We all had, at some point, to see our GP (General Practitioner – that’s how we call our doctor over here). It is a very peculiar experience. My daughter had been suffering from a bad cough for what seemed to be a very, very long time (especially when you wake up every other hour. I had to send my other daughter to the guest room as she was in the middle of her 11+ exams so that she could sleep -more about that in a few weeks- ).
But we just talked. He didn’t examine her. He didn’t even look at her, or take her measurements. You know: weight, height, blood pressure…he explained to me that there is a virus out here, the cough lasts 4 to 5 weeks and there is nothing to do. Tough luck, dear lady. The consultation didn’t last more than 5 minutes. I insisted that he should take a look at her, listen to her lungs, look at her throat, or simply do something but no, he didn’t do anything. He didn’t give in. He just didn’t see the point. But he was really, really nice. And polite too. The next thing I did was to get a prescription for antibiotics from a French friend who happened to be a doctor and I am pleased to say that the cough has gone in less than 3 days, which means that the whole household was able to get some much-needed sleep at last.
The problem is in fact a cultural one. Whereas in France we talk and then we do something, here we talk, and talk, and talk again. Then, eventually, only when absolutely necessary, something is done about the issue. Not always. A (British) friend of mine managed to talk about how tea is made the proper way for more than 25 minutes (I timed him.). Given that it must take a couple of minutes to actually make a cup of tea, it took him twelve times longer to talk about it. Amazing. I just can’t imagine the time it must take to tackle a real issue over here. I think that I would have time to die of boredom 10 times before it happens. I am still unsure as to how you would solve the issue though. Maybe that ‘s the reason why we can’t get our dishwasher repaired: a week of talking would be required.
Mind you, this love of words also has its upsides. A defining moment of my life in this country was when I had my second daughter in London. When in France I immediately got an epidural when things got rough, here I was asked to talk through my pain. I ended up doing so much more than talking: I shouted, insulted, begged and threatened (I can’t remember the exact order)…but in the end no epidural was needed. That’s what’s called efficiency!
On the bright side, I have learned to trust my instincts here. In France, people will actually do something (and sometimes they will actually do too much. I still resent the science teacher who gave me a 0% to make me understand that grades were not important). Here, finally, I don’t care any more about all the talks and unwanted advice. And we are going to change the dishwasher.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London