Are you experiencing sweating, anxiety, and palpitations the moment you step out of Charles-de-Gaulle airport?
Could be a case of Paris Syndrome, the phenomenon described by some Japanese tourists who are overwhelmingly disappointed upon visiting Paris in real life.
In this short article, I’ll explain what Paris Syndrome is and why it occurs and question if this unusual psychological phenomenon is limited to the Japanese.
Table of Contents
What is Paris Syndrome?
Paris Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that has been described in certain Japanese tourists to Paris, France.
These tourists become overwhelmed by the stark cultural differences, language barriers, and less-than-attractive realities of this busy European city, leading them to experience psychiatric symptoms that include:
- Delusional thinking
- Feelings of disgust
The history of Paris syndrome
A JAPANESE psychiatrist coined the term Paris Syndrome in PARIS! Crazy huh?
Hiroaki Ota was a doctor working in France who first described this condition in 1985 after treating a Japanese patient who was bipolar and had experienced the syndrome’s symptoms. He even wrote a book about the condition in the 1990s.
Since then, other medics have encountered Japanese tourists in a state of apoplexy over the City of Lights, with a consensus forming that Paris Syndrome is real.
However, the current understanding is that Paris Syndrome does not occur because of Paris itself but is a psychological disorder related to travel.
Paris Syndrome Is the Ultimate Culture Clash!
The severe culture shock of Paris syndrome is thought to be because of the stark cultural differences between Parisian society and Japanese society.
Paris, in particular, is a problem because of the great weight of expectation that many Japanese tourists place upon this city, which may be perceived as clean, elegant, and genteel, rather than its less-than-perfect reality.
Japanese visitors to Paris may have preconceived notions of the city based on romanticized images from popular media.
When their actual experience does not match their expectations, they may feel acutely disappointed, disillusioned, and acutely vulnerable to mental health phenomena.
Causes of Paris Syndrome
Some doctors have investigated why Japanese tourists are affected by Paris Syndrome.
So much of the analysis of this condition is speculative, but these are the main reasons why Paris Syndrome is more common among Japanese tourists:
The stark cultural differences between Japan and France may be too much for some Japanese tourists, making it difficult to process and frame their experiences appropriately.
This can lead to a culture shock for Japanese tourists who may not be accustomed to the more assertive behavior of the French people.
Expectations vs. Reality
Another reason for the prevalence of Paris Syndrome among Japanese tourists is the stark contrast between their expectations and the reality of Paris.
Many Japanese tourists have an idealized view of Paris as a romantic and beautiful city, thanks in part to the media.
However, the reality of Paris is that it is often crowded, noisy, and sometimes dirty. This can be a shock to Japanese tourists who may have had high expectations for their trip.
The real Paris and the imagined Paris produce a cognitive dissonance that can incapacitate an affected tourist as the two versions of Paris cannot be reconciled.
To make matters worse, some Japanese tourists may not be able to communicate effectively in French.
This communication barrier is a massive psychological stressor that may produce frustration and anxiety that exacerbates the symptoms of Paris Syndrome.
Paris Syndrome Is Not Just Limited to Paris
Paris Syndrome is not just limited to Paris; it is an unusual cultural phenomenon that can affect Japanese travelers to other Western countries.
New York is another big city that is easily idealized and may not live up to expectations. In every case, the abruptness of the difference causes psychological harm rather than the difference itself.
Sadly some affected individuals never get over the shock of their Parisian ordeal and decide to refrain from traveling.
Paris Syndrome Doesn’t Just Affect the Japanese
Though Paris syndrome was first described in the Japanese, it doesn’t just affect Japanese tourists. This condition has also been described in tourists to Paris from China, Korea, and Singapore.
The same condition can affect people who travel to Japan, who are similarly challenged by the stark differences between Japan and their home country.
Paris Syndrome is a real phenomenon that affects an extremely small number of Asian tourists who visit France’s capital city.
Strong cultural differences and high expectations of a romanticized idyll can lead to a shock when faced with the reality of Paris.
But please remember that Paris Syndrome is extremely rare and likely more strongly associated with mental health vulnerabilities than being Japanese.
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