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French Culture and Traditions

What Should You do if You Are Sick in France ?

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis on October 6, 2018

It’s never fun to become ill when you are traveling, but should you become sick in France, here are a couple of tips about French doctors, medicine, hospitals and pharmacies that should help you out.

1 – Being Sick in France

If you were to become sick in France, here are some useful information to know.

  1. Going to the doctor is relatively cheap in France: you can see any general doctor for a cost of about 22 Euros. You may get reimbursed by your health insurance if they cover international travels.
  2. Pharmacists are highly trained medical specialists (+6 years of higher medical studies) who are entitled to give medical advice. Do not hesitate to ask them for their help before you go see a doctor.
  3. Most French doctors will offer extended hours, and will make house calls for an extra fee. SOS Medecin will send a doctor to your house in less that one hour (Paris – tel: 01 47 07 77 77 around 70 Euros).

2 – What is “la Carte Vitale”

“La Carte Vitale” is the French national health insurance card. If you have one, you will probably only be charged for a small co-pay, or nothing if the service/medicine is fully covered and you have a prescription.

However, if you don’t have one, it doesn’t mean you won’t get treatment in France! It only means that you may have to pay for it. As I said above, going to a general doctor is only going to cost you about 22 Euros. This is less expensive than what my co-pay was in the US with a good insurance.

On top of “la carte Vitale”, the French often subscribe to an additional private insurance policy (called “une mutuelle”) to cover services/treatments that are partially covered or not covered at all by the national health care system (things like dental work, contact lenses, etc)

what is carte vitale france

3 – Sick in France – Video

The other day, as I was starting the become ill and after going to the doctor and, I went to the pharmacy and I improvised an “everyday spoken French” video – check it out, turn the CC on if you’d like (bottom right CC option and then choose between French and English with the wheel).

If you like this video, subscribe to French Today on YouTube so you’ll never miss a video!

4 – Free French English Bilingual Medical Exam With Audio

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A lot of people speak some English in France, particularly in the big cities, but it is a good idea to familiarize yourself a bit with my free and all recorded French medical exam, especially if you have health issues.

I wrote that physical with the help of 2 doctors, and it comes with free audio (both downloadable or online playing) so you can train on your pronunciation and understanding.

5 – For Medical Emergencies in France

  • You can walk in any French hospital in case of emergency, they will treat you first, then talk about money.
  • Should you need an ambulance or the fire brigade, call the 112 (land lines and cell phones) and they’ll dispatch your call appropriately – this number is toll free and will even work from a locked cell phone or sometimes even when there is no ‘apparent’ signal. The 112 emergency number words throughout Europe.
  • SOS Dentiste (Paris) tel. 01 43 37 51 00

French English medical exam

6 – English Speaking Hospitals in the Paris Region

In these two hospitals, you are sure to find English speaking staff. That doesn’t mean nobody else speaks some English in the other hospitals though…

  • The American Hospital, 63 blvd Victor Hugo 92202 Neuilly, Tel. 33-(0)1 46 41 25
  • The British Hospital, 3 rue BarbĂšs 92300 Levallois Tel. 33-(0)1 46 39 22 22

7 – How to Find an Open Pharmacy in France on Sundays?

A lot of over the counter medications are available by prescription “une ordonnance” only in France. And brand names are often different. Doctors have a big book with the main ingredients of a drug and it’s French name, so always bring your prescriptions with you.

Pharmacies are typically open from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday to Saturday, and close during lunch time (12PM-2PM). However, every day there is “une pharmacie de garde”, to be used only for emergencies, when treatment should not be delayed, and open all day and all night. In the countryside, they take turn, so the list is usually displayed on the window of any pharmacy, or available at the hospital, a doctor’s office, the fire station of police station.

There is usually a beeper by the side of the pharmacy, call and the pharmacist will come down.

Here is a site (in French) with the list of off-hours pharmacies in the Paris regions:

VoilĂ , I sincerely hope you won’t need to use the info in this article during one of your trips to France, but if you do get sick in France, you’ll know what to do!

8 – How to Say “Get Well Soon” in French

In English, there are many ways to wish someone to get better: get better soon, get healthy, prompt recovery etc…

Here are some sentences you can use in French to wish someone well:

  1. (Je te/vous souhaite un) bon rétablissement
    Get well, the most common expression. You can skip the first part of the sentence too in a text or short message.
  2. Je te/vous souhaite un prompt rétablissement
    Get well soon, quite formal but still used.
  3. (Je te souhaite une) convalescence rapide.
    (I wish you a) speedy recovery.
  4. J’espĂšre que tu iras / vous irez mieux trĂšs vite
    I hope you’ll get better quickly
    Remember for everything that has to do with how someone is doing/feeling, we use “aller”.
  5. Soigne-toi bien (soignez-vous bien) et bon rétablissement
    Take good care of yourself and feel better soon
  6. Prends/ prenez bien soin de toi/vous.
    Take good care of yourself.
  7. Courage ! Ça va aller mieux maintenant
    Be brave! It will get better now.
  8. Patience! Ce n’est pas facile d’ĂȘtre malade et ça prend du temps… Je suis dĂ©solĂ©(e) pour toi/vous.
    Patience! It’s not easy to be sick and it takes time… I’m sorry for you.
  9. Bonne chance pour ton/votre rétablissement
    Good luck for your recovery

To train on your French illness and symptoms vocabulary, I suggest you check out my bilingual articles WITH AUDIO

  • For a fun story, check out “Antoine est malade
  • Complete French Medical Exam” – I put a lot of work to create this French medical exam – help me spread the word so it can help other people : for example, share it on Facebook.

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