Monday, August 1, 2011

Pros and Cons of living in Europe

I know I have said time and again that living in Europe is out of the question. First of all: the climate is not to my liking, most of the time. Then there is the small problem of speaking another if we were to move to Holland! Then there is the indisputable fact that foreigners are not as welcome in Europe as they used to be: sad but undeniable. So, why am I talking about here?...Well, my recent trip opened my eyes to some very positive things.

While in London, I had a really bad allergy attack. Reminded me of the asthma attacks I have been having in Panama when I visit lately. Shortness of breath, palpitations, tiredness, circles under my eyes, the works. Had nothing strong enough, so Camille made an appointment to see a NHS doctor close to her house. Listen to this: got in quickly, no long waits. The receptionist only wanted to know where was I staying and for how long, my nationality. The doctor saw me fifteen minutes later. She was young and efficient, thorough, sympathetic and friendly. Asked questions about treatment I had received earlier for these symptoms. Prescribed some medications and told me to be careful, London has a lot of pollution, it had been hot and everything was in bloom.

Felt reassured, went out to ask how much was the consultation: nothing! Well, that lifted my spirits right there! On to the chemist (drugstore) to fill prescriptions. Got all I needed, at NO charge. This time my age (which we are not even going to mention!!!!) was enough to get everything for FREE..yes, you read right....FREE. These medications were for two months and I am still on them. How is that for health care? In the States this could have cost a good amount in deductibles and co-payments. Never mind the wait at the doctor's office and the hassle at the drugstore! On the downside, people would debate the fact that there is a long wait for surgery, to see a specialist or to get treatment for different illnesses, still I loved the service and the FREE medications. Something to keep in mind....

Then there was Holland. Thelma lives in Soest, a beautiful area in the middle of Holland with easy and reliable transportation to the rest of the country. The bus stop is about fifty meters from her building! There are lovely paths for bicycles and for walking, a supermarket across the road. There is a large international community around Hilversum, which is the center of the Dutch television and film industry. This small city has restaurants, good shops, drugstores and supermarkets, a large train station, an international school...everything! It was my first visit to this area and really liked it.

Health care there is amazing because it is good and works. Waiting for treatment or doctors visits is not an issue and I heard only satisfied comments. One complaint, though, was cost. Because the Dutch system is basically private, with government parameters to control cost and to ensure everyone is covered, private patients can pay a good amount for health insurance. On the other hand, everyone is covered and the poor get all their care for free. Something to keep in mind as well....

When are we going to retire? who knows, where are we going to retire? even more of an enigma. Only sure thing: we cannot disregard anything at this point in time. The States is not a shinning example of financial haven or health care paradise right now. Panamá is politically stable at the moment, but things are always changing in Latin America. In both cases, something to keep in mind....

P.D. With the Debt Ceiling mess here in the US, the thread of cuts to Social Security and Medicare, something has come to mind. Taxes are very high in Europe, but the benefits are better than here....something to keep in mind too!

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