The French and their health

It’s that time of year again. On the television and radio news programmes, we hear which regions of France are affected and how many more cases there are compared to the previous week. ‘La grippe’, ‘flu, is on the march.

In every town and village, doctor’s surgeries are full and there is a constant stream of people emerging from the local ‘pharmacie’, each person with a little plastic bag holding boxes of pills and potions.

In offices across France the number of people absent, ‘en arrêt maladie’ increases weekly. Weak-voiced employees phone in to announce ‘J’ai la crève’. ‘La crève’ is slang for a heavy cold or ‘flu and it sounds desperate as ‘crever’ also means to die.

Of course, it may not be ‘la grippe’, but that other dreaded winter ill ‘la gastro’ short for ‘la gastro-entérite’. That also requires a visit to the doctor, ‘le médecin’ or ‘le toubib’ as the French say informally, to obtain the magical prescription ‘l’ordonnance’ and the precious ‘arrêt de travail’. Pity help anybody sitting in the waiting room who, as a result of a brave New Year’s resolution, simply needs a doctor’s certificate to be able to enrol at the local gym. The sniffles, coughs and abundant germs in ‘la salle d’attente’ will no doubt swiftly put a stop to such virtuous intentions.

Many people struck down by ‘flu will only just have recovered from ‘une crise de foie’, a bilious attack, usually resulting from an over indulgence in all the gastronomic delicacies consumed during the end of year festivities. The French have a special relationship with their liver, ‘le foie’, and consider it fragile and in need of care. Not for them a base Anglo-Saxon stomach upset.

Once recovered from all the winter ills that lie in wait, the French will continue to endure the many health problems that befall them during the rest of the year. These will undoubtedly necessitate a blood sample, ‘une prise de sang’, involving a visit to the nearest ‘laboratoire d’analyses’, businesses which are only marginally less prominent on French high streets than ‘les pharmacies’. ‘Le généraliste’, the GP, may need to send his or her patients to a ‘spécialiste’, which will no doubt result in a further need for tests, ‘les examens’ or x-rays, ‘les radios’. And of course more pills from ‘la pharmacie’.

Hypocondriaques les Français? Perhaps, just a little and the enormous ‘trou de la sécu’ the Social Security System deficit might well be the result of that.

Discover more about the French in ‘Life in France’, a Kolibri Languages Practical Guide.

Pam Bourgeois

NewsFev2

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