Drug stores in the States, such as Rite Aid, Duane Reade, or CVS, are divided into sections. You can buy prescription drugs from the pharmacist in the back, aspirin from the shelves in the middle, or a beach ball and makeup from the front. The basic idea here is presumably that medicines like aspirin can be adequately handed by a normal person, without the supervision of a pharmacist. I have grown up with this assumption, so of course it seems natural.
But Germans feel different. The stores that most closely resemble American drug stores only sell the drugs that can’t possibly harm you; deodorant, shampoo, vitamins, makeup, and beach balls. Everything else, including minor pain medication, is retrieved over-the-counter from an Apotheke. Now keep in mind that “over-the-counter” does not mean “you can go pick up a bottle from a shelf”. Instead, it means “you have to ask for it from a person who stands behind a counter”. To add insult to inconvenience, headache medicines come in packs of 12 or so, in individually wrapped sleeves. Much like our expensive allergy medication might come in. And the person behind the counter will inform you of the proper way to medicate yourself.
And I’m not sure why there are so many of them, but every city center area contains more Apotheke than Duane Reade has locations in New York. And you can only buy drugs and exotic cosmetics from Apotheke! Are Germans really that into hard drugs and cosmetics?
Haha! I had the opposite experience when I came to the US and found that I can buy a 5 pound jar of Aspirin with self-checkout at CVS 🙂