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Monday, 7 January 2013

Popping pills and knowing when you're truly "in" France

Whenever you're watching a report on telly - wherever you might be in the world - and up pops a photo of the Eiffel Tower, you know the film, report or whatever, is about either Paris or France.

Simple isn't it? It's an instantly recognisable symbol not of only the capital but the whole country - at least to those from the outside.

But there is of course another typical emblem of France - much more representative of everyday life and instantly identifiable to anyone who lives here - la pharmacie or chemist.

They appear to be everywhere - especially in larger towns and cities. Over 22,000 of them spread throughout the country.

Stand in front of one in your nearest town and the chances are you'll be able to see another one not so far away, its familiar green cross flashing outside when open for business.

Yes, you know you're in France when you drop in at the doctors thinking you just have a heavy, if lingering, cold, are diagnosed with bacterial bronchitis (ah, it's so much more reassuring to have a label put to something, it almost makes you feel legitimately "sick") and then sent packing to the chemist or la pharmacie.

Now comes the point when you realise you should have been paying attention to what the doctor was telling you while poking, prodding, taking your temperature, asking about generalised or localised aches or pains, and listening to that whistling sound coming from your chest. 

Because instead of just the anticipated antibiotics, there's also, a course of cortizone, paracetamol ("Pill or soluble form sir?"), breathing apparatus to "help inhalation in times of serious loss of breath or wheezing" as well as what looks like a vacuum cleaner complete with even more drugs and instructions on how to use it.

Just back from la pharmacie

At least that's what appeared on the counter; a fair mountain of drugs it seemed, fit to still the beating heart of even the most fervent hypochondriac (and what's the betting that France has more than its fair share based on such evidence) as the pharmacist runs through the prescription.

Luckily she (in this particular case) doesn't just leave you standing there wondering, "What the heck".

She's a trained professional after all and, besides, can see (and hear) you're (a) pretty zonked out (foreigner).

So before allowing you out of the door, she goes through the whole prescription and treatment not once, but several times ensuring you know what to take, when and how.

And explains the purpose of the "vacuum cleaner" breathing machine (on hire for a week), how it works, where to place the liquid and "How to breathe correctly, sir".

Yes the "patient" - who is now recovering rapidly thanks to the marvels of French drugs (bring 'em on) really should have been listening more carefully as he sat in front of the doctor first time around.

But he thanks his lucky stars there was another trained professional on hand to "walk" and "talk" him through it.

Time for a not entirely appropriate blast from the past.

Any excuse.

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