Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
No one said getting sick is cheap, but I thought I’d break down my costs (or losses) based on catching the flu at an inconvenient time. (Really, when is the flu convenient?)
I think it had been over twenty years since I’ve had the flu. This year has been really bad in Japan for colds and the flu, but I thought I had made it safely through the winter season of misery.*
I had planned to go overseas with my husband to visit my sick grandmother. A few days before our flight, I had the high fever and fatigue associated with ‘influenza type B’ and a flu test result to prove it. Needless to say, no one wanted to be around me, or for me to be around my sick grandmother. I definitely did not want to be on a long flight (frequent trips to the toilet) or getting everyone on an airplane sick. I could barely get out of bed, so it was unlikely I could make it to the airport with a big suitcase. It was an easy choice if I thought about all the foods I was excited to eat on our trip and the fact that I had no appetite.
The flights were ridiculously complicated and mostly under one itinerary, which was a cinch for my husband to call and cancel (to be rescheduled at another date). I completely expected we’d have to pay a fee to cancel that itinerary, but to my surprise, the representative made it sound like we could use the credit in the next year and only pay the difference in cost. Maybe this all depends on how nice the customer service staff is but that airline’s website clearly shows that a change fee is normally required. I called to reschedule after getting healthy, and was asked to put my itinerary on hold then call back (too complicated for the staff, haha). Then when I called back, another representative tried to apply the credit, then told me I’d have to apply for a refund. I applied for a refund and paid over $500 in fees for both of our tickets. I then had to book the flight again, and it was a little more expensive, but not bad.
I canceled the other itinerary, but that one is a total loss. It’s only two tickets for a short one way flight at about $75 each ticket, and to cancel online and have use of that credit, we’d have to pay a fee of $150 for each ticket. That’s funny. I’ll call it a loss of $150 as I didn’t need that flight when I made the new itinerary.
I went to the doctor twice, as the first time it was written off as probable sinus related infection because the symptoms started with stuffy ears and a low fever. I went home with antibiotics and allergy medicine. The next day the fever was much higher, so I returned as told, for a flu test and Tamiflu prescription. Total 3620 yen including prescriptions, using Kokumin Kenkou Hoken, which pays for 70% of costs.
As preventative medicine, my husband also wanted to take Tamiflu, the prescription medication that supposedly makes flu symptoms less severe and can be taken to avoid getting the flu when you’re exposed.** As he had no symptoms, he was required to take the flu test as well, and it was negative. This part of the doctor’s visit was paid for by insurance. As he tested negative, he had to pay full price for the Tamiflu prescription. Total was around 6,000 yen. (But hey, he didn’t get the flu from me.)
I work part time, about 3-4 days a week. I conveniently got sick on the last night of my four day weekend, waking up on my first work day of the week feeling awful. I missed all three of my work days that week, for a total of 32,000 yen in missed income.
I had also taken two weeks off of work to go out of town immediately following my week of sick. I wasn’t completely well anyway, but even in the second week, my substitute would be upset if I changed plans and they missed out on a little extra income, so I can’t have that work back. I got a ridiculously long time to recover from the flu, but staying home and not seeing my students drives me nuts.
I had to reschedule two more weeks off, which means even more missed income. I took advantage of the Golden Week holiday and will only miss about four lessons. I can probably schedule make up lessons for a couple of those.
In conclusion, the flu cost me almost 10,000 yen in medical costs and well over 30,000 yen in missed work, plus over $650 in fees for the canceled flights, for a total of at least 105,000 yen. Ouch.
There is a very good reason you see a lot of Japanese people wearing masks during the flu season, washing their hands often, and gargling after getting home. Take care of yourselves!
*No, I didn’t get a flu shot, and no, I still probably won’t in the future.
**As well as Tamiflu maybe worked preventatively for my husband, I will probably avoid using it in the future. I had no obvious benefit by taking it (as the worst symptoms of the flu generally go away on their own within a few days), although I think I had side effects which prolonged my feeling awful.
(Edited on April 23rd, 2017, after getting the canceled flight refunds.)