The Debate: France VS Australia Part Deux

As I near the end of my contract – 7 months in France has gone by quickly, I thought it was time for another ‘France VS Australia’ post. Living in France was one of my life dreams and has been an adventure where I’ve experienced the highs and lows. I’ve soaked up the glory of French culture and cuisine, made wonderful friends, cried over the injustice of French bureaucracy and can at the end see myself living in either France or Australia in the future (don’t panic anyone back home, I haven’t made any decisions yet 🙂 )

France

1. More comprehensive health care

The French public health care system is considered to be one of the best in the world, and I think it’s more comprehensive than Australia’s. A lot of things that Australian’s would have to pay for themselves such as dental work (excluding any true cosmetic procedures) and optometry are heavily subsidised by the Government or paid for completely. The downside of this system is that the offices and administration workers are a ‘bordel’ as the French would say 😉 Something that Australia’s ‘Medicare’ seems to do a better job at (discussed in detail under Australia’s section)

2. In the heart of Europe

It’s great to be in a part of the world where I can go to Belgium in an hour, get to Amsterdam in 3 plus have already managed to travel around France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Morocco and will be heading to England in May. I think part of this is ‘I’m only here for a short amount of time so I’ve got to take advantage of it’ is part of the reason. I don’t travel as much in my own region of the world because to me its my own backyard and I have the ‘I can go there anytime’ mentality a lot of locals have… Yet I still feel it’s a lot easier to travel living in Europe than Australia.

3. ATMS 

ATMS are a bit more reasonable in France and France doesn’t seem to be as affected by bank monopolies like in Australia. For example you can use another banks ATM for free up to three times and you can choose what types of notes you want when you withdraw cash. Would I like 2×20 euro notes and a 10? Yes please! (Oh and they even stock 10 euro notes too) 🙂 The little things that make you happy..

4. Each Region has its own speciality

What I love about France is that each region has a very unique culture, history and cuisine. French people define themselves from where they come from whether they be ‘Breton’ ‘Alscatien’ from the North/South, France has everything. There are beautiful beaches, mountains, the ocean, open countryside, historical landmarks and that’s just naming a few things you can see in the country. Australia has all of these thing to (excluding the hundreds of years old chateaus) but the problem being that it’s so big I don’t get the opportunity to see these places. But France is 1/14th of the size of Oz.

5. Language Learning

I’m jealous that French children get an opportunity to study sometimes as many as 3 foreign languages at school. I’m not so jealous that a lot of them have to study 2 foreign languages throughout the whole of high school (something I think is not very fair if you’re not very good at it) in the Australian system I only had the opportunity to study one.

There were two foreign languages at my high school – Japanese and French. I studied both languages in Year 7 (I was 13) and I loved both of them. On top of that I was good at both languages. Then I was forced to drop one after a year and I remember it was really hard to choose between them, but now that I look at European schools it makes me angry.

Why don’t Australian schools value the teaching of foreign languages enough to only let students study one foreign language for most of their high school years, and why do they have this mentality that ‘two foreign languages is just too hard?’ As my French boyfriend pointed out to me when I explained this system ‘But in middle school French children study three foreign languages’. He just couldn’t get it – and neither can I.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have done both Japanese and French all the way to Year 12, but if I had the option of studying both until the age of 16 rather than 13 maybe I would still remember some Japanese, or be able to construct a sentence in it.

Australia

1. Buying medicine at your local supermarket

The only place you can by medication in France, even the most mildest drug needs to be bought at a pharmacy with a pharmacist telling you how to use it and not overdose and kill yourself. You cannot buy Nurofen or any other mild pain killer at the supermarket, which makes it a pain when I have a headache on a Sunday or when the pharamacy has closed for the day. French people have assured me that there is always at least one pharmacy in town which is open on a Sunday in France, for people who need emergency medication. This is probably true but I never saw this phantom ‘open on a Sunday’ pharmacy when I lived in France.

2. Less University Stress

I wrote in my last France VS Australia post that I thought the French final year of high school was better because you only needed 50% in your exams to get your high school qualification, and its a year that a lot of French kids don’t worry about a lot. But then I started to realise that finishing high school is the easy part, university is when the real work begins.

A lot of students are accepted into their university courses but then after a year the university will only let the top 10% of students go onto their second year (medicine is one of those courses). Then there’s the ‘preperatory school’ which is a few years of study after high school with the idea of just preparing you for your university exams. Two years of preparing for an exam – intense! In Australia once we’re in a university they will do almost anything to keep you.

3. Medicare is less complicated than the French MGEN

Medicare may not be as comprehensive as the French MGEN, but it’s a lot easier to get. I remember getting my own Medicare card in next to no time and how most of the time I can swipe my medicare card at the doctors and be reimbursed on the spot. Compare this to the French system – I have spent almost 7 months in France and I still don’t have my ‘carte vitalle’ (the French equivalent of the Medicare card) despite applying for it when I arrived.

What I don’t understand about French administration is that they don’t ask for everything when you first put in your application. The first time I went to the MGEN to register, I thought I had brought everything they asked for and since they obviously knew I was a foreigner you think they would know what I needed to give them. But the French way seems to be like this –

  1. You give them your application but some vital piece of paper is missing and you don’t know (because no one told you) and neither does the person who serves you (for some reason).
  2. Then they send your application to a big office in a big French city where they will then send you a letter saying X is missing please send it straight away (this will take a few weeks)
  3. You do this and wait another few weeks
  4. Then another letter arrives with the following ‘Dear Mademoiselle, we still need X send it to us straight away’
  5. Problem is:  You did send it to them, three fricken times – so what’s going on?
  6. You get a Francophone friend to call them to make them realise their mistake
  7. You get sent another letter ‘We need X, we still don’t have it’ (they’re wrong)
  8. You are forced to go into an office in person to finally sort it out
  9. If you are lucky months later you will receive your reimbursement/card/whatever when it was ‘supposed’ to take a few weeks

And that is how French administration works. It makes me feel a little better that even French people hate it, one French friend said regarding the MGEN ‘They are little *!@@)/!’

4. Wide open spaces

One of the things I miss about Australia is the sense of ‘openness.’ Often in Europe I still feel the roads are too small, the apartments are too tiny considering how much they cost, there are too many people in such a tiny space. An Australian city to me has not only wider roads, everyone has a house with a front yard and a backyard (even students), they are green (when we’re not in drought haha) with plenty of places to run. Cities may be smaller and further a part, but at least you can breathe.

5. Global Financial Crisis

France is not in as bad shape as some European countries (i.e. Ireland, Greece, Italy) but things are not great either. There’s a lot of talk of the ‘crise’ causing more homelessness and cutbacks to public services such as education. This year 17 teaching posts will be cut from my school and unemployment is at 8%. The country also has a deficit of -5.7% (compared to Australia’s -2.8% which is tiny by world standards)

Honestly I feel compared to Europe Australia really hasn’t been touched by the economic crisis. Unemployment is at 5% which is not a figure to be alarmed about and this article shows how lucky Australia really has been.

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3 thoughts on “The Debate: France VS Australia Part Deux

  1. Pingback: What’s so great about this place, anways? « Devil in the Pink City

    • Of course you can link it, no problems at all 🙂 Thanks for the comment, I always like to see them on the blog. I really liked reading your post too, I’ll be interested to read what you prefer in the US over France when you write it. I’m going to predict lack of French bureaucracy and longer opening hours will make it on the list 😉

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