Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Travel /

It happened when I was going through airport security, in Nice. I couldn’t help noticing that the older gentlemen right before me had suppositories in his plastic bag. Then it downed on me: I had completely forgotten about suppositories. You see, nobody uses them this side on the Channel. In fact, I hadn’t missed them at all. And I am pretty sure that my (British) daughters didn’t miss them either. Hmmm, I am not sure I will ask them. Some things are probably better left unsaid.


So why are suppositories so popular in my home country? – I wondered. This is the one subject that we French are quite relaxed about, whereas the British conversely get very hot under the collar whenever suppositories are mentioned. In fact, we French will quite happily use suppositories for any ailment. The gentleman wasn’t ashamed to put some in his little bag, and he even smiled at me while putting it back into his luggage. I could even see that the suppositories were for constipation relief. Not that I needed to know, obviously. But to be fair, it was right in my face; I couldn’t really miss it.

Then I remembered. I was told countless times by my pharmacist that they work much quicker than tablets. This is because they go straight into the bloodstream, and I was also explained that they are better for the system, because less chemicals are added to the active ingredients. As a result, French doctors love to prescribe them.

My family doctor used to find them very valuable for babies and older people, because they bypassed the stomach. I am sure he was right. He often prescribed them to adults too.

As for me, well, I couldn’t help thinking that:

  • I would never, ever, show off my suppositories in my transparent plastic bag at airport security. I would die of shame if someone had seen me with suppositories. I would dye my hair blonde, and ask for a brand new identity. That’s just me. Maybe I am becoming less French?
  • I still can’t believe that the French security agents didn’t say anything.
  • As much as I understand the reason why suppositories are so valuable, I think that I will try to avoid them. What can I say? I might be more British than I thought.

So tell me, what about you? What do you think of suppositories? Are you more British than French, or the other way around?

  • Karen Sellers

    We had suppositories for the first time when my older son was very ill with a sky high temperature but unable to keep the paracetamol liquid down. I found them wonderful and frankly much easier than trying to swallow spoonfuls of pink gloop.

    It doesn’t bother me either way, and I think I’d prefer to see more of them prescribed, especially for younger children who often can’t cope with the taste and texture of medicines. However, I would draw the line at suppositories for a cough (!) as my brain won’t process quite how that would be helpful, unless, of course, it renders the sufferer too afraid to cough 😀

  • drjuliet

    I think the fact you’re writing a blog about them means you retain your ‘Frenchness’. You’re absolutely right. Suppositories are a great way to give some drugs, especially if someone is vomiting and won’t keep oral meds down. Docs are happy to prescribe but often it’s the patients who aren’t keen and this is def a cultural thing. Worst thing is the patient who complains the tablets you gave them were so big they could hardly swallow them … oops!!!!

  • I have never been involved with suppositories. (I never even took one on a date 🙂 ). But, I do know that Colyte and Golytely are more effective- and chosen more often- over enemae.

  • James Casserly Omaexlibris

    Very much something that you only really see used in hospitals in Ireland. I’ve never known anyone to be prescribed suppositories and I’m not even sure whether you can buy them over the counter or you need a doctor’s prescription. Mind you, I think in some countries like the US customs agents are authorised to have a trained medic give suspected drug mules suppositories, in order to speed the process up, and possibly avoid strain which could burst a drug baggie causing the death of the mule.