Since I got mono last summer, I’ve been a lot more attentive to public hygiene. It occurred to me that there was no way to know who I got it from because in France, no one hesitates to taste something off your fork or from your glass. As a result, I started hesitating to share things and tried really hard to wash my hands well and not touch bathroom surfaces unnecessarily. It’s gotten me thinking and noticing things.
1) Most French people seem to believe that being cold and getting sick are linked. THEY’RE NOT. I finally yelled at someone about it the other day and then felt really bad. It wasn’t his fault he was the fifth person in a week to say such a thing. But I honestly can’t believe so many people are so misinformed.
2) Hand washing habits in France have shocked me since my arrival in 2006. First, in people’s homes, the toilet often is not in the same room as the sink. Imagine: first you have to ask where the toilet is, use it, and then wander around looking for the bathroom because it doesn’t occur to them to tell you where to wash your hands afterward. Sometimes you end up in the kitchen, where often there is only dish soap, and no dish towel to be found, which is fine—but it does make me wonder how often people in the house can wash their hands. In public bathrooms, including at work, it shocks me the number of times I’ve seen colleagues and strangers stroll straight out of the bathroom without glancing at the sink.
Also, I find it depressing the number of new public buildings that haven’t bothered to put a hot water tap in on the bathroom sinks.
3) The flu shot in France is really not done, as far as I can tell. I remember getting it every season when I was little in the States, and my parents still get it every year. The French were even really skeptical about the bird flu vaccine (which to be honest I didn’t get either).
4) Sharing drinks is done without any hesitation. At least among the people I know, no one even hesitates a half-second to taste someone else’s glass. I used to not really care about this, again, until the mono. It shocked me especially when most people I was hanging out with KNEW I HAD JUST HAD MONO and still were surprised when I didn’t want to immediately let them taste my ice cream.
Stuff like this just seems to happen all the time. When I was in Lille before the CAPES, I was desperate for company and hung out with a friend of ours who was sick. She didn’t do the bise at first, but then I ate dinner with her and some friends and she ATE DIRECTLY OUT OF THE SALAD BOWL. Then when saying goodbye she said “Oh, I’ll go ahead and do the bise anyway….” I understand it’s awkward to not do the bise, but seriously, those were the last days I wanted to be sick!
I hesitate to say this is all French, because it’s been a while since I’ve spent much time in the States. But my one year in Austin, I did get the flu shot, I did work with and hang out with people who all washed their hands after using the bathroom, and I rarely shared drinks.
On the other hand, I did run across this article on the Huffington Post yesterday:
and also this on Boston.com:
So, obviously, Americans can be total dumbasses about public health too.
Has anyone else noticed any of these things? Or did the mono make me hyper-aware?