First foray into French healthcare.

Don’t worry, I didn’t fall off my bike already. But I did finally get up the nerve to see a doctor about my eyeball. Yes, my eyeball and I have not been getting along lately. Because while I enjoy staring at my laptop screen 90% of the day, my left eye would rather twitch frantically until I chill out and stare at anything else for a while.

Now up until this point I have avoided foreign healthcare at all costs, waiting for trips home to get checkups and renew prescriptions. But as you might imagine, trying to type while holding your eyelid still with one hand isn’t so fun. So I took a deep breath and booked an appointment with an opthamologist.

To be fair, I cheated and went with a guy at the American Hospital who speaks english. But I was still supremely nervous. Why? Was I scared of socialists? Afraid I might have to fill out paperwork in French? Worried that champagne might be the only form of anesthesia?

I could only hope.

But my first French healthcare experience was totally fine. Different in many ways from typical American care, but really, I came out unscathed and well treated. You just have to set some expectations before going in:

1. There might not be air conditioning. Even in a modern (looking) hospital.

2. But there will be coffee and croissants in the lobby.

3. Since you’re American, the free part of french healthcare doesn’t apply.

4. And it may or may not take you 10 minutes to figure out how to write a check to pay the doctor.

5. The nurses will not be offering restorative coupes de champagne.


Add Yours
  1. gina

    jenny left eye wilson adams. it’s more interesting this way. i saw your text today. was in class. are you going to get free designer glasses now?? i have some free time on weds and thurs if you wanna hang!!

  2. chris

    Why avoid the french healthcare? I distinctly recall a post a few weeks/months ago talking about how lucky americans would be to have free healthcare….as the french do……but now you are avoiding it at all costs? But its free. So essentially, you are saying that you would be willing to pay a french doctor not to treat you, only to go pay an american doctor to treat you? Based on your previous post, I would assume that the French have exponentially better healthcare than we do in the States. I guess they don’t? So as the old saying goes….you get what you pay for. And if its free….its probably not worth paying for in the first place.

    In any event…I hope your eye gets better. If it doesn’t, I’ll be happy to whack you in the head with a 2×4….free of charge of course.

    • jfwillson

      Easy with the 2×4 killer…it has nothing to do with the healthcare itself, and everything to do with being in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, and not knowing exactly how the system works. As I stated, the system worked out just fine, it just works differently than it does here, like in the simplest of terms – for example, here the doctor does almost everything, nurses play a smaller role. The waiting room is different – not bad, just not set up the way it is in the states. So I was nervous not because I thought I was going to get bad care, but because I was worried I was going to misunderstand something in French and end up getting fertility treatments when I really just needed some eyedrops. I have the exact same feeling of panic when I have to call and order chinese food over the phone. Nothing to do with the french, everything to do with my tenuous grip on the french language. Sorry I didn’t explain that better.

      I don’t think the care here is exponentially better – it’s probably exactly the same quality wise. It’s just free here for french citizens. So yeah, I think that’s pretty flipping awesome.

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