My Fascination with the Foreign Pharmacy

by Nancy Bestor

I am a fan of the foreign pharmacy. For some strange reason, I like looking at their wares and trying to figure out just how the items available for purchase might help a person’s ailments. I have fond memories of being in the pharmacies of many different countries. One stand out is the time we needed antibiotics for my youngest daughter in Vietnam when she was seven. Sarah is allergic to penicillin, so our pediatrician emailed me the names of several other antibiotics that she could take for her illness. After trying to explain to the Vietnamese pharmacist what we were looking for, he invited me behind the counter to find the medicine myself. I did, and it was less than $2. I also remember purchases such as a skin cream in Switzerland, with a high percentage of cortisone, as well as odd dental floss picks in Japan.

Perhaps another reason I like pharmacies outside the United States so much is because they have lots of stuff that you can’t get in the United States. Take Ibuprofen cream for example. When I fell on a slippery road outside my in-laws last winter, my mother-in-law loaned me Ibuprofen cream that she purchased in Germany. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a topical cream with Ibuprofen. Seems like a brilliant idea to me, when you’ve got a nasty bruise on your gluteus maximus (as sadly, I did), or a sprained wrist. But Ibuprofen cream is not legal in the US. So on our recent trip to the Caribbean, when we stopped in to a French pharmacy to pick up some reading glasses for Bob, I also picked up a tube of Ibuprofen cream. (I thought about filling a suitcase with tubes, and selling them on the black market, but I’m not brave, nor willing to dress up like a priest as Matthew McConaughey did in The Dallas Buyers Club.) When I told the pharmacist that I was buying the cream because we could not get it in the United States, he rolled his eyes.

Bob, on the other hand, was in the pharmacy to pick up a new pair of reading glasses, because his favorites had fallen out of the large hole in his shorts. After telling the French pharmacist the strength he needed, the man kindly brought out every pair of men’s reading glasses in Bob’s required strength. In the meantime, Bob and I found a pair that we liked, but it wasn’t in the large group that the pharmacist had brought out. We asked if he had the style we liked in his required strength, and after a slight hesitation, he said yes, and found the pair for Bob. We made our purchases, and went happily on our way.

Later that evening, when Bob was wearing his new glasses, he came to a realization. The glasses he had chosen were ladies glasses, and thus they had not been in the bunch the pharmacist had brought out for him to peruse. This made Bob much happier with his purchase. For if he was going to make an impression in a foreign country, he wanted to do it in style, or at least with ladies glasses.

—Nancy Bestor came to the realization that she was getting older when she started finding men who wear reading glasses at the end of their noses attractive. Yes, even men with ladies reading glasses.