I still find it hysterical that any time I walk into a waiting room in France, everyone who is already in there turns and says, "bonjour." This actual acknowledgement of my existence by fellow patients right before a routine appointment freaks me out.
In the States, I would saunter up to the secretary, give my details, and then try and find a chair that would help me achieve my dream of becoming the first person to completely melt into the wall paper. I would try to steal glances around the room at the others there but all the time determined to keep my protective personal space bubble intact as I hummed along with the Go-Gos in my head. God forbid I actually spoke to someone!
Over here, you arrive at the medical office and navigate an empty corridor. Forget asking a secretary. You've already made the appointment weeks ago with a mysterious voice that is hiding somewhere in the building. It's up to you now to find the right waiting room on the day in question.
Bravely, you open door Number #1 and smile like Bambi caught in the headlights at the chorus of "bonjours" that come your way. You bumble your way across a room the size of a closet to find a chair and hope with all your heart that you've got the right waiting room. That is, the one for your gynecologist and not the one for leg amputations or Ebola.
A quick scan of the place tells you there are four people ahead of you and at a normal doctor pace this means there is enough time for you to reorganize your life, read all the old editions of Paris Match on the table, and sing "bonjour" at least 4 more times.
One by one, the others are called out for their appointments, and the room, each time, sings them on their way with a rousing, "au revoir!" Every time this happens, I laugh to myself at the reputation the French have for being rude. Here's politness personified! Strangers have actually acknowledged my existence! What more could you ask for?
It adds a whole new level of group dynamics to a waiting room. You aren't just a single patient waiting patiently. No, you have become a citoyen, waiting shoulder to shoulder with the masses for your name to be called. All the time hoping and praying that as nice as that man seems next to you, whatever contagious diseases he's got, he's going to be keeping them to his damn self, "bonjour" or no "bonjour."