Its arrêt de travail season again.
The French take colds very seriously indeed. At the first sign of a sniffle they are generally to be found queueing up at the Dr’s surgery, emerging € 25 poorer, but triumphantly brandishing a Dr’s note instructing them to stay at home for the rest of the week.
Impressive long medical names are used on the arrêt de travail but do not be duped, things are rarely as serious as they seem:
- rhino-pharyngite = a common cold
- pharyngite = a sore throat
- bronchite = a cough (not to be confused with proper bronchitis)
- une grippe = a common cold (not to be confused with proper flu)
A recent advertising campaign by the Sécurité Sociale attempted to curb the over-prescription of antibiotics in France – it seems that the population at large, including many doctors, had not understood that most colds are viruses and antibiotics are therefore ineffective in treating them.
On the rare occasions when I have felt the need to see a doctor in France, I have never come away with a prescription with less than 5 items on it. Including the ubiquitous suppositories. The Dr asked me how many days I wanted to be signed off work. However, as my employers are British, they have little respect for employees who ‘go native’ and milk the system for a bit of extra vacation.
In the UK, the emphasis seems to be on taking turbo-charged cold remedies that have you back at work (if indeed you ever left) in a jiffy. There is a thriving black market in imported Lemsip and Boots cold cures in my office; personally I always smuggle over a good stock of Lockets, and plenty of paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen, which cost roughly 10 times less in a British supermarket. Unbelievably asprin and paracetamol are only available as branded, over the counter drugs in France.
Mmmm. Having said that, I do quite fancy a long weekend…