While I am happy to welcome 2017 and bidding farewell to an eventful 2016, particularly for our big move to Europe, I am starting to miss home.. a lot! While I was gone, 2 of my best friends got engaged. Though it is an exciting news and I am extremely happy for them, I tend to feel rather isolated here on my own and not being there to celebrate one of their most memorable milestones. On the brighter side, I will be in Mauritius next October and back home to Singapore in December mirthful and honored to be the bridesmaid for both weddings. Then again, this is not about me, nor am I victimizing myself for that. For all intents and purposes, I just want my beautiful friends to be happy, near or far.
I have to say that the move here has been nothing less than a miracle. For the first couple of months I have absolutely nothing to complain about, we did so many activities, I signed up to a gym, went yoga, we traveled to different parts of France for trekking adventures, camping, visited Turin, Genova, Marrakesh, experienced my first wine-tasting trip in Burgundy (Bourgogne), skied in the Alps, visited Montreux, Gruyere and other Swiss towns etc. The only time I dread is the laundry chore after these trips, one right after the other. Gosh! it was like a job, an unpaid job! But, nothing really significant to complain about. Though it might sound like this move is to die for, but deep down your guts you know a perfect life just don’t exist especially when you’re already starting to expect an adversity as you experience your optimum moments. I don’t know if this is a sign of being pessimistic but I guess we just need to be pragmatic about the real world we live in and that we were not made of sugar, spice and everything nice.
We live in a small French town at the border between France and Switzerland. In a Singaporean context, it is like living in Johor Bahru, Malaysia without the customs and immigration check though the way of living is very much on the contrary. This small town account to a population that is classified as a “Village” rather than a “Ville”, no not the common ‘kampong’ we Singaporeans will immediately associate with correlated with my Johor Bahru mention earlier but this “Village” is like the French’s version of Bukit Timah because most of the french in this area work in Geneva, Switzerland where salaries are among the highest in the world. However, the high cost of living in Geneva is a huge disposition to be accepted for many french (even the swiss) and therefore resulted to the preference of living in the border in France where you’ll find more space (makes a lot of difference with a car), magnificent landscapes, nature’s at its best, inexpensive family activities, plus with the convenience of the public transportation, you can get around Geneva within minutes. What a perfect set-up for us!
However, I find that the french healthcare system here particularly in the town I live in isn’t working out for me, and for a lot of people here. I mean of all drawbacks, why does it have to be healthcare, the most needed and crucial life’s necessity! To begin with, there are not many doctors available in this town, though there is a hospital and a couple of clinics here. Hospital is not accessible unless it is an emergency, so we are left with the clinics that are full most of the time and will tell you in your face that they won’t take in any more new patients (or I would say not make any efforts in doing anything at all) even if you are at the clinic at 9 in the morning with only 2 other patients waiting, regardless an adult or a child, the respond is the same. Even if they can take new patients, the next available appointment is at least a month after. That is absolutely outrageous! If I am not well, I want to see a doctor NOW, not next month! So there, we moved here having no luck to find a general practitioner, worst a pediatrician for the kids! Actually we did manage to find a pediatrician purely by luck. We secured an appointment for the next day on a very last minute basis because the patient who supposedly made the appointment cancelled it. If it is not for that cancellation, our appointment will be 5 months later so we had to adjust the day, my husband had to leave his office earlier and drove towards Annecy (a different town close to 45 minutes away) just to make sure we don’t lose this golden opportunity. I can’t even compare this to Singapore, it is undeniably two extreme terms of convenience.
Now, where are the doctors?.. Of course, wouldn’t it make more sense to work in Switzerland next door and earn a lot more? Or, why bother paying expensive rents to open a clinic in a small town when you could do the same in bigger french cities like Paris? On the contrary, you will also find a lot of Swiss coming to France for medical appointments in order to avoid paying exorbitant doctor’s fees in Switzerland. Seriously, I have changed a huge perspective of what life is. Interestingly, I just found out yesterday that if a French who wants to get their medical bill reimbursed by their Carte Vitale, they can’t go to an emergency even if they are left with no choice without getting an approval from the Vitale department. Basically they are supposed to seek a general practitioner first for any health checks except for Ophthalmology and Gynecology, other than that the general practitioner needs to provide a letter in order to see any specialists. So if you need to go to an emergency, you will need to inform the Vitale department that you are not able to find an available general practitioner, they will then need to write an official letter permitting the use of emergencies. Unnecessary process much?! yeah, more like a big waste of time but I can understand. Think about it, healthcare is cheap here if not free and we know there are a lot of opportunists out there who will abuse the use emergency. While for a Singaporean like me, I would definitely prefer our healthcare system though it is not cheap but with the influx of refugees and emigrants, France needed to make sure healthcare is also accessible for them, while in Singapore they will probably not get any medical help at all I presume.
For the record, the fact that we have a car makes a lot of difference. Thanks to the car, we could drive to an SOS medical center somewhat closer to Annecy, but then again, if one of us is alone and is not comfortable driving while being ill, I don’t think it will solve the problem either. I do however feel for those who do not own a car, how do they manage? I am curious to know. Personally, I do think the mayor of this town should look further into this matter, healthcare is paramount and is regarded above all basic fundamentals. If a small countryside mayor could manage this by luring to cover their medical cabinet rents, I don’t see why this town with one of the highest family earning income in France could face healthcare in distress. So there, I have just made my first rant for the first hurdle I have encountered here, probably one big problem for many inhabitants too!
To understand generally how healthcare works in France, read this link: Healthcare in France It is actually pretty efficient but depending on the towns and the mayors, some things are not administered in uniform.