The subtle ways living abroad in Europe can affect healthcare costs

Living in Europe can be a life-changing experience, with many different cultures and ways of life to immerse yourself in. Additionally, healthcare is of a consistently high standard when it comes to coverage and quality - so that’s more good news!

Published: Thu 29 Feb 2024 10:12 CEST
The subtle ways living abroad in Europe can affect healthcare costs
March and April are still a prime seasons for colds and flu. Photo: Britanny Colette / Unsplash

Working and living in Europe, the odds are that your host country's government will mandate health insurance. They will deliver a very high standard of care through their health system, usually funded by your contributions. The thought of an ambulance ride won’t fill you with dread - they’re covered. 

That doesn’t mean that healthcare costs can’t snowball, however. Together with AXA - Global Healthcare, we examine some of the ‘gaps’ that can emerge in healthcare when you’re living overseas and how costs can rapidly increase. 

Communication difficulties

As much as you plough through lessons on Duolingo or attend night classes to come to grips with the local language, it takes years to build any kind of fluency close to what you have with your native tongue. 

This can cause issues when it comes to overseas healthcare. While finding a doctor may be reasonably straightforward, locating one who can understand exactly what you are describing is another matter. While English is often widely understood, the linguistic complexities presented by the doctor’s office mean that a visit can be stressful at the very least. 

This can pose two problems. First, you may delay a visit to a healthcare professional, as the discomfort of seeking medical attention may outweigh the actual physical symptoms. Prevention is better than a cure; however, some health conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) can become chronic before you are fully aware.

The second problem is that a lack of language fluency can mean symptoms are either incorrectly described or understood. While it can be challenging to describe your symptoms in your native language, it can become far more complex when two languages are involved. This could mean misdiagnosis or the wrong medication is prescribed. 

With the Virtual Doctor service from AXA, you can book a medical consultation with a real doctor on the phone or by video chat – at a time that suits you – from anywhere in the world

Cultural differences 

While you can expect a very high standard of healthcare when living in Europe, there are times when a difference in cultural attitudes may prove challenging. 

An example cited by some who come to German-speaking countries to work is a marked difference in how pain medication is prescribed. Following an operation, you can expect to be prescribed a few ibuprofen and then sent on your

While not precisely world-ending, such differences in how different cultures address healthcare can be unwelcome and can also add to the stress that comes with suffering from an illness. And as we now well know, stress can make you even sicker.

Think of private health insurance as a peace of mind, so you can go on experiencing all that your new home offers. Photo: Getty Images

The effects of isolation

Stress also plays a significant role in other areas. While living abroad can help you forge lifelong friendships - you might even meet the love of your life - sometimes it can be overwhelming. 

AXA’s 2023 Mind Health Report indicated that more European working populations consider themselves ‘getting by’ rather than ‘languishing’ or ‘struggling’, but there’s still considerable room for improvement. 

There’s also a significant gap in mental health outcomes between men and women, with women more susceptible to poor mental health due to a range of financial and cultural factors.

Combined with the sense of disconnection felt by international workers, as previously reported by The Local, the conditions become conducive for several mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, to manifest. 

Again, while mental healthcare in Europe is generally good and continuously improving, that doesn’t mean that missed work and therapeutic costs can’t sometimes escalate over a reasonably short period of time. Depending on the severity, not every visit or medication may be covered.

Sometimes, being away from home can be difficult. AXA – Global Healthcare offers the Mind Health service, so you can talk to friendly faces who understand and can help guide you through

A solution that equals peace of mind

While healthcare in Europe is of a very high standard, that doesn’t mean that the very nature of living and working in another country won’t cause healthcare costs to add up if you get sick or have an accident. 

International private health insurance can often be an option. Not only will you receive the same world-class treatment, but you will often have more choices regarding treatment and medical professionals. This can help offset or eliminate those additional costs. 

The most significant benefit of private health insurance for internationals is the rapid access it gives you to medical professionals who speak English and several other languages.

AXA - Global Healthcare, for example, offers a Virtual Doctor Service, which will connect you with a medical professional, via video or telephone call, at a time that is convenient for you. They can diagnose,
prescribe medication, and answer any questions you have.

The Mind Health service is also provided to AXA - Global Healthcare policyholders. This connects you with a qualified psychologist who can help you navigate the challenges of being away from home and your regular support networks. This can make all the difference in how you deal with stress and worry. 

Think of a private health insurance plan as an investment as you make a new home. It will give you the peace of mind you need if you are ever faced with accident or illness.

Explore AXA - Global Healthcare’s range of plans today and discover one that’s right for you



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