In the middle of October, I learned what it was like to be sick in France. I wasn’t too sick, but it’s not fun when you have a fever and a cold in the same week. And, believe me; it’s just as bad as in the US. I started to feel sick on a Tuesday afternoon, but I still had to go to my Dickinson course.

I felt worse when I returned home that evening. All I wanted to do was sleep, so that is what I did. I took my temperature that night and it was about 100, not a very high fever so I didn’t think it was very serious. But my hosts still asked me if I wanted to go see the doctor. To me, that was the last thing I wanted to, especially since it was wasn’t serious at all; there was no need to go. The next day, my fever disappeared like I knew it would. But after that, of course, I started sneezing and coughing. I however, simply stocked up on tissues and continued my life. It wasn’t like I was dying.

Then, when I had our one-month-in meeting with Laura, she asked me how I was feeling. When I told her I was still a bit sick but hadn’t been to a doctor yet, she gave me a look that said why not?? At that moment, I realized that he French probably go to the doctor all the time, even for little things like a cold or a fever.

I thought, and still think, that it’s a little odd. In the US, we don’t go to the doctor for simple things. We take Advil or Ibuprofen, drink lots of liquids, and sleep. If the sickness worsens, then yes, we visit the doctor, but it’s been twice now that a French person had wanted me to see a doctor for something I didn’t think was serious. So why are the French preoccupied with such little illnesses? My first idea was that it’s much cheaper for the French to go to the doctor than for us in the US. Because of our health care system, we’re used to treating ourselves for small things. Otherwise, it’s too expensive to go to the doctor all the time.

It could be also, in the US, a boss could think that an employee doesn’t work hard enough if they need to stay at home because they are sick, while in France, they must not have this preconception. This could explain why I refused to admit that I’m sick until it becomes evident; I don’t want to be seen as negligent. In any case, I’m still not sure I’m comfortable with seeing a doctor in a foreign country.


-Tatiana Veres