Guide to Pharmacies and Drugstores in Germany

What English-speakers refer to as pharmacies are known as Apotheke or Apotheken (plural) in Germany.

You probably are aware of this word from it’s English adoption, apothecary, and this word is used is many languages the world over.

In all German cities at all times of the day, there are always at least two pharmacies open. It is usual to find a list of these pharmacies and their respective opening hours printed in both the local government/council-printed newspapers as well as the council website, which usually can be found by typing in www. followed by the name of the city, followed by .de (the German web domain).

When open, these pharmacies offer a complete sales and medical advice service, so you can go in for a pack of paracetamol as well as for advice on prescription drugs and what you should do about that bump on the arm etc.

Sometimes, the duty pharmacy is indicated by signs in their shop windows.

What you won’t hear about until you actually have ordered a product, is the out of hours gebuhr/service charge that they charge to cover their staff overtime pay. It usually consists of just a few Euro’s or so.

Normally, you will find somebody who can speak a little English in these shops but if you do not, unless you are stuck with the only shop on all night duty, my recommendation is that you move on to another shop.

The problems that might arise from a misunderstanding are just too bad to think about.

Be prepared for alternative medicines being recommended to you instead of what you really came in for, the German pharmacies are well-known for this and they love to sell you two items that sound nicer than the one you really wanted. It is a business after all. You may even be tempted to go back by the free stuff they give you with each purchase, perhaps pocket tissues with their address on them or throat losenges when you have a cough that they notice!

The names of drugs themselves are fairly similar to what you are familiar to in English. Aspirin is Apsirin and Paracetamol is Paracetamol, only the pronunciation is slightly different. Try writing down on a piece of paper what you want and maybe pronunciation problems can be avoided. But other names are not the same. So, for example, cough medicine is Hustensyrop – pronounced Hoo-sten-soo-rop.