Buying medicine in China

The other evening, I (Liz) had to make a stop at the pharmacy to buy some medication. Now, if you think it might be challenging to speak everyday Chinese, it’s even more interesting to try to find the correct medication and dosage. I had armed myself with the appropriate vocabulary (milligrams, dosage, pill, generic and brand names of the drug, etc), and made my way to the back of the pharmacy to talk to an assistant. Happily, they had what I was looking for. However, as I was trying to confirm the dosage and schedule, I realized that I had drawn a crowd (and Leo wasn’t even along for the ride this time!). About ten people had gathered to see what medication the waiguoren (foreigner) was buying and most probably, to hear me try to communicate in Chinese. A couple of people who spoke a little English were throwing a few words out there (“week” one person said, and “six” said another), trying to be helpful. Now, I’m all for community and openness, but when it comes to buying medication, I am accustomed to a little more privacy. I had flashbacks to pharmacies in the US where there are lines on the ground where the next person in line is supposed to wait behind so the person consulting with the pharmacist has enough privacy. Let’s just say, people don’t get into lines very often here, and there are certainly no lines on the ground. I have given up on much of my privacy here (everyone in our neighborhood knows what we pay for rent here, what we do and when we do it, etc.), as we are just too conspicuous and everyone talks to everyone else. In this situation though, I had to draw the line (pun totally intended). I wasn’t having trouble communicating with the pharmacist; I needed a little space and couldn’t quite bring myself to talk about my health with an audience. So I asked the pharmacist if I could just talk to her. She broke up the crowd for me, and we finished our business. I walked out of the store, further amazed at the differences in our cultures and further charmed by the Chinese people I’ve met in Nanjing. They take SUCH an interest and are SO outgoing. And, 99 times out of 100, people are incredibly friendly and helpful. Sometimes, though – it’s too much for an unaccustomed waiguoren like myself!

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2 Responses to “Buying medicine in China”


  1. 1 Mom June 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Great story!

  2. 2 Becca July 1, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    So what’s wrong with you and how much DO you pay for rent? ;o)


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