A Pregnant American in Germany, part 5: Hospital Differences

Entrance to the Henriettenstiftung Hospital in Hannover

My recent and unexpected hospital stay presented itself as a definite learning experience into the many cultural differences between German and American hospitals. Here are a few of the main differences I noticed:

-I’ll now state the obvious: as this was a German hospital, everything was done in German. That said, I was actually fortunate to be at a hospital that had a contract with the British military, so some of the main (directional) signs were in English and many of the staff were able to speak at least some English. That was a huge help! I still found myself confused a couple times as all the paperwork and the majority of signs and postings were all in German (and my knowledge of medical vocabulary German is pretty minimal), but with my broken German, hand motions, and gestures I was always able to get my point across, even when dealing with staff who spoke no English at all. Thank God for those basic German classes I took!

-Privacy isn’t nearly as important in Germany as it is in the US. I stayed in a 2-bed room with a bath that was connected via wide hall on one end to another 2-bed room, thus allowing me to see only one roommate, but hear the every move of two other people as well. The beds in the hospitals here are not separated by curtains or screens as they are in the US so you have full view of your roommate(s) at all times. This was particularly strange for me as they did the majority of exams, blood work, IVs, cortisone shots (in the rump!), etc. right in the room in plain view of everyone else.

-You are required to bring pretty much everything you will need with you to the hospital in Germany. Hospital gowns are not given out, nor are towels or any other toiletry in the bathroom whatsoever.  Furnishings in the rooms are very German in style and very minimal. My bed consisted of a fitted sheet, a German comforter, and one very flat pillow (no bed sheet). So if you want to have tissues, extra pillows, towels, or even something to wear during your hospital stay- you better pack it with you! TV and phone privileges are also not included- if you want to use those during your stay, you will pay for them yourself, à la carte.

-Forget ice-cream, ice-chips and jello! Food served was in typical German style. They were able to accommodate me as a vegetarian, which was wonderful. I got a cold German style breakfast and dinner (rolls or very dense bread, cheese, butter, maybe a feel slices of tomato or cucumber, or some jam in the morning, etc., and a yogurt for dessert). Lunch, keeping with German tradition was a hot meal. On one day I was served baked spinach and cheese filled pasta, a small salad and a “buttermilk dessert”, which tasted like yogurt. There was a hot tea and bottled water station on the floor, which I was able to help myself to at any time. Ice-chips or any other snack or drink were not provided by the hospital- if you want them, you guessed it- you must bring them yourself.

-Nurses don’t check on you every ten minutes, as they seem to do in US hospitals. They come in your room once in the morning to take your vitals and then they don’t come back in to check on you unless you buzz for them.

-When you are released from the hospital, you walk right out yourself. No wheel-chair service to the door.

So there you have it. Sure, there are many more differences that I could talk about here, but these were the ones that stood out the most to me.

8 Responses to “A Pregnant American in Germany, part 5: Hospital Differences”

  1. Traveling Mama writes:

    Hey girl! I was thinking about you and thought this blog might be helpful: http://thepedrozafamily.wordpress.com/ The girl is absolutely precious and just gave birth in Germany. I’m sure she would be a wonderful support and could help answer any questions if you have any. I’m so glad that even with your scare that you are doing well! Love from Denmark!

  2. Blue Cakes Blogger writes:

    Thanks TIna! I’ll be sure to check that blog out. 🙂

  3. whl writes:

    Hello! I came across your blog when I was trying to find out info about the Mutterpass. I am also an American here (in Baden-Württemberg, since last Sept) because my husband is doing a two-year stint at the Fraunhofer (not Max Planck but similar!) and we are also expecting our first baby! It’s very helpful to read about your experiences! Your dog is also the cutest thing ever.

  4. Blue Cakes Blogger writes:

    Hi whi-
    Glad to hear you found the blog helpful and congrats on expecting your first baby. All the best with your pregnancy! ~Lisa

  5. Elisa Conver writes:

    Came across your blog today. We, too, are residing in Germany, and had a hospital stay (our 11 yr old son). We can certainly relate to what you write about differences.

  6. Trudie writes:

    I came across your blog while looking up information about attitudes in regard to pregnancy in other cultures. I am currently taking a cultural competency class which is part of my cirriculum in obtaing my master’s degree in nursing. I have found your comparison of German and Chinese attitude in regard to pregnancy to be quite interesting not to mention your hospital experience. Wish you the best! Thanks for your stories.

  7. Blue Cakes Blogger writes:

    You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your master’s degree! 🙂

  8. Bert writes:


    Being German, I have been to a couple of hospitals. Not in Hannover, but in Bremen, Hamburg, Berlin and Bad Tölz (a little south of Munich), and I think services differ heavily. TV was always free but in German only, I got ice cream and – of course – towels. Actually I am very(!) surprised you didn’t even get towels. After all they need to see a washing machine from time to time.
    The curtains (or lack thereof) – yes, that’s true indeed, and I don’t see a good reason for it either.

    Honestly, I think you picked a pretty bad hospital- even worse than the one in Bad Tölz, which, funny enough, seems to have a good reputation. The venerable Charité in Berlin, in contrast, has a bad reputation when it comes to patient care (not the actual treatment), but I really liked it there. I even sent them a box of chocolate after I left.

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