Awkward expat story: When the French pharmacist talks about your vagina

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

French-pharmacies If this isn’t an awkward expat story, I don’t know what is. It all went down at the pharmacy. I’ve written about why French pharmacies rule and even about the best products, but I’ve never written about such a hilariously awkward exchange. You see, on Wednesday, I was just picking up a very regular product that turned into one of those stories you’re not soon to forget.

How did the conversation go from a normal skin cream to my vagina? Beats the heck out of me. But I will tell you what happened…

GO READ MY WTF EXPAT STORY!

In my town, there are three pharmacies within walking distance and the one that’s the farthest away has the best prices. Wednesday morning was just like every other morning. Dagny, my trusty hound dog, and I set out for the pharmacy. We waited our turn in line behind some older women who were there for Frontline for their cats. You see, in a French pharmacy, there aren’t privacy partitions and pharmacists don’t whisper. Everyone is OK with this concept though, except me, the American who maybe doesn’t want her illness broadcasted to the entire country. But anyway, the important thing here is that everyone within earshot hears what you’re there for and any advice the pharmacist has for you.

Homeoplasmine cream So now it’s our turn, and Dagny and I approach and ask for two tubes of Homeoplasmine. It’s a cream that’s great for all kinds of skin irritations, kind of like Neosporin. It’s especially useful for severely chapped lips. This pharmacist knows me because I’m probably the only American he sees (with a dog) and because I come in once a week to buy the same products for friends or myself. He makes small talk and I tell him a friend wants to try Homeoplasmine because she heard it’s great for chapped lips. This is where it gets weird. Without blinking an eye he says:

“It’s also great for your vagina.”

No, he didn’t say for your private area or sensitive skin. He said FOR YOUR VAGINA. There were probably 500 other body parts he could have picked. Awesome?

I was stunned and just blinked at him not sure what I should say. In that moment, a handful of smart things popped into my head but all I managed to reply with was an, “Ah, bon?” And just in case there was any doubt in my mind as to what he meant, he continues with this gem that almost made me burst out laughing. But I tried to contain myself because, unlike me, he was totally serious and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary with our fun Wednesday morning convo. “Yeah, like if you have cuts on the vagina skin or if it’s sore.” Ok pal, you’re done. Stop right there. One more word and I may just try to make myself disappear.

Riiiight, I thought. Because I just cut my vagina all the time when I’m out walking the dog or sleeping or driving or showering.

Who doesn’t? WTF??? And yeah, I’m going to put the equivalent of Neosporin on there. That I just told you I was getting for lips. On the face. For my friend.

Here’s what’s wrong with this exchange:

1) I wasn’t buying a personal care item like feminine body wash or spray. I didn’t say ANYTHING about a vagina issue, ever, so the fact that he’d just volunteer this tidbit of information was fascinating to me.

2) The dude is in his early 30s. If he were an older man, I’d chalk it up to some old traditional pharmacist trying to offer some friendly advice. If he were a woman, I’d just think she was trying to help a fellow female out. But this guy wasn’t that much older than me. Perv? Or just a helpful guy? Am I being ageist? I DON’T CARE!

3) The fact that a regular skin cream triggered the thought of vaginas in his mind. Why does Homeoplasmine (I swear this is a normal cream like Neosporin) conjure up thoughts of vaginas??? Not sure what you do on your own time, pal, but if you know that Homeoplasmine is good on vaginas, I’m not sure I want to do the whole small talk thing anymore.

4) There were other people around who absolutely heard the whole thing or at least the words “vagina” and “cuts” and “sore.” So now the gossipy old ladies waiting behind me probably think Americans are into weird shit and have vagina problems. Way to represent. Go me!

So what did I do? I thought of sad things so I wouldn’t laugh and then told him that I’d let my friend know that the cream will work wonders on her irritated vagina. I then proceeded to make some comments about the weather and ran out of there before I could catch the expressions on the other customers’ faces.

Let me note that for some funny reason, my French comprehension is always crystal clear whenever something strange happens. My ears decide not to hear regular things like Tom asking me to vacuum or do the dishes, but when somebody says something I wish I hadn’t heard? Well, of course I never have any issues there.

Please share your most awkward expat story and let me know I’m not the only one!

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Comments (27)

  • Claire

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    Oh. My. Lanta. This seriously made my day. That probably would have been my reaction, too, honestly. My chapped lips are terrible, so I’m going to have to try this Homeoplasmine (among all of the other things you mentioned in your earlier post about French pharmacy finds) At the risk of disclosing too much, does this mean my Neosporin has a new use?!

    On another note, Dagny can go to the pharmacie with you? How cool! Is that for all pharmacies in France, or is it something that each individual institution can decide?

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hey Claire, I’m gonna respond to the second part of your comment because I really have no clue when it comes to medical advice. But you should go talk to my pharmacist lol…

      About dogs, basically well-behaved dogs are accepted at places like pharmacies. There’s no sign on the door that says dogs are/aren’t allowed, but I saw a dog in the pharmacy before we got Dagny and then just walked in one day with her like it was normal and no one says anything. So as long as the dog doesn’t bark or act like a psycho, it seems to be pretty much OK. I go to the Post Office with her as well. Thx for commenting!

      Reply

  • Emily McGee

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    An expat vagina story that will make you feel better:
    When my husband and I lived in Vanuatu (in the South Pacific) we learned Bislama, one of the official languages. In Bislama, the word for pepper is “pima”. Since the food in the South Pacific is very bland, my husband would always ask for pima for his food.

    Then he went out to a village, where “pima” meant vagina in the local language. He didn’t figure out why everyone was laughing at him until days later when someone told him that he had been asking for vagina on his food. So awkward…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh man, what a story! I hope he hadn’t asked for pima too many times before someone told him what it meant. Yikes!

      Reply

  • Bozena

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    Well, don’t be mad at me, but I can’t see anything wrong or strange in your pharmacist.
    While buying, let’s say, ginger for your winter tea, you wouldn’t see anything wrong if the seller says: “it is also very good for your sore throat”, right? You would be grateful to learn about more ways of using ginger. That’s what pharmacist did- informed you about more ways of using your medicine. If it was for a leg you wouldn’t expect him saying “it’s also good for some other parts of your body”, you would prefer to know exactly which parts. Vagina is same part as throat, ear, leg. “Private area” in this case could mean it’s for hemoroids, right?
    As for the other people, I’m sure the old ladies know much more about vagina problems than the young one. So they didn’t care at all. Old men didn’t hear anything.
    Remember, we’re talking pharmacy. If the guy says “it does wonder on your pussy, too”, well, that would be something different.
    Yes, I’m European and a bit older :)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for your perspective Bozena. I can see what you mean. I think it just caught me off-guard and the fact that he was just a little older than me. Yes, there are a lot of other body parts but when thinking about this product, vagina is probably the LAST one I’d mention to a young woman buying it. Doesn’t seem logical to me at all.

      Could also be a cultural difference. If I was buying Neosporin in a Duane Reade in NYC and a youngish pharmacist said the same thing as the French guy, I’d think he was a total pervert…

      Reply

  • Waegook Tom

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    Hahahahahaha! This is amazing. I can’t believe he just told you that randomly? Now, I don’t know much about vaginas, but maybe the skin on the lips is a teensy bit similar? Again, I have no idea, as I generally don’t care for vaginas and prefer their male counterpart.

    If I were you, I’d have looked to see the expression on the old ladies’ faces. If they looked all judgmental, I’d make direct eye contact and then give my down-there area a quick scratch and cheerily say, “Goodbye!”

    Reply

    • Diane

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      omg tom, hahaha. can’t even go there. my town is too small for shenanigans like that!

      Reply

  • Geek Goddess

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    OMFG, funny!

    I like that when I go to restaurants in France, someone always has a dog sitting under his table, somewhere. Very occasionally, the various dogs growl at each other…

    Very civilized, the French.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      That’s us! Except Dagny doesn’t growl. Most submissive thing ever. But sometimes dogs do get a little rowdy with her. Then I growl. ;-)

      Reply

    • Diane

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      Haha Nicole, gonna go read your story now. Thx for commenting!

      Reply

  • luv2hearfromyou

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    So here’s my awkward story. My husband and I have recently started trying for a baby. I went to the pharmacy this week and was glad to find pregnancy test on the shelves…was really relieved not to ask someone for it since my french is not great. Then went to the counter to pay…the girl asked me if I was so late (so loudly, everyone could hear). I was mortified to say the least. Then she goes on about if I’m not too late I could get a pill blah blah blah. At this point I was so shocked that I couldn’t say anything but ok. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. What if I was a teenage girl?!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh man, love the assumption that you weren’t happy about possibly being pregnant. And yes, I thought my guy was the only one who didn’t speak discreetly! Ah, the French pharmacies!

      Reply

  • French Marie

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    I think there might be a linguistic explanation for the train of thought that led your pharmacist to jump from “chapped lips” to “vagina”. Indeed, in French, the word for “labia majora” or “labia minora” is the same as for lips of the mouth: they’re “lèvres”. Maybe talking about chapped lips popped the image of vagina cuts in his mind… And since Homéoplasmine works for both… ;-)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi there, that’s certainly one possibility. Although we can say lips in English to mean vaginal lips as well as lips on your face, I’m not sure it would be a logical jump? In any case, I think he’s a pervert! And to tell the truth, I haven’t been back there since. Coincidence? Haha. Happy holidays and thanks so much for commenting!

      Reply

  • Anna

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    The guy is definitely a perv and this is not acceptable behaviour even by French standards. I mean the f*** ? I’m french and I’ve never witnessed such embarrassment in a pharmacy context and I’m glad for it.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hahha yea, I’m giving this guy the benefit of the doubt and maybe he just spoke before he thought about what he was saying. And by then it was too late. I don’t know. Definitely a weirdo!

      Reply

  • jackiemanea

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    great story ! good laugh ! thx

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Glad u enjoyed it!

      Reply

  • Jade

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    Great story. It’s a bit of the opposite of mine, but maybe your pharmacist knows mine, and that’s why the strange comment.
    Upon arrival I found Air France had not only damaged my luggage, but due to the damage my makeup case was gone. I asked the Production Assistant who picked me up if we could stop by a department store so that I might try to locate my moisturizer.
    The PA very sympathetically informs me the department store is only open half day on Sunday, but she will take me to the pharmacy in the village.
    I explain to the pharmacist that my skin is something akin to the Sahara desert and I’ve lost my creme. He pulls out a few tubes, passes them over, and points to the Homeoplasmin and says its good for my lips, nose and ears. Then pokes me in the face, and says. You should probably put it on your face too.
    A few weeks later, our boss invited everyone to the beach for the weekend. Forgetting I’m not in the States, I go to the one salon that does waxing. Needless to say the combination of my dry skin and her not doing a ton of waxes has left me with a good portion of skin missing. Back tot he pharmacy for me. I explains to the pharmacist what happened and he looks confused and asks if did not already sell me Homeoplasmin. Wen I tell him he did he starts laughing at me and says super loud, “Then put it on your vagina before it starts to scab.”
    I stood there mouth hanging open wondering where I put the button to open the ground and have it swallow me up.
    He wasn’t done though. I then got the third degree about how Americans require so many products. If you can use it on your face you can use it on your vagina. Nos go home and rub your vagina.
    Mortified isn’t the beginning of what I was felt..

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh man, that’s rough!! Was anyone in earshot? I find it funny he said Americans use so many products. We are always rushed and love 3-in-1 or multipurpose things. I find that the French are the ones who love 100 products. Between all the medicines and treatments and this and that. Well anyway, hope the waxing burns cleared up and that homeoplasmine helped you out!!

      Reply

      • Jade

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        I kind of had the same thought about number of products. I’m guessing he was remembering me from the previous visit and my telling him of my creme, eye creme, serum, toner, body cream, foot cream. I’m a bit of a product junkie. I work in film, and the makeup department is constantly having me try new stuff.
        The place was packed not only with the older women from the village, but a few of the crew on the film, so the discussion of my scabby vagina, and rubbing it was heard by all. I kind of did the whole over share thing on the way out telling everyone about a waxing accident. By the time I finished my errand and got back to set everyone knew about what happened. It became a bit of a joke, and to this day random people from that shoot will send me tubes of Homeoplasmin. It’s a good thing I have a great sense of humor. Plus the free product helps. As much as I wanted to be mad. The product has done wonders not only for the waxing injury, but for my face, and skin.
        My great sadness is that the other product he got me hooked on Avibon is no longer available anywhere. The two places I have found it they are charging $300+ for it. I hear its been discontinued.

        Reply

  • Lou

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    Hi,

    My husband is Belgian and his mom would recommend Homeoplasmine for all kinds of small cuts. This for her is a magic cream “irritations de la peau” meaning its good for irritation. Your pharmacist was telling you its also good down there if you have maybe cuts, blisters after shaving or waxing :) Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, the Europeans love that stuff! Thank you for stopping by!

      Reply

  • sofonea julie

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    Hi
    Love this story!! I have lived in the Cannes. Antibes area for about 30 years, and as I arrived when I was 20 from the uk, I used to only ever go to boots over there. True so hard to get used to the pharmacies. I needed a lubricant gel, after having a small operation. So annoying, everybody listening in, and a lot of old people (who by the way drive me nuts taking ages talking about their lives!)
    Yet when you go to bank, there is a line for client privacy!!!! Give me a break, lol

    Reply

    • Diane

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      It’s just terrible how everyone overhears the person’s problem in front of them. At my CVS in NY, there were partitions so at least it created the illusion of privacy. Hope the pharmacist got you the right cream though and that it wasn’t too traumatizing! ;-)

      Reply

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