What Surprises Foreigners About the USA? PART 7

HealthcareToday is Monday, September 16, 2013.

Fitness in the Cities

Foreigners are surprised at American city dwellers’ obsession with a healthy lifestyle.  They comment on how many people they see in the downtown areas jogging, riding bicycles, or rollerskating, and on the number of people who visit urban health clubs before and after work and on their lunch break.  Public facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools are busy, and people carry around big water bottles, especially on urban college campuses, where there are plenty of water fountains.

Interestingly enough, they also comment that the farther one goes from the “downtown” area, the less active and more overweight people are.  Suburbanites don’t walk.  Instead, they drive everywhere.  I do have a feeling that if they checked in the suburban health clubs, they might find them as full as the downtown ones, but it’s true that dwellers in the suburbs are less apt to walk when they can drive.  Part of the problem is the way American suburbs are laid out.  Suburbs tend to be spread out quite a bit, so distances between destinations do tend to be greater, particularly in Midwestern metro areas.

Foreigners also notice that, in general, poor people are more obese than the rich.  This stems from the fact that prices of fresh fruits and vegetables are high in this country, while “commodity foods,” which include dairy staples, grains and starchy foods, comprise the diet of the poor, because of their low prices.

Healthcare in America

The cost of American healthcare, and the fact that you have to have medical insurance in order to be able to afford basic care are astounding to those from countries where healthcare is socialized.  In India, where “normal” healthcare includes Ayurvedic, and Homeopathic modalities, health insurance only covers hospital stays and emergency care.  Normal healthcare visits and medicines are paid for up front, but they are extraordinarily inexpensive, compared with American doctor visits and pharmaceuticals.   In countries such as the U.K., Inda, and Japan, you can walk in to see a doctor without an appointment, but I have to say from my experience in Japan that you do have to wait your turn to see the doctor, you cannot choose which doctor you will see if you go to a public clinic in a hospital, and  you have to wait hours to see someone.  In Japan, you have to take the whole morning off from work if you need to get to a doctor in a public clinic, and you have to get there very early in the morning; otherwise you may not be able to see anyone until afternoon.

Pharmaceutical Ads

Foreigners are especially confused about the prevalence of ads on TV and in magazines for pharmaceuticals.  The print ads are full of small print warnings that, if anyone really read them carefully, would warn any thinking person away from the drug being advertised.  The TV and radio ads are full of warnings, too, sometimes flashed on the screen in writing, but more often spoken as a voice-over while the actors are busy pretending to do some activity that is supposedly not possible for sufferers of the disease in question.   Why, foreigners ask, would anyone take a pill to make their sex life better if it might kill them?  Why, indeed.  🙂


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