Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Who Am I?

Being an English girl living in Paris is full of fun, new experiences and stress, at times. Something happened to me recently which was more of a surprise than anything else. Living here, having the English name that I have, I am more than used to people's puzzled brows knitting when they hear my last name, let alone my first name which has the extremely unfrench 'th' sound at the end of it. I understand that I am probably the only person with this name that the French have met, at least in the last year or two, and I accept that people will never really want to use it unless it is absolutely necessary.

You could forgive my surprise then, when I discovered yesterday there's a girl, living in Paris, with the exact same name as me. I even have her address. The reason for my knowing this trifle of information is that I received her medical information through the post yesterday.

In France there is a health system which is difficult to understand and which I won't go into here, but suffice to say that you have to send a lot of documents to a lot of different places. It seems that this particular fellow ex-pat had sent her feuille de soins (like a proof of doctor's visit) to the Sécurité Sociale, without the necessary prescription to proceed with reimbursement. Up to here, all is simple.

It transpired that the people at the Sécu couldn't recognise the ID number she had quoted at the top of her form, and so they did a haphazard cross check and found my name. They somehow deduced that I was her, and promptly sent me her medical information with her real address quoted, and with my own ID number scribbled across the top in pencil. I have to insist now that our birth dates are different (4 years apart), our addresses are different (I don't even live in Paris proper) and our ID numbers are different.

In a typical city in Europe, there are many different nationalities, some of whom are natives to that country and some who aren't. I just did an experiment on BT and I found that in London alone there are three people at different addresses called R Dubois (Dubois is a common French surname). How the people at the Parisian Sécu managed to link two people whose only common point was their first and last names I have no idea. Surely there is more than one person with the name Jean-Marc Dupont or Françoise Martin. If it was a French person I am certain they would have done a much more thorough ID check.

As it is, there is a poor 25 year old English girl with the same name as me, fruitlessly waiting for her Sécu reimbursement. Perhaps at some time in the future I'll meet her and compare pronunciation variations on our first name.....

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