Just my luck – I’ve been in France since the end of May, and avoided getting sick until I started attending expensive French classes. Then, Bam! Weirdo ear infection! At first, my one ear didn’t seem that bad, so I went to the pharmacist instead of to a doctor. In France, pharmacists as well as doctors can prescribe medications, which I think is kinda cool. She asked me a few questions and then gave me some eardrops and ibuprofen for the inflammation. They seemed to help, and the swelling went down. Then, the other ear started acting weird, so I used the meds in that ear too. I’ll spare you the details, but eventually the first stupid ear started to get swollen again, so I knew it was time to go to a real doctor and get real drugs. My apartment mate was sweet enough to accompany me to her doctor, for translation and moral support.
I had been to a doctor a couple of times when I lived in the UK, and it was about the same as going to a doctor in the US. In France, things were a bit different. In the US, when you go to a doctor, there's a reception area when you first enter the office, staffed by medical assistants or nurses. The staff members and doctors all wear some sort of specialized, medical-field clothing, either white lab coats over regular clothing or lovely polyester elastic-waisted pants and tops. Even the shoes are medical-field shoes and are usually super padded and white. When you enter the office, you go to the reception desk and often have to fill out some paperwork. There’s also a typical smell in an American doctor’s office, not a bad smell, but a mixture of disinfectant and something related to the pills and capsules stashed away, is it the gelatin capsules? Most doctors’ offices I’ve been to in the states have a similar look, usually a lot of linoleum and tile and white.
After agonizing over how I was going to manage commuting to Paris from the boonies, and juggle attending French language classes with work and everything else, I finally bit the bullet and took the placement test at Alliance Française. I had attended classes there before, 15 years ago when I was an au pair in Paris.Although I have picked up a lot of French since then on my own from working as an editor and translator, I hadn’t formally studied French in all those years, and I had a lot of strange gaps in my knowledge.
The placement test has multiple choice and some essay questions and also has an oral component. The oral part just consisted of the examiner asking me some questions, like what I did the day before. He explained that the French levels range from A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2, with A1 being absolute beginner and C2 being native-speaker level. On that scale, I scored at the B1 level, right in the middle where I thought I would be.