Culture Shock Gone Funny: Paris Syndrome

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"Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in - its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present" (Midnight in Paris)

The film Amelie, set in Paris, motivated a lot of Japanese women to imagine themselves as Audrey Tatou in the city of love and get airplane tickets. Even after watching Audrey Hepburn in the film Charade, many young women flew to Paris with the dream of living a rainbowlicious life but they were hugely disappointed. We all are guilty of romanticising Paris but the Japanese top the list. They dream about the aesthetic haven that the city of lights is and get their dreams shattered into teeny tiny bits when they first come into contact with it.

The exaggerated expectations not only disappoint the people but lead them into a severe state of depression which has now been realised as a clinical symptom known as the Paris Syndrome.

I once had a friend who had highly aggrandized romantic notions of Paris but when she reached there she was shocked by a number of dog poos, cigarette butts, and the rude nonchalance of the locals, the generous PDA and a horribly funny experience with a port-a-potty.

However, this syndrome is not only limited to depression, the tourists are foremost gripped with anxiety; then follows a plethora of psychological and physical symptoms which could be very unpleasant to deal with. The manifestations of these symptoms occur differently in different people. Some suffer from acute delusions, perspiration, dizziness, hallucinations, feelings of persecution and depression while others are simply afraid of travelling again for a long time.

Some of them get their heartbroken by the fact that the city of their dreams doesn’t exist and had to be flown back to their respective countries for proper treatment. The Paris Syndrome can be described as a severe form of culture shock that has gone funny (I must be a horrible person for making fun of these poor people).

This syndrome is not only experienced by the Japanese; the Chinese don’t fall far behind. The French capital — celebrated for its beauty, culture and savoir-faire — still retains huge allure, making it the No. 1 destination in Europe for China’s burgeoning middle class and growing legion of millionaires, according to the European Federation of Chinese Tourism. Nearly one million Chinese tourists came to Paris last year, according to the Paris Tourism Office, spending more than one billion euros on everything from Cartier watches to meals at Michelin-starred restaurants, and outspending both Japanese and Americans on shopping. Now, however, Paris’s glittering image in China is losing its lustre amid reports of robberies of Chinese tourists, according to Chinese newspapers and social media.

I feel a bit sorry for these people and also for me because even if I don’t have such romanticised notions, I might be disappointed although I know what to expect. I guess I can’t help it. Nevertheless, I hope that this might help people travelling to Paris to keep in mind that the Paris in the movies is entirely different than the existent one. There are mesmerising locations to explore along with a treat to your taste buds but similar to every city, Paris is no different in having its own share of rotten apples.