In the States, I can go to my regular doctor for a wide variety of things. Checkups include bloodwork, which is done in a tiny lab right in the office. They can also test a snot sample to make sure they are prescribing the best antibiotic for your sinus infection. There is an ultrasound machine in the office, which I know because one time they did an ultrasound of my heart. Not the case in France. Where in America consolidation = efficiency, in France it means you are reducing the number of available jobs. So in the “Best Buy” type store you HAVE to interact with 4 or 5 employees who all do one tiny little job instead of the one or maybe two you would encounter in Best Buy, and for medical things you go to a regular doctor who orders things like labwork and ultrasounds, and you have to go to a separate lab for the bloodwork and a separate ultrasound doctor for the ultrasound.

At the doctor’s office in America, if you are a woman they make you pee in a cup. They give you the cup and send you into the bathroom. After you collect your sample, you put it on a shelf behind a little door in the bathroom. There is another little door on the other side for the nurse to pick it up and test it. Anonymity is maintained throughout the process, with the exception of your last name written on the little cup. When you go to the lab in France, they give you a vial at the front desk. You walk around the corner with your little vial and collect your sample in the bathroom. You screw on the lid and then take your vial back to the front desk, where you just plunk it down on the secretary’s desk. She picks it up and attaches a sticker with your name and barcode or whatever on it. That is how they do it at the lab I go to most often. At a different lab I have visited, you keep your vial with you in the waiting room until you get called back for the bloodwork part. I am not sure what you are supposed to do with it. It seems weird to hold a vial of pee on your lap, but it also seems strange to put it in your bag.

Oh, and people are not afraid of contamination or contagion here. Neither food handlers nor blood drawers wear gloves. So if you order a pre-made sandwich from a counter, the guy will pick it up with his bare hands, wrap it up for you and hand it over. And the person taking your blood sticks you with their bare hands, and after filling up a large vial will pour some into a smaller vial – still gloveless.

In America, for a pregnancy ultrasound, the woman’s nether regions are covered with a sheet or at the very least one of those paper blanket things doctors put on you so you can both pretend you have maintained your dignity. In France they either don’t care if you maintain your dignity, or being pantsless does not constitute undignity because there is nary a scrap of fabric or paper in sight. The doctor does not leave the room for the undressing part. And when they leave the room afterward, they are unconcerned with your state of undress; they may close the door behind them, but then again they may not. So you may find yourself dressing in full view of whoever happens to be walking down the hall at the time.