operated and as such, the break is set aside to rest in order to be able to return to finish out the work day. Whatever it was that has brought on the siesta, it doesn’t seem to effect some parts of Greece like it does in others.