Going to the doctor in Germany (with useful phrases)

by Maria Inês Teixeira
January 10, 2021
man going to see his german doctor and practising useful phrases

Getting sick abroad can be terrifying. You’re not sure where to go, what the culture is surrounding doctors and health, or how to express yourself properly. That’s exactly why we’re writing this article about going to the doctor in basic German (zum Arzt gehen – to go to the doctor). This way, you won’t have to fear visiting your favourite German-speaking countries and getting a bellyache! 

Let’s take a look at our list. We strongly advise you to practise this vocabulary out loud with a friend before you ever have to use it in real life. Your appointment will be successful if you know what to say before your health plays a prank on you.

Getting ready to see your doctor in Germany

1. Booking an appointment

The keywords here are der Arzttermin or der Arztbesuch (doctor’s appointment). Here are some things you can say on the phone when you want to book your visit to the doctor in a German-speaking country:

  • Hier spricht Robert Steiger. – My name’s Robert Steiger. / Robert Steiger speaking.
  • Ich brauche bitte einen Termin. – I need an appointment, please.
  • Ich möchte einen Termin mit Dr. Schwarz vereinbaren. – I’d like to book an appointment with Dr. Schwarz.
  • Es ist dringend. – It’s urgent.
  • Wann ist es möglich einen Termin zu vereinbaren? – When is it possible to request/book an appointment?
  • Ich erkläre meine Symptome. – I’m going to explain my symptoms.) / Das sind meine Symptome. – These are my symptoms.
  • Welche Unterlagen soll ich mitbringen? – What documents should I bring with me?
  • Ich bin krankenversichert. / Ich bin nicht krankenversichert. – I have health insurance. / I don’t have health insurance.
  • Ich bin in der gesetzlichen/privaten Krankenversicherung. – My health insurance is public/private.
  • Ist mein Termin bestätigt? – Is my appointment confirmed?

It might be useful to review some expressions of time, as you’ll probably be discussing availability with the health center. For example, you might want your appointment to take place…

  • heute – today
  • morgen – tomorrow
  • diese Woche – this week
  • nächste Woche – next week
  • so schnell wie möglich – as soon as possible
  • am Morgen – in the morning
  • am Nachmittag – in the afternoon
  • um 15 Uhr – at 3 o’clock (pm)
  • am Mittag – at noon

2. Talking to the German-speaking receptionist

So you’ve managed to book your appointment and show up at the doctor’s office. Now you’re ready to introduce your issue and explain why you came to see Dr. Schwarz! But first, the receptionist might request the following information from you:

  • Wie heißen Sie? / Ihr vollständiger Name?  – What’s your name? / Your full name?
  • Wie können wir Ihnen helfen? – How can we help you?
  • Haben Sie Ihre Versicherungskarte dabei? – Do you have your health insurance card with you?
  • Sie können Platz nehmen. / Bitte nehmen Sie Platz. – You can take a seat.

As for your side of the story…

  • Ich bin Robert Steiger. / Mein Name ist Robert Steiger. – My name’s Robert Steiger.
  • Ich habe um 11 Uhr einen Termin bei Dr.Schwarz. – I have an appointment with Dr. Schwarz at 11 o’clock.)
  • Wir haben gestern miteinander telefoniert. – We spoke on the phone yesterday.
  • Wo sind die Toiletten? – Where are the toilets?
  • Soll ich hier warten? – Should I wait here?
  • Hier ist meine Krankenversicherungskarte. – Here is my health insurance card.
  • Wo ist das Büro von Dr.Schwarz? – Where’s Dr.Schwarz’s consulting room?

3. Talking about your symptoms with your doctor in German

As is the case with other languages, you’ll heavily rely on the verb “to have” (haben) to explain your symptoms in German. However, when talking about aches (toothache, belly ache, headache…) you’ll be using a plural, not a singular (Schmerzen, which means “pains”, instead of Schmerz). Let’s look at some examples so everything becomes clearer: 

  • Ich habe Kopfschmerzen. – I have a headache.
  • Ich habe Bauchschmerzen. – I have a stomachache. 
  • Ich habe Ohrenschmerzen. – I have an earache.
  • Ich habe Halsschmerzen. – I have a throat ache.

Easier than it seems, right? As for other common problems, here’s a short list for your convenience:

  • Ich habe Fieber. – I have a fever.
  • Mir ist schwindelig. – I’m feeling dizzy.
  • Ich habe Anzeichen einer Grippe. – I have signs of a flu.
  • Ich kann nichts essen. – I can’t eat anything.
  • Ich habe Schwierigkeiten zu atmen. – I have trouble breathing.
  • Ich habe Husten. – I have a cough.
  • Ich kann mich nicht bewegen. – I can’t move.
  • Ich kann nicht aufhören zu zittern. – I can’t stop shaking.
  • Mein ganzer Körper juckt. – My entire body is itching.
  • Ich habe keine Energie. – I have no energy.

But what if you need to tell your doctor about special conditions? If you’re pregnant, you should say Ich bin schwanger”. If you’re allergic to something, you should use the expression “Ich bin allergisch gegen…”. For instance, you can say “Ich bin allergisch gegen Penicillin.” (I’m allergic to penicillin) or “Ich bin allergisch gegen dieses Medikament.” (I’m allergic to this medicine).

How to negotiate your salary in Germany

4. Understanding your doctor’s questions 

Your doctor will ask you about your situation and symptoms. Let’s look at some questions you might be asked depending on the context:

  • Was ist los? Wie fühlen Sie sich? – What’s wrong? How do you feel?
  • Welche Symptome haben Sie? – What symptoms do you have?
  • Wie oft spüren Sie diese Symptome? – How frequently do you feel these symptoms?
  • Haben Sie irgendwelche Allergien? – Do you have any allergies?
  • Ist es das erste Mal, dass Ihnen sowas passiert ist? – Is this the first time this has happened to you?
  • Welche Medizin nehmen Sie gerade ein? – What medicine are you taking right now?
  • Wie ist die Krankengeschichte Ihrer Familie? – What’s your family’s medical history?
  • Wie lange ist es her, dass Sie das letzte mal beim Arzt waren? – How long has it been since you’ve last visited the doctor?

In Germany, it’s very likely the doctor will address you formally. You’ll notice verbs look quite different in a casual conversation, and that’s normal!

5. Understanding solutions given by your doctor

Depending on your problem, Dr. Schwarz is ready to send you your way with some practical suggestions! Here are some of them:

  • Das sollte sich ein Spezialisten ansehen. – A specialist should have a look at this.
  • Nehmen Sie dieses Medikament einmal täglich ein. – Take this medicine once a day.
  • Trinken Sie keinen Alkohol. – Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Fragen Sie in der Apotheke nach diesem Medikament. / Kaufen Sie dieses Medikament in der Apotheke. (Ask for this medicine at the pharmacy. / Buy this medicine at the pharmacy.
  • Sie müssen ins Krankenhaus gehen. – You have to go to the hospital.
  • Wir müssen einen Test durchführen lassen. – We’ll have to get a test done.
  • Wir müssen Blutuntersuchungen durchführen. – We’ll have to get blood work done.

Are you ready? 

When it comes to prevention, we all agree with the German saying: Vorsicht ist besser als Nachsicht (“Better safe than sorry!”). Give these phrases a go, try practising some of them out loud and see how you feel about the vocabulary.

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