Why being sick in Spain sucks

“Cat, you haven’t missed a day of school yet, have you?” Almudena asked me while we all sat and had lunch on Thursday at school. “You must be a really healthy kid!”

I said yes, despite the lingering germs around the school. Being a preschool teacher means more tissues purchased, more trips to the dry cleaners and, generally, more sick days than anyone else in the building.

Then, on Saturday, after spending the day in the sun at the Tío Pepe bodegas in Jeréz, I got suddenly ill. My throat closed up while walking to have dinner before Beth left, my ears started buzzing and I could suddenly not swallow. Chalking it up to allergies, I passed on dinner and went to bed.

The following morning, I had a fever and could barely talk, so Kike took Beth for churros and I stayed in bed the entire day (which, if you know me, is the equivalent to being in hell), hoping to go to school the next morning.

This morning, after passing the night walking up from inability to breathe, hot flashes, a runny noise and dry lips, I had my alarm set to 8:30 to call school and tell them I wouldn’t be in. Kike took me right away to the health clinic down the street and I wrote out my symptoms since I couldn’t talk.

The lady handed me a slip of paper that read: Consulta 15 Dra. Mora 18´47.

Yes, I was sick and in need of antibiotics, but had to wait nearly ten hours to be seen by my doctor. While Spain boasts state-subsidized healthcare for all, many opt to pay for additional services through private companies. I thought back on the time where my job as an auxiliar paid for great private insurance, where the doctors knew me, including an English-speaking OB-GYN. With government social security healthcare, there is always backlog and long lines.

I suggested to Kike that I take the bus to the hospital and see someone in the ER right away. He nixed the idea, instead telling me it was better to go home and rest and just go back later. So, it was back to soup and kleenexes (though I did watch Mean Girls and have Kike home to remind me to take my meds).

When I finally got to the doctor and waited for 40 minutes, amidst cold sweats and old people, Dra. Mora told me what I’d expected: Strep. I’ve never had it before, so this is another thing to add to the list of first in Spain.

The upside? She told me I’d probably be contagious tomorrow, too.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Tell me about it. I’ve had zero help from the public health system here. The doctors don’t listen to you, treat you like cattle, and refuse to treat you if your illnesses are invisible. It was my first mistake not getting private health care upon moving here, and I definitely learned my lesson. The public system here is shit.

    • It has certainly gotten worse. I have private insurance and realize, however, that I am paying for nothing. The wait time to see a gynecologist went from a week to six weeks, and the ER is understaffed. Healthcare shortages are happening across the board!


  1. […] but then Beth came during the Azahar and we drank in Granada, Jeréz and Cádiz (and then I got strep). […]

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