Learning things about France I never expected I’d need to learn–like how to go in for surgery

It’s been quite some time since I last posted—mostly because I had to get the hard drive on my computer replaced, which was an unexpected adventure… and one that took three weeks! Then, when I got it back, the operating system was set up in French (of course). I’ve got it mostly into English now (although it still has a few quirks).

During that time, it’s been easier to post pictures on Facebook and I’ve focused on the fun and interesting things we’ve been seeing and experiencing. But at the same time, I’ve been learning things about living in France that I wasn’t anticipating—like getting to know the French health system up close and personal as I prepare for a minor (I hope) surgery on Monday.

A few weeks ago, we visited Barcelona and I discovered I’d developed a hernia. No heavy lifting, no horrible incident, but there was no doubt about it. I’d seen a doctor years ago in Helena who essentially told me it was only a matter of time. Well, the time had come.

In the past few weeks I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone, I’ve forgotten what my comfort zone looks like. When my computer’s hard drive failed I had to deal with French and then British tech support and finally a repair shop where the people spoke minimal English. Talk about jumping into the deep end! But now I’m figuring out health care in a foreign country. Thankfully I started with a British general practitioner recommended by my insurance company, so communication wasn’t a problem. But already I was learning that things are much different than in the States.

How so? Let me count the ways… Doctors’ offices aren’t in professional buildings; they’re scattered among apartments (there’s one in our building). Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to even get in, since most such entrances require a code—and in one case they didn’t bother to tell me what the code was! They often don’t have nurses or receptionists. You meet the doctor in an office and the examination room is attached. Then pay in cash. In ways there’s a lot less paperwork than in America, but then other things are more complicated. I had a blood test this morning and at the end of the day I had to go to another facility in a different part of town to pick up the results that I’m expected to bring to the surgery so they’ll know my blood type! Pharmacists do way more than we’re used to in the States—and fairly quickly. Walk in, hand over the prescription, they hand you the drugs (so now I’m loaded up with pain-killers), and you’re out the door in just a few minutes.

The hardest part of the process has been dealing with my surgeon’s receptionists; it’s been more than a little stressful trying to communicate with them about what my insurance company wants. They’re not used to dealing with that, since most everyone is on the national French plan–show a membership card and you’re good to go. And my French might be better than their English–and my French isn’t good at all! I’ve discovered that most waiters and shopkeepers speak better English than many of the medical professionals I’ve had to deal with.

I’m grateful for connections I’ve made at the girls’ school. It’s been encouraging to meet other parents who know what the learning curve is like in adjusting to a new culture–and have lived through it. And I’m especially grateful for new friends that are going to help me get home after the surgery, since Merideth is back in Seattle right now. The clinic where I’m going is literally a seven minute walk from where we live, which is especially convenient. And my new French teacher has assured me it’s a great facility–it’s where the former French President’s wife chose to deliver her child!


2 thoughts on “Learning things about France I never expected I’d need to learn–like how to go in for surgery

  1. Pingback: In case you were wondering… | a year with mona

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