Arrive home to find that you’ve missed a call on the phone from an unfamiliar number? No problem. Just turn to the Pages Blanches (phone book) on the net and tap the number into the Annuaire inversé. Your caller’s details will be revealed. Try the same thing in the UK, and you’re up against data protection legislation. Although that always seems odd to me. If you’d been in to take the call, you’d have known who it was ringing you. Which is clearly the view they take in France.
Because Data Protection is clearly not big news here.
Recently, Malcolm and I went for blood tests. A few days later I popped into our local surgery for a repeat prescription, and our doctor spotted me in the reception area.
‘Morning! Have you a few moments? I’ve got your blood test results here. Shall I go over them with you?’
‘No’ was not the right answer. So she went though the lot, right there in the public area. Unluckily for the captive audience waiting to see one or other of the doctors, my results were very dull – nothing gossip-worthy there at all.
‘And since you’re here’ she continued, ‘I might as well tell you your husband’s results’. And she did. Malcolm’s results were dull too. In fact I had the utmost difficulty in reporting back to him, because I forgot most of what she told me.
I’d barely recovered from the shock of that blatant disregard of data protection when I needed to visit the mairie, the town hall. Having done what I needed to do, I chatted idly to the official I’d gone to see. Who told me, apropos nothing at all, that someone living fairly nearby had been admitted to a psychiatric ward. I simply didn’t need to know. In fact the person concerned was completely unknown to me at that time. This time, I wasn’t so much shocked as scandalised. I don’t expect to go to the mairie every time I want a good gossip. I don’t expect to have to wonder whether our own lives are part of the common currency of official chit-chat.
Life in France? Or just small town life? I’ve done a bit of Googling, and data protection legislation certainly exists in France: just not so much down here, in the fin fond de l’Ariège.