Tag Archives: France

Baring it All: What to expect at the French gynecologist

Today’s post is written by Aidan Larson. Aidan is the author of the popular blog Conjugating Irregular Verbs where she shares stories of her life in the South of France. Thank you Aidan!

When you think of moving abroad, doctors and health care are no doubt high up on your checklist. You wonder what you’ll do in an emergency as well as the random sinus infection, and if you have children, you are sure to find a doctor who can take care of them with checkups and preventive medicine.

But don’t forget about the gynecologists for the yearly going over that every woman needs. Just because you live abroad doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card for going to the gynecologist, even if you don’t know the French word for ovary. Admittedly, I put off my first French gynecologist appointment a bit longer than normal because I was nervous about finding a doctor who spoke English. And then I realized that, just as in all things, I would be able to figure it out. And if I can, then so can you.

One interesting plus is that the medical system in France is much more personalized. A visit to the doctor can be like a social call with an armful of prescriptions as your parting gift. But because of this, be prepared to wait patiently for your turn across the desk.

You will find large practices and clinics shared by several doctors just like in the U.S. but it is more common for your French doctor to have an office wedged into a section of a former residence or in some cases, inside their own residence. If there is a receptionist, she (it just usually is) sits at a desk taking calls and making appointments and is less concerned with announcing your arrival or taking payment. You just waltz right in and sit in the waiting room unannounced. This always feels a bit strange to my American sensibilities because we are so used to being announced and then called in by a nurse, but don’t worry. Somehow they know you’re there and they’ll come for you. I think it has to do with all the little buzzers and bells you sound upon entering the office.

In France it is more common for the doctor herself to come out and welcome you with a handshake. There are usually two portions of the doctor’s visit, gynecologist or not. You will meet and greet, exchange niceties, and then be directed to sit across the desk from the doctor to discuss the reason for your visit. Any paperwork, medical history, or concerns will be handled here, in conversation, rather than on a fill-in-the-blank form. This process can take awhile, especially if your French is around second grade level like mine, and may include drawings. But the doctors don’t mind. They really don’t.

The only time I remember going to a gynecologist appointment and sitting at a desk in all the years I visited the ob/gyn in Texas was during a pre-baby consultation to check for any genetic disorders. The rest of the time it was straight into the exam room, knickers off, gown on, perched on the table waiting for the exam. If this is what you’re used to, it may seem a bit strange to sit and chat about things across the desk while the exam table peeks out from behind a screen in the adjoining room. This leads me to the next portion of the French gynecologist visit.

After all the chit-chat the doctor will kindly ask you to go into the screened off exam area and take off your clothes. If you’re lucky there will be a tiny changing room where you can discreetly disrobe. If not, you’ll just have to chuck it all off right there. And I mean all of it. There are no softly worn cotton gowns with teal star designs or yellow duckies. There aren’t even any rough, blue paper gowns that gape open at the back. And there certainly is not a sheet to cover over your knees.

Nudity is not an issue in the doctor’s exam room. It’s as if you’ve passed through an invisible barrier from the get-to-know-you niceties into strip it and let’s have a look zone. I have had discussions with fellow non-French women about this, and we think it may be one of the reasons the French are obsessed with matching underwear. But of course you’re meant to peel your undies off too–at least you match while losing them!

Now, if I can give you any one piece of advice for a successful visit to the French gynecologist or obstetrician it is this: wear a skirt. This way you can slip off your dainties and leave the skirt on in order to maintain some level of Anglophone dignity. I even kept on my T-shirt (although braless), so on the surface it looked like I was just a normally dressed girl who happened to be up on a gynecological table in stirrups. The exam will be carried out in the usual way; sorry, that’s universal ladies. And then you’ll be done for the year, having marked another one off of the ‘scary things to do in another language’ list.

After this, you get yourself all back in order and return to the doctor’s desk to take care of any prescriptions (i.e. your goodie bag) and payment.

Here’s some helpful vocabulary to keep drawings to a minimum…(interesting how so many of the words are masculine!)

gynecologist le gynécologue
ovary l’ovaire
fallopian tubes les trompes de Fallope
uterus l’utérus
cervix le col
vagina le vagin
pap smear le frottis
menstrual cycle la menstruation
to menstruate avoir ses règles
menopause la ménopause
breasts les seins
mammogram la mammographie
pregnant enceinte
pregnancy la grossesse
miscarriage la fausse couche
birth la naissance
birth control la limitation des naissances
contraceptive le contraceptif
the pill la pilule
emergency contraception la contraception d’urgence
condom le préservatif
sexually transmitted infections infections sexuellement transmissibles (IST)
abstinence labstinence sexuelle
test (by doctor) l’examen
test (of blood, etc.) l’analyse
to test examiner
prescription la ordonnance, la prescription

Produce Baskets in Paris

If you’re unable to get to your neighborhood markets during the week or are frustrated with the quality of produce at your grocery store, signing up for a produce basket is an easy, affordable option for getting your weekly fruits and vegetables. A produce basket is an even better option if you’re interested in getting organic, local sourced produce that’s in season.

There are several online companies that offer produce delivery services to the Ile de France, including residents of Paris’s twenty arrondissements. While many companies provide similar products, they differ in the size of baskets offered, price, subscription options, organic versus non-organic, and delivery method. Depending on your needs, you may also decide to go with a company that does more than just fruits and vegetables. A handful of the companies listed below also sell specialty items, just as cheese, meat, and even oysters!

Bio Culture
Green Republic
Le Panier Paysan
Mon Pre Bio
Local Bio Bag
Ze Blue Box
Fruit Bureau
Dans Mon Panier Bio
Tous Primeurs
Les Paniers du Val de Loire
Panier Paysans
Le Campanier

Once you choose the company you’d like to use, signing up online for a weekly basket is quite simple. You select the size and type of basket you’d like (fruits, vegetables, mixed), the duration of your subscription (with options ranging from one time to one year), your delivery method, and finally you pay for your purchase. The companies will bring the basket to your home or office for a fee or you can choose to pick it up from a point relais on a specific day between set hours. The pick-up points are typically small stores, such as a local organic markets or health food boutiques. Most companies have more than one pick-up point in Paris and there’s often at least one per arrondissement. For example, Bio Culture delivers its customers’ baskets to a handful of pick-up points on Monday, different pick-up points on Tuesday, etc. After picking up your basket, all that’s left to do is whip up a delicious meal using the fresh ingredients!

Time constraints on grocery shopping, a desire to eat seasonal food, or a commitment to buy local are just a few of the reasons produce baskets are an appealing option to Paris residents. The vocabulary list below makes it especially easy for Anglophones to navigate the ordering process and take advantage of this alternative shopping opportunity.

Helpful Vocabulary

basket le panier
organic bio
to order commander
fruit le fruit
vegetable le légume
fresh frais, fraiche
mixed mixte
home delivery livraison à domicile
pick up ramasser
pick up point point relais

Running in Paris

In the past, breaking a sweat on the sidewalk or having to sidestep merde may have deterred people from running in Paris, but the Parisian running scene is as vibrant as in any major city. For those just getting into running or seasoned runners itching for a race, here’s our guide to running in Paris.

Where and When to Run
Early morning and late evening are when you’ll see the most runners, but runners are out and about all times of day. During the lunch hour you’ll see men and women of all ages doing laps around the Champ de Mars. But if you prefer to have peace, quiet, and empty sidewalks, then your best bet is to be on your way before 7AM. Any later and you’ll be sharing the streets with commuters heading to work and probably get a side eye from one or two. Despite Paris providing a relaxing, scenic atmosphere for a morning jog, it seems after work hours draw a larger crowd. Parisians don’t appear to be an early to bed, early to rise kind of crew so you’ll see them squeezing in a run pre-dinner. No matter what time of day you run, it’s still important to be aware of your surroundings. Most neighborhoods in Paris are safe, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be a target. For French and non-French speakers alike it’s recommended your carry identification and a few bills (enough for an emergency taxi ride or metro ticket) with you. There are a few companies, such as Road ID, ICE ID, and MedIDs, where you can customize an ID bracelet. These are especially important if you have any sort of medical conditions or want medical personnel to know which languages you speak.

Once you’ve worked out a time to throw on your sneaks, planning a running route in Paris has never been easier. Websites such as Map My Run, Walk Jog Run, Run Keeper, and Run Map allow you to search routes completed by other runners, use an interactive tool to map your own route, as well as keep track of your running statistics. Run the Planet and Running Routes also provide routes with commentary on directions and scenery. If hopping on the Internet isn’t your running style, it’s just as easy to head to one of Paris’s many parks or forge your own path through the city’s urban landscape.

Running Buddies
If you’re looking for company, Paris offers a range of running groups. There are those for native English speakers, those who want to run with locals, and even groups dedicated to running and drinking. Here are just a few:

Paris Running Tours
Paris Running Club
Paris Hash House Harriers
Nike Running Club
Les Moustiques
Paris Athletic
Good People Run

Getting Ready to Run
You’d think running in the fashion capital of the world you would need runway worthy workout clothes, but that is not the case. The majority of runners on Parisian streets are wearing yesterday’s undershirt and a pair of old sweatpants. Only a handful look the part of high school track star and three-time marathoner which goes to show you that being a runner in Paris is all about your attitude. If you want to run, run. A few folks of the non-exercising variety may stare or squawk but your confidence is what will propel you to keep jogging past them without a second thought to their obnoxious looks or comments. But, if you want to run in style or need to retire an old pair of Adidas there are several stores in Paris where you can find what you need. Here is a list of stores that carry running gear:

Boutique Marathon
26 rue Léon Jost 75017 Tel: 01 42 27 48 18

Planet Jogging
80 rue du Fbg Saint Antoine 75012 Tel: 01 53 46 02 02
58/60 avenue de la Grande Armée 75017 Tel: 01 45 72 50 00

Endurance Shop
14 rue de l’Ouest 75014 Tel: 01 43 27 15 65

Au Vieux Campeur
48 rue Ecoles 75005 Tel: 01 53 10 48 48

Le Pape
39 rue Artois 75008 Tel: 01 53 75 00 03

Decathlon
23 boulevard de la Madeleine 75001 Tel: 01 55 35 97 55
26 avenue de Wagram 75008 Tel: 01 45 72 66 88
113 avenue de France 75013 Tel: 01 44 06 82 00
416 rue Louis Armand 75015 Tel: 01 45 58 60 45
2 place de la Défense 92053 Tel: 01 49 03 75 20
67 bis/79 rue de la Republique 93100 Tel: 01 48 18 29 00

Go Sport Tel: 08 25 10 60 60
Nouveau Forum des Halles Place Carrée 75001
Forum des Halles Niveau 3- 1 rue Pierre Lescot 75001
10 place de la Republique 75011
135 avenue Daumensil 75012
30 avenue d’Italie 75013
21/23 avenue de la Porte de Chatillon 75014
Centre Commercial Gaité- 68 avenue du Maine 75014
12/16 avenue de la Porte de Saint Cloud 75016
Centre Commercial les 4 Temps Casier 136 92092

Nike
12 rue des Hospitalieres Saint-Gervais 75004 Tel: 01 53 01 23 27
24 rue Aubry le Boucher 75004 Tel: 01 42 78 15 00
67 avenue des Champs Elysées  75008 Tel: 01 42 25 93 80
104 rue de Provence 75009 Tel: 01 40 16 00 57
2 rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine  75012 Tel: 01 43 44 25 95

ProDuSport
Passion Running
Sportri

Running a Race
Paris hosts a variety of races throughout the year. There are 5Ks, marathons, and everything in between. But before you can dash across any starting line, there are a few basic steps for signing up to race:

1. Visit the race website and review the registration requirements. If you are not a member of an athletic association or do not have a current medical certificate, visit your general practitioner to get up-to-date medical clearance to run. French law requires all competitors to have a medical certificate from a doctor proving they are fit to race. When you visit the doctor to get your certificate, he or she can write you the certificate or you can bring a form (usually downloadable from the race website) already filled out with the correct wording. Some race organizers are strict about the wording so be sure your doctor writes the correct thing!

2. Print out and complete a registration form OR complete the form online.

3. Pay the registration fee online OR write a check to mail in.

4. Mail in your completed registration form, a copy of your medical certificate, and registration fee OR submit your registration form with a electronic copy of your certificate attached.

5. All set! Within a few days you should receive confirmation of your registration. As the race date approaches you’ll get more information about how, when, and where to pick up your race number.

If you’re looking for a race, Paris Running Tours and Agenda du Sportif have calendars with race dates.

Helpful Vocabulary

to run courir
to go running faire du jogging
race la course
race route le parcours
to register s’inscrire
registration la inscription
medical certificate le certificat médical
training la préparation
start le départ
fuel points les points de ravitaillements
finish la arrivée
results les résultats
timing chip la puce électronique
sneakers les chassures
socks les chausettes
laces les lacets
lace lacer

Boulangerie Basics

Today’s post is re-posted with permission from Vingt Paris. Vingt Paris is a website devoted to helping its readers get the most out of life in Paris and its 20 diverse arrondissements. This post is part of a larger series exploring the city’s unspoken rules.

By Guillermom Martínez de Velasco

Who doesn’t like bread? It’s probably humanity’s oldest baked good, and when it comes to breadlove, Parisians take it to the next level. The Boulangerie is not just a place to get bread, it is a neighbourhood institution much like your local Alimentation Génerale or Brasserie. I know it may seem odd to think that something as meaningless as getting a baguette could go so potentially wrong. Therein lies the first mistake; a baguette can be regarded by Parisians as more meaningful than most of the things you’ll have to face in a typical city morning.

Out of taking the crowded métro only to change lines at Gare de l’Est; walking through streets full of vendors, noise, cars, unpleasant smells; walking up five flights of stairs constantly, and God forbid, breaking a sweat because of the heat; a baguette is the only thing that is constantly good. This explains why they take special care of the stuff made in their bakeries and why you should too! As these series of articles are meant to illustrate, protocol is protocol.

Unless you were lucky enough to have a real French bakery outside your place before coming to Paris, chances are you thought that the spongy white and brown square you had with toast, was bread. This is not to say that other countries don’t have good bread. It’s just that amazing bread is not as immediately available for the majority of people as it is for Parisians. Luckily, you live here now, so this is what you need to do:
  1. Find a Boulangerie and stick to it. Even though Paris is a big city, it manages to maintain a very local vibe within each neighbourhood. Say bonjour to the people next door, or the gardienne, or anyone in your building, everytime you run into them.  Eventually their replies will come with a smile. Once this happens, slip in the question: What boulangerie do they go to? Congratulations, from now on it’s yours also. Don’t even think about getting bread anywhere else.
  2. Arrive early. After midday bread will be stale and most of the good stuff, like croissant aux amandes, will be long gone. That doesn’t mean that if you walk by the bakery in the afternoon you shouldn’t wave at the employees. Remember, they make your bread and therefore hold the power. The customer is definitely not king in Paname.
  3. Say Hello. At the beginning you’ll notice that everyone seems to be getting warm bread while you, quite simply, aren’t. This is normal. Unfamiliar people get the less than fresh stock. Why would some tourist get the same bread that the gens du quartier do? I know it seems very basic but sometimes we tend to forget to say hello. Everytime you see your baker remember to drop some “Bonjour” “Comment allez-vous?” “Bonne journée” etc. This will make them remember you and, once they do, you’ll start getting the good bread.
  4. Respect your elders. At any given moment, there will be at least one old person in the Boulangerie. Bear in mind they have been going to the same place, most likely every day, for longer than you have been alive. They probably know the baker’s parents and even grandparents. Old Parisians are your gateway to good service. Be extra polite to them; let them cut in front of you, say hello and goodbye, talk about the weather; anything really. What you want is for them to one day step in for you, look the baker in the eye and tell him to treat you right. Befriend the cardigan and béret wearers.
  5. Get the right stuff. There are a lot of options in your standard Boulang’. Don’t be afraid to ask what they would recommend. Remember, this is not some teenager behind the counter working a summer job. The person usually lives for and because of bread. If you feel like choosing for yourself, there are also some failsafe varieties. For the sweet tooth, I recommend either croissant aux amandes or the classic pain au chocolat; if the places makes canelés, don’t think twice about getting some. If it’s a baguette you’re looking for get the tradition. French law requires it to be mixed, kneaded, leavened and baked on site. Freezing it is literally illegal.
  6. Holiday Bread Be it Christmas or Poisson d’Avril, most French holidays have an accompanying holiday bread. Get it, you’ll find that most of the time you’ll eat the whole thing faster than expected. If not, give it to someone as a present. Most importantly, anyone who’s anyone in the eyes of your Boulanger is getting one. You don’t want to miss out.

When and where to eat bread is mostly up to you. As a general rule, resist the urge to bite into your bread before you have reached your destination. Remember the ever-Parisian mantra of keeping it subtle. Was that you eating in public, like you couldn’t afford to give yourself five minutes of leisure time? Mais non! Even though this seems like a long and tedious process, rising to the status of Boulangerie regular is still faster than opening up a bank account (a month), or getting your titre de sejour (several months to a year).

French people don’t conceptualize time the way most other nations do, and even in the hustle and bustle of Paris, no one likes time to be more important than they are. Bread is one of those ways in which Parisians stick it to the man. Be it a 2 hour lunch break or a baguette with ham and camembert while on strike. Take the time to take your time, and enjoy the best bread in the world. After all, it’s just around the corner.

Fire Safety

Despite several highly publicized fires in the City of Light, it was only recently that French legislators passed a law mandating smoke detector installation. By January 2016 all living facilities in France are required to have smoke detectors (détecteur de fumée). Paris’s beauty makes it easy to forget that Haussmann didn’t have safety codes in mind when renovating the city. Nor did medieval architects consider how difficult it would be for a firetruck to race down a narrow, cobblestone street. Several hundred years later, despite the services of the city’s brave firefighters (les sapeurs-pompiers de Paris), many of Paris’s buildings remain not only fire hazards, but fire traps.

Whether you are moving to Paris permanently or relocating for the long term, it is important to check if where you’re staying is equipped with at least one smoke detector. When you’re planning a move and packing your suitcases, smoke detectors aren’t the first thing you think of, but they might be the most important thing you pack or buy on arrival. Paris brings to mind baguettes and bistros, not fires, but the reality is that such dangers can occur anytime, anywhere. Considering a fire breaks out every 2 minutes in France, a smoke detector is an essential purchase. For as little as 20€ you can make your space fire safe. Even though smoke detectors aren’t mandatory yet, they are relatively easy to find. Major home stores, local hardware shops, and even some bigger grocery chains sell smoke detectors. For a sure bet though, visit one of the stores listed below. These stores also sell everything you need for a quick and easy installation.

Mr. Bricolage  (Click here to see the store’s presentation on installing smoke detectors. The slides are in French, but a website like Google Translate can help you get the most important information from the presentation.)

166 Rue St Maur, 75011 Paris

21 Rue Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris

Castorama

C C Les Arcades 1/3 rue de Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris Clichy

11 Cours de Vincennes, 75020 Paris

119 Avenue Flandre, 75019 Paris

BHV Rivoli

55 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

Head Lice: An Itchy Issue

Translation: The head lice have arrived at school!

Itchy head? Just reading those words sends my scalp into a scratching frenzy, and chances are if you live in Paris you’ve seen this announcement posted on a bulletin board outside one of the city’s schools. French, international, private, and public, nearly every school in Paris faces yearly head lice infestations. Head lice are so common in the Île-de-France they even secured a spot in a recent promotion for French news source RTL. Their prevalence has made them movie stars!

In the U.S., most schools have a policy of regularly checking elementary school children for lice and barring students with any evidence of lice from attending school (the so-called no nit policy). In Paris, the administrators take a laissez faire approach toward the pesky louse. It may be that they believe that head lice are simply an unfortunate (and itchy!) right of passage for students or because they don’t have the political will to create strict rules. Whatever the reason may be, head lice take advantage of this lack of oversight and happily jump from one child to the next.

Without established procedures to reduce instances of head lice, prevention, detection, and treatment is left to parents. For many this means playing hairdresser and doing more loads of laundry than they’d like to count. Forget the “nit nurse,” it’s all parents when it comes to lice in the City of Light.

What to do if one of those buggers makes home sweet home on your child’s head?

  • Educate yourself in head lice 101. A little lice know how can prevent multiple and prolonged infestations, and the Internet makes becoming a lice expert easier than ever! For clear, concise, and scientifically vetted information, we recommend the CDC’s page on prevention and treatment.
  • Inform yourself on what’s happening in your child’s classroom. Are younger children sharing mats for naps? Are hats being shared for dress up or theater?  It may take guts to suggest to your teacher that Johnny sleep on his own mat (one you provide) but consider the alternative of repeated infestations.
  • As embarrassing as it may be, share the news of the infestation with the parents of your children’s friends. As always when dealing with the French, you will get best results when you accept responsibility before you seek allies. So ‘fess up. Your kid has lice. You just want to be sure others know so they don’t get infected. If you don’t want your child reinfected, make sure their friends are lice free before you send them on a play date or sleepover.
  • Invest in a really good lice comb, a strong pair of glasses, and a nontoxic treatment lotion. Your neighborhood pharmacist can recommend the products you need to deal with an infestation.

Filling Up Your Tank 24/24

by Arcadia Letkemann

Whether you rise very early or have stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, needing to find an open gas station can be a real chore! That is until now. The list below is a handy guide to 24-hour gas stations in Paris by arrondissement.

Station Service Oil France
Halles Garage
10, rue Bailleul 75001

Station Service Total
Garage Jussieu Automobiles
34, rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard 75005

Station Service Avia
6, boulevard Raspail, 75007

Station Service Shell
1, boulevard de la Chapelle 75010

Station Service Total
56, avenue du Maine, 75015

Station Service Total
2, avenue de la Porte de Saint-Cloud 75016

Station Service Total
Relais des Batignolles
37, avenue de la Porte de Clichy 75017

Station Service Total
Parking Paris Clignancourt
30, avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt 75018

Station Service Total
place de la Porte de Montreuil 75020

As always, if we’ve left something off the list or there are any inaccuracies, leave a comment.