Strangely enough this story starts in Japan, where it sometimes ends. The idealised city of Paris. City of romance, fashion, chic women with lot’s of jewelery carrying Chihuahuas in their handbags, great ornately styled architecture, and so on. But for every picture painted like this in the Japanese media, and the American media for that matter, there is a complete polar opposite. For the Japanese tourist, the city they dreamed of visiting and falling in love with isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
The result of this misrepresentation of what the true Paris is like is called Paris syndrome, mostly suffered by Japanese tourists. In Japanese it is called Pari shokogun. Coming to the city with false expectations, the problem is caused by an extreme culture shock. The fact that French and Japanese culture are completely different, doesn’t help. Often on the first day of their travels a tourist may, be overcome by the differences. Some gritty streets. People from the service industries, indifferent to people who can’t speak the language, gritty streets, people who put no thought or care into how they are dressed, the list goes on. The truth is Paris is a big city and like all cities it has its good sides and bad sides.
Japanese media are not the only culprits. Hollywood is also the culprit of this idealisation. Just take Woody Allen’s latest movie Midnight in Paris. How many bad parts of Paris did you see in the movie. They went to museums dressed as chic as the idealised Parisian, went to chic restaurants, went to expensive antique shops, and went to exclusive bars and met, rich and famous people of Paris; from the past. There was no hint of the grittiness of a balanced Paris. Like walking through the red light district, or dodging doggy poop in the Champ de Mars the park below the Eiffel Tower.
After having problems with the language barrier, cultural difference, unease at being able to reconcile the difference between the media image of Paris and the true image, and couple with various forms of fatigue, a tourist can experience things from hallucinations, anxiety and feelings of being victim’s of French indifference to other cultures, the Japanese Embassy in Paris is no stranger to calls for help from their citizens in the city. As many as 6 people were sent home, in 2011 suffering from acute Paris syndrome.
If you are having troubles with the Parisian culture, the best way to bridge the gap is trying to speak some of the language. Don’t try to get into conversations, just merely try simple transactions, like buying or ordering your food, in their language. But from my experience, French people are overcoming their arrogance to non-speakers. Realising, money in the pocket is better than none at all, they are becoming better equipped at speaking foreign languages and also the will to do so. Also, many are trying to use any chance they can on practising their English.
If you are looking for some vocabulary for your trip to Paris, click on our French slang pages. But the best way to avoid Paris syndrome is to be realistic at what you are likely to see. After all it is a city of 10 million people, you can’t expect everything to be like in a Hollywood movie