How to Go to the Pharmacy in France

Bonjour !

Have you ever been sick in a foreign country? Yes? Me too! And I remember very well how embarrassing it was to explain my symptoms to the pharmacist. You know what I’m talking about… The symptoms you don’t want the 10 people in the waiting line to know about.

Today on Comme une Française TV, you’ll learn where to go and what to say in French in a pharmacy. So you’ll never have to mime your symptoms again! ????

Et toi?

Have you ever been sick in France?
Did you describe your symptoms to the pharmacist? In French? In English?
Or by miming your symptoms?

Share your experience and tips for going to the pharmacy so it can benefit other members of the community.

Bon mardi !


Join the conversation!

  • I am an Australian pharmacist and learning French .. Please let me know some pharmacy handbook in French . That is some thing equivalent to AMH (Australian Medication Handbook) or BNF ( British National Formulary). In that way one can learn French and gain knowledge of pharmacy at the same time. Thanks in advance.

  • superbe vidéo-merci. Il m’est souvent arrivé d’aller chez le pharmacien. Est-il toujours conseillé d’y aller avant d’aller chez le médecin? En Angleterre nous allions de préférence voir le médecin mais ça change maintenant et on nous encourage d’aller voir le pharmacien. Je sais que l’on doit demander quelque chose contre… mais je demande toujours quelque chose pour… Affreux-C’est la traduction de l’anglais. ÇA me rend déçue parce que ça montre que je traduis au lieu de penser en français. :-(. Je pense qu’il me faudrait habiter en France!!!!!!!! Ah les rêves.

  • This is such an entertaining video, Geraldine, that imparts some very critical information in a fun way. Not only have I/we had to go to various French pharmacies for flu, cold, and food poisoning symptoms, I even broke my leg in the Loire Valley and had to have emergency care! In all cases, I received wonderful, affordable care. (I am fully healed but I have a pair of adorable blue French crutches as a souvenir.) It helped that I speak a smattering of French and that I had purposely studied some medical phrases (like the ones in your video) before I left on that particular trip. As I head back to France again next month on a book research trip, everyone in my group is carefully studying your video so they can be prepared. Merci beaucoup!

  • Ça m’aide beaucoup!! Ça me donne des idées pour quand je vais y aller à Paris ou n’importe où en France. Merci!!

  • Thank you so much for this excellent video. I am learning the verbs and vocabulary associated with illness in my French class right now, so this was perfect! So nice to hear a real French person talk about these things. It helps to hear how they are pronounced and now it should sound!

  • Je suis une prof et j’amène (avec des collègues) 50-100 étudiants à Paris chaque juillet pour un séjour de 5 semaines. La plûpart n’ont aucun mot de français, alors c’est à moi de les aider à la pharmacie (et chez le médecin). Je trouve toujours que les pharmaciens sont très sympas et patients ! Un grand merci à la pharmacie de nuit à Strasbourg qui a fait 2 ordonnances pour une de mes étudiantes ET m’a appellé un taxi pour retourner à son logement !

    Mes recommandations aux autres sont :
    — C’est très utile de connaître les noms chemiques pour les médicaments (cétirizine pour Zyrtec/Reactine, pseudoephedrine qui est dans Humex etc.) et demander par le nom chemique si vous savez le médicament que vous voulez.
    — C’est utile aussi de savoir la posologie du médicament désiré. Je dois toujours arreter et penser quand le pharmacien me demande “500 mg ou 1000 mg?” quand j’achete le paracetamol, parce qu’aux States c’est tout simplement Extra Strength Tylenol et je n’ai aucune idée pour les milligrammes !
    (Unanswered questions of Anglophone life: why is acetaminophen called paracetamol everywhere else in the world?)

  • Salut Géraldine,

    J’ai voyagé en France deux semaines en mai cette année. Chez une pharmacie, il y avait 2 personnes dans une queue devant moi. À mon tour :
    -Moi (M): Bonjour Monsieur.
    -Le pharmacien (P) : Bonjour Monsieur.
    -M : J’ai mal à la gorge, j’ai une toux et un nez courant (pas un nez qui coule dans votre vidéo !). Avez-vous quelques choses pour moi ?
    -P : Toux grasse ou toux sèche ?
    -M : Toux sèche, pas de flegme.
    -P : Avez-vous de la fièvre ?
    -M : Non. Non ! Pas de fièvre !
    -P : Avez-vous ….. blah, blah, blah ……
    -M : Pardon ! S’il vous plaît répéter, je ne comprends pas.
    -P : (il a répété une fois encore …… blah, blah, blah,….)
    -M : Pardonnez-moi ! Je suis désolé, mais je ne vous comprends pas, pouvez-vous m’expliquer… ?
    -Une voix d’une femme derrière moi : ‘’Achtung !’’
    -M : Oui ! Oui ! Certainement ! Merci, merci beaucoup! J’ai des ‘‘Achtung !’’.
    -P : Vous avez des …. Je vais vous donner ….. voulez-vous le sirop ou les comprimés …..
    J’ai acheté des médicaments, merci le pharmacien et en sortant remercie quelques dames dans la queue de 3 personnes derrière moi (je ne sais pas qui a dit ça, mais n’import qui, quelqu’une était gentille à mon aide ! en particulièrement quand je n’ai pas connu le mot éternuer ; mais ça marche !). Merci pour votre vidéo aussi, elle est très utile.


  • I’m not sure if this is the right place to post on another subject. But it’s a question on Wedding etiquette. We have been asked to a vin d’honneur in the village to celebrate the wedding of the son of an acquaintance. We don’t know the couple to be married. We have been told it is customary to leave an envelope with a card and a few euros. Is this correct? We would hate to do the wrong thing! Thanks for any advice and for your wonderful weekly topics. Bravo!

  • Bonjour Géraldine
    Heureusement je n’ai jamais été malade en France mais je vais garder
    cette vidéo excellente au cas où.

  • Salut Géraldine 🙂 When in Paris my wife caught a bad stomach bug – very painful – and we went to a pharmacie and the pharmacien was very helpful and knowledgable. He spoke very little English and I just a little French but was able to understand his questions well enough. Elle ny a’ pas de vomi, mais elle sont mal a l’intestine… I don’t remember the name of the medicine but it was very effective. Problem solved. I have so much respect for French pharmaciens 🙂

  • I’ve been to pharmacists and doctors for everything from a yeast infection (une problem feminine)(it worked – even if gender and terminology were wrong) to a pulled muscle in my leg (tylenol in my phrase book was NOT the same word, but we worked it out) to shingles in my mouth (that was fun…!) But the doctor had good English and I knew what I was dealing with so I could help her in a diagnosis and medication. She was very affordable, the medication was not!! I have a real love/hate feeling about these encounters because they bring out my best efforts (dredging up old vocabulary, or creative circumlocutions) and worst frustrations (the opposite – when it all collapses in a verbal heap). I’ve survived and thrived, and it’s great fun to recount later! Thanks for some new verbal cues. Love your posts!

    • Hi Nancy,
      I’m 100% with you on this. We’re in a difficult situation + we have to dig deep in our brain to find the right words. ARGH!
      But as you say, it makes funny stories later. 🙂

  • I once had thrush on holiday in France and couldn’t make myself understood in the pharmacy, having no idea of the French word. I wrote down the make of the pessaries I normally use (Canestan) but those are not prescribed in France. Finally the pharmacist (with the help of some customers) gave me some Nystatin liquid for aural thrush, but I then had to point to the affected area (causing great amusement), forgetting that the word ‘vaginale’ would have been correct. So the point of this is 1. ask for Nystatin. 2. Mention ‘vaginale’ in order to get the pessaries (as my husband pointed out later, the Latin names for parts of the body will normally translate into French). This was the most embarrassing ordeal of my life. I still can’t remember the word for thrush!

  • I broke out in a rash on the plane to Paris. It was an allergic reaction to some medication I was taking. As soon as we dropped off our luggage at our apartment, I headed for the pharmacy on the corner. I did try to memorize the words for “rash” and “itch,” but all I needed to do was show the pharmacist my rash. Thankfully, it was on my leg and not in some more embarrassing place! I got a cream and some pills which worked great. I tried to find out what the U.S. equivalents were but didn’t have any luck, so I’m keeping what’s left for the next time this happens.

  • I find it better to go to the doctor in the first place and then he will write a prescription for you. And most doctors, being well-educated, speak some English.

  • Hello Geraldine,

    I have just subscribed myself on Comme Une Française TV and I would like to tell that you explain in an excellent manner and it is very student-friendly. I love to watch and learn from your videos.

    As far as your question related to pharmacy and sickness in France is concerned, I have never been to France in my life. I would love to visit France in near future but I cross my fingers that I never fall sick during my vacations.

    Thank you.

  • I had to take a student to the pharmacy to ask for help with a urinary tract infection. It was before the days of google! The pharmacist spoke no English. So I circumlocuted by saying….”Elle a envie de faire pipi tout le temps!” Imagine my surprise when I learned from the pharmacist (female, thank goodness) that all I needed was a simple cognate….”uriner”! She gave us some medicaments and we were on our way! I have also been to the pharmacist AND a generalist for a horrific sore throat that required antibiotics. The doctor said it was due to the air conditioning in the hotels…..germs in the filters?

  • Hi Geraldine

    In the 10 years since we’ve had our maison secondaire in Brittany, I have often been to the pharmacist, and always found them very kind and co-operative. The pharmacy also recommended a ‘drop-in’ GP surgery on a Saturday morning when my wife had an earache – and at Easter this year, she had to go to A&E at our local French hospital with after-effects from a UK operation, followed by daily visits from a nurse. Fantastic service and care (but can France really afford it??!!).

  • I visited a pharmacy while in Paris for a small issue and when I began talking to her in French I quickly found that she was from the UK and spoke English. Voila, pas de problem.
    Great article, Geraldine! Bon travail et merci.

  • Hi, I have been to a pharmacy in France, for coughs and a sprained ankle and allergies. I just looked up any words I didn’t know before I went. Our pharmacien speaks English but I have never used it with her as I wish to live in France and speak French. I have always been understood ok. The chemists here are so well trained and always helpful.

  • Salut Geraldine! Je suis fan de tes videos. Mais je suis etonnee par le/la phrase “Je vais vous prendre quelque chose contre….”. It seems so wrong: I will take you…???? I don’t want to doubt you at all, but can that be?? BTW I had to take my friend to a doctor and was impressed: she speaks no french but the doctor spoke alot of english so they didn’t even need me much….

    • Bonjour Harriet,

      Great question!

      “Je vais vous prendre [un croissant]” is a VERY common French expression when you want to buy something. It could be translated in “I will take [a croissant] from you”.
      And here, for something against a symptom we use “Je vais vous prendre [un sirop] CONTRE [la toux]”.

      Yes, it seems funny when you translate it literally. I recommend you try to use it in France. 🙂

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