In Your Country

As my health improves so does my sense of humor.  This is a good thing in so many ways but it served me particularly well recently when I went to fill a prescription at my local pharmacy.

The ladies at the local apothecary and I are in a long term relationship.  They have seen me through cancer, heart problems, and now an autoimmune disorder. Unlike some other healthcare providers here, they have never made mention of my being a foreigner.

Until last week.

Here’s what happened and it’s a howler.

I left my house in mid-morning, walked down to the commercial heart of the neighborhood, walked in to the pharmacy, and walked up to the counter.  One of the lovely ladies was right there – the usual efficient and friendly service.  After the Bonjours the pharmacist took the script and went to the back to fill it.

When she came back with my medicine she told me that I should consider getting a month’s worth next time.  There seems to be a production problem, she said, and the medicine is not always available right now in the quantities I need.

And then for some reason she said three little words that caused my body to stiffen up and my mind to prepare for the psychological slam:  In your country

Apparently in your country, Madame, drugs are always available, and there are never shortages at the local pharmacies. This is a result of the pharmaceutical companies in your country charging ridiculous amounts of money for basic medicine…  And so on and so forth.  She was on a roll and nothing short of rudeness on my part was going to stop her.

It was quite an education for me.  All of the things she said about the US might be true, but I wouldn’t know.  Any deep personal experience of healthcare in my country is decades out of date.  Something that she and the other pharmacists are aware of because I have been filling prescriptions in their shop for over 10 years now.

In fact, the last time I dealt with the American healthcare system was a few years back when I was visiting family in Seattle and had to go to the emergency room. I was basically a medical tourist. The hospital filled the prescriptions.

As I said it is a testament to the fine care I’m getting that my sense of humor is returning along with my health.  Because this was just too damn funny for words.  For some inexplicable reason my French pharmacist decided that day to inform me about the price and availability of pharmaceuticals in my country of origin.  Worthy of a chuckle or two, but not worth resenting and risking our relationship.

There is one more element to add here and I do so because the irony is delicious.  The pharmacist is herself a product of immigration.  Her accent says first generation and her appearance says that her roots are in East Asia.  In other words, she has her own country of origin that is not France.

So I have to wonder what would have happened if I had simply asked her the question, “So tell me, Madame, how does it work in your country?”


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Born in Seattle, USA. Generation Xer. Lived on 3 continents (North America, Asia and Europe). Country agnostic. Mother of two Frenchlings. MA in International Migration

6 thoughts on “In Your Country”

  1. Yes, America is generally always maligned. It’s always shown as the big bad bully. And people who don’t have firsthand knowledge of the place always consider their own better in just about everything. When we see an injustice emanate from America, it becomes about five times worse than when it appears in our own countries.

    It’s difficult to think logically because we tend to be loyal to where we grew up. When we’re touched by a perceived injustice from what is supposedly the most advanced country in the world, we put our backs up and affirm (rightly or wrongly) that would never happen in our, more just, countries. It’s a circling of the wagons thing that is very human.

    I will say this about pharmaceuticals, however, wherever they may be located.

    It’s true that they are out for the buck, despite being purveyors of a very necessary service. Yes, price gouging means that where prices are regulated the supply is going to be less than ideal. However, part of that price gouging creates the funds used to discover new drugs. With time, and the ending of the patents, generic medications become available, and those new drugs are more accessible. The ugly part of the price gouging is when people with low incomes find themselves unable to access basic, life-saving medication, but that’s another story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi,

      Any support available for “However, part of that price gouging creates the funds used to discover new drugs”?

      Price of healthcare in the US is higher than anywhere else in the world, that’s factual, not up for debate. Now, the quality you are getting out of it (care + medication): you can only judge/speak about if you have paid for and received healthcare elsewhere in the world.

      Back to the post, it sounds vividly spot on: one of the “small words” you always end up receiving when you speak with an accent 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If you asked her how things are done in her own country, my guess is, she would say she doesn’t know, not having lived there in a long time. You could then say, “me too.”

    Unless she has naturalized, in which case she might react badly to the question…

    I’ve had lots of opportunities to discuss healthcare options for my circumstances. Have gotten the occasional, “so how are things done back in the Old Country?” To which I have so say I really don’t know, since most of my adult life has been spent here, not there, and I never had serious medical issues to deal with there. I’ve looked it up online, as anyone can, and found that overall it seems equivalent — some drugs and techniques are used more in one country or the other, but on balance the general level of what is available seems similar. Of course insurance is a different story, with the US system seeming to place inordinate burdens on patients to fight with their insurance companies for coverage, which just doesn’t happen here. The complaints I have read about that sort of thing are quite disturbing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Maria. Good to hear from you. Yep, pharma is big business. No doubt about that. What isn’t clear to me is how higher prices translate to research. When a business profits they have choices about how to spend that money. And of course they decide on what research which is not necessarily what is most needed. I think about this one in the context of my cancer and what I hear (not necessarily true) is that there is a lot of research into treating earlier stages of bc and not so much for the last stage. If they could raise the prices for aromatase inhibitors, would that mean more research to help women who are dying or would they plow it back into better therapies for earlier stages? Or would they just give their execs big bonuses that year. 🙂 I just don’t know because it’s a sector I’ve never worked in.

    Welcome anonymous and thanks for the comment. Yep, can’t hide that accent. I’ve received healthcare in three countries of which I was a resident. However, I’m not sure I can speak to the quality of US healthcare versus other countries. When I left the US it was a different time. When I was growing up there were no HMO’s and just about everybody had health insurance through work. I don’t recall deductibles or lifetime caps. The care was fine – not good or bad. But then I don’t recall having very high expectations either. 🙂 I hear from my friends and family in the US that things are different now.

    Nezumi-san, I assumed she was a naturalized citizen and that’s interesting. Was it because she is a pharmacist? Or because she is Asian? Was it her self-confidence? I need to think about that one.


  4. the medicoinsurance complex here is criminal, it is nothing like when you last were here, I pay $900/month for a $7000 deductible that if i were to claim anything would use all stall and denials techniques to not pay — and I never ever use medical services, my son on the same insurance takes one boring med that used to be $50/month and is now at $375/month and inexplicably rising, many more examples – it’s outrageous, trust me, you don’t want to be here ‘in your country’…

    Liked by 1 person

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