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How To Deal With Law Enforcement:


First thing first, France is a peaceful and quiet country. You shouldn’t be scared; the criminality level is in general below the average of modern countries. Now, it could come in handy to know ways to address the law enforcement or the doctors.

A police officer is called « un agent de police ». This is the « police nationale », or « police municipale » branch of the police. But there also is another type of police, which is military based: « La Gendarmerie », and so the officer is called « un gendarme ». They are all doing the same jobs, except they are not operating under the same commandment. If you need to go to the police office, simply ask for « Le Commissariat ».

Generally, you’ll be in this place because something bad happened to you. If, for example, you’ve been robbed or attacked. Tourists are always an easy target even in peaceful countries. If you’ve been the victim of « un vol » (a robbery) you’ll have to go and “porter plainte” (press charges) in the nearest Commissariat. L’agent de police or Le gendarme will fill your case and ask you to “signer” (sign) the complete charge wrote down on paper. Generally, the police make a good job to take the robbers in “flagrant délit” (red handed), so you won’t lose your “argent” (money) or “vos biens” (your goods). Even then, you’ll be asked by the police officers to come to le commissariat to press charges. This is not an obligation for you to do so. But, because without your charge “le criminel” (the criminal) won’t be kept in “prison” (jail) and will have to be released soon, he will surely resume is tourist robbing activity, so the police officers will try to convince you to share an hour of your precious vacation time to help put a criminal “derrière les barreaux” (behind bars) for good. That’s particularly the case for “tentative de vol” (failed robbery attempt).  

If you’ve been the victim of a serious physical aggression, the police will ask you to “décrire précisément” (describe in full details) what happened to you. If the aggressor did escape, you may be asked to take the time to establish “un portrait robot” (a identikit) of the aggressor. You won’t be asked to talk to “Le Juge” (the judge) or to go to the “Tribunal” (the law court), except if the crime is very serious.

Now, the odds of a being victim of crime are pretty thin. What happens regularly with no warning however, is sickness or accident. And in this case you’ll have to deal with health care providers.

If you’re sick, you have to go to “un médecin” (a doctor), or ask one to come to your hotel. Now, you’ll have to be able to say what is going wrong so he can make “son diagnostic” (his diagnosis). If a part of you body hurts, say “J’ai mal” and then name the part which hurts. For example, “J’ai mal à la tête” (my head hurts) or “J’ai mal au ventre” (my stomach hurts). If you feel tired or exhausted, say « Je me sens fatigué ». If you have vomited or nausea, say “J’ai vomi” ou “J’ai la nausée”. If you’ve been passing out or had a seizure, say “Je me suis évanoui” or “J’ai fait un malaise”. If you already have preexistent condition like hearth condition “des problèmes cardiaques”, “des problèmes respiratoires (lumb conditions), “de l’asthme” (asthma), “du diabète” (diabetes) or any disease, you shall say it. If you are pregnant, you need to say “Je suis enceinte” to make that fact known. You’ll be send immediately “à l’hôpital” (the hospital) in an ambulance. Don’t be afraid of the cost. Generally, urgency treatments are free. If a more heavy treatment is required, you have your insurance to bring you back home.  

If an accident occurred or if you are sick in the streets, there’s a phone emergency number to call : the 112. It’s completely free and there’s people speaking different languages answering the phone. Bur, if there’s a French speaking witness in the street, ask for him to “appelez le 112” (which pronunciation is : cent/[sans] douze). He will be faster to establish contact with a French speaking correspondent and to say where place you’re at so the rescue can find you faster. If not, you’ll have to be able to explain your problem like said previously. But you’ll also have to be able to locate yourself. The maximum time you’ll have to wait is 10 minutes before they show up.

“Les pompiers” (firefighters) are also helping people in distress in the streets and deliver “les premiers soins” (emergency medical care). “Le Samu” is a group of emergency doctors who are able to take care of you till you reach the hospital. Hopefully, all this knowledge of French language will stay “théorique” (théorical) during your stay.    


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